venerdì 21 agosto 2015

What's driving Eritrea's refugee exodus? What you need to know about Eritrea

The Guardian
What you need to know about Eritrea

What’s the story?

Hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are voting with their feet and embarking on a perilous journey north through Sudan and Libya or to Egypt and Israel, their goal to eventually reach safer destinations in Europe. An estimated 5,000 people leave the small Horn of Africa country every month, fleeing the highly repressive regime run by president Isaias Afwerki.

Why do so many Eritreans leave?
Eritreans have been leaving the country for years to escape repression, but recent refugees say they are fleeing an intensified recruitment drive into the mandatory and indefinite national service.

A damning report released in June by the UN commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea said: “Faced with a seemingly hopeless situation they feel powerless to change, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country. In desperation, they resort to deadly escape routes through deserts and neighbouring war-torn countries and across dangerous seas in search of safety. They risk capture, torture and death at the hands of ruthless human traffickers.”
Where do Eritrean refugees end up?

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said they were dealing with 357,406 Eritrean refugees as of last year, making Eritreans the second largest group after Syrians arriving in Italy by boat – more than 34,000 people. There are reportedly more than 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan, and a similar number in Ethiopia.

No fewer than 50 Eritrean national football players have absconded since 2010, most recently in December 2013, when nine players disappeared along with their coach in Kenya. In early October 2012, two air force pilots fled with the presidential plane to Saudi Arabia. Other defections include the former minister of information, Ali Abdu, while on a trip to Germany.
Just how repressive is the regime?
In its report, the UN commission found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations are being committed by the Eritrean government: rights and freedoms are severely curtailed, without the rule of law. The commission also found violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service and forced labour may constitute crimes against humanity.
What about politics?

The country has been ruled by Afwerki since ever since independence was won in 1991 after a 30-year war with neighbouring Ethiopia. Tall and austere, Afwerki co-founded the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in 1970, to fight for independence.

After the war, Afwerki accumulated more and more power. In a secret diplomatic cable written in 2009, the then US ambassador to Eritrea, Ronald McMullen, wrote: “Young Eritreans are fleeing their country in droves, the economy appears to be in a death spiral, Eritrea’s prisons are overflowing, and the country’s unhinged dictator remains cruel and defiant.”

The only political party allowed to exist is the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ); the 1997 constitution, supposedly the country’s supreme law, has never been implemented.
Is there any opposition?
In 1998, a border clash between Eritrea and Ethiopia over the nondescript town of Badme erupted into all-out war. The two-year conflict left tens of thousands dead – Eritrea said it lost as many as 19,000. The war was a disaster for the fledgling country and prompted 15 members of the ruling PFDJ to express their concerns on the slide to one-man rule. Of the G-15, as the group is known, three are in America, one rejoined the government, but 11 have been in jail since 2001, accused of committing crimes against “the security of the nation”.

More recently, following the Arab Spring protests across north Africa and the Middle East, a grassroots opposition movement has been growing. Called “Freedom Friday”, the movement calls on Eritreans to empty the streets, while others put up posters and distribute leaflets late at night. Many members of the movement are currently living outside the country.
Are there any positive stories?
The country has achieved sporting success in Daniel Teklehaimanot and Merhawi Kudus, two professional riders who are the first black Africans to participate in the Tour de France.

Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, Eritrea is one of the few expected to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals in health. The UN Development Programme says infant and child mortality rates have reduced dramatically; immunisation coverage has increased sharply; malaria mortality and morbidity have plummeted; and HIV prevalence has almost halved in a very short period of time.

However, critics of the government say these figures are misleading, suggesting that the findings of the UN staff members in Eritrea were contrary to well-established facts about the country found elsewhere.
Where can I find out more?
Anyone interested in Eritrea should read Michela Wrong’s engrossing book, I Didn’t Do it For You, which chronicles the country’s turbulent history from its days as an Italian colony, its time as a UN trust territory, and its 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia. The UN commission report also delves into the grim human rights situation in Eritrea in exhaustive detail.

The Guardian Africa network will also be devoting three days of coverage to the country now being called “Africa’s North Korea”. From reports on migration, political opposition and media, the series will also focus on life inside the country, looking at sport, music and the capital’s architecture, along with diaspora experiences.

Nessun commento:

Posta un commento

Nota. Solo i membri di questo blog possono postare un commento.