Eritrean RefugeesThere are approximately 321,000 Eritrean refugees living in Europe and thousands more reside in other areas around the world.

These refugees fled a country that operates on a system of invasive state control and extreme repression that consistently borders on human rights abuse. In a nation with few freedoms, it is not hard to understand why so many citizens have fled to other countries.

Here are 10 facts about Eritrean Refugees and the actions done to assist them:

  1. Eritrea is one of the world’s quickest-emptying nations with almost five thousand Eritreans leaving the country every month.
  2. There are approximately half a million Eritrean refugees residing in Ethiopia and Sudan, while Eritrea holds a population of only 6 million.
  3. The Eritrean refugees who have money are willing to pay up to $5,000 per person to flee the country according to The Guardian.
  4. Eritrean refugees are the third largest group that crosses the Mediterranean Sea by way of Libya to Italy.
  5. Many Eritreans settle in Ethiopia, a neighboring country that holds the largest number of refugees in Africa, according to Al Jazeera. Refugees in Ethiopia live in government-sanctioned camps that provide very little.
  6. There are over 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees living in Sweden and Norway, destinations many Eritrean refugees hope to reach, according to The Guardian.
  7. Some nations, including Israel, have deported Eritrean refugees to countries in Africa such as Rwanda, where their travel documents are confiscated and they are smuggled elsewhere.
  8. The conscription national service policy, where boys are required to serve in the national service at age 17 and can be required to stay for the majority of their lives, is a key reason citizens flee Eritrea according to The Guardian.
  9. Refugees are fleeing a country with no freedom of speech, religion, movement or political opposition. Citizens can be held in detention without charge or trial and many are tortured during their stay.
  10. The EU attempted to stop the flow of Eritrean refugees into Europe by giving development aid to Eritrea according to The Guardian; however, assisting those who have already escaped Eritrea and putting pressure on the Eritrean government to end abusive policies would be better use of the aid.

Reducing the number of Eritreans fleeing to the EU does not address the root of the cause. Refugees will continue to take unprecedented risks in their journey across the Mediterranean until political change occurs in Eritrea.

The above 10 facts about Eritrean Refugees are by no means exhaustive but provide insight to the current conditions of these displaced individuals.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights calls Eritrea “an institution where slavery-like practices are routine,” exposing the corruption and abuses that cause so many refugees to be displaced. One can only hope that the Eritreans’ time as refugees will be limited and future change for their country is on the horizon.

Amanda Panella
Photo: Flickr