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UNCHR says 350 Eritreans in boat

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 14:39 Written by

(ANSA) - Geneva, April 21 - Some 350 Eritreans were among the 850 people who perished in the migrant boat that sank off the coast of Libya on Saturday night, a United Nations spokesperson said on Tuesday.
    U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Adrian Edwards said, "according to survivors heard by UNHCR, the boat left Tripoli, Libya on Saturday with approximately 850 people and many children. Among the people on board, there were 350 Eritreans, and (others) from Syria, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia".
    The European Union is in the process of deciding a course of action targeting human traffickers in the Mediterranean in the wake of migrant-boat disaster.
    On Monday, the European Commission presented a 10-point plan including destroying smugglers' boats on the Libyan coast.
    Italy unveiled a five-point plan on Tuesday which includes a similar approach to destroying smuggler boats and the possible use of drones. Proposals will be examined by a special EU summit Thursday.


700 Migrants Feared Dead in Mediterranean Shipwreck
700 Migrants Feared Dead in Mediterranean Shipwreck
Close to Power, Finnish Populists Tone Down Anti-Athens Policies
By Antonio Denti

PALERMO, Italy (Reuters) - As many as 700 migrants were feared dead on Sunday after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean, raising pressure on Europe to face down anti-immigrant bias and find money for support as turmoil in Libya and the Middle East worsens the crisis.

If the death toll is confirmed, it will bring to 1,500 the total number of people who died this year seeking to reach Europe - a swelling exodus that prompted Europe to downsize its seek and rescue border protection program in a bid to deter them. International aid groups strongly criticized the decision.

After news of Sunday's disaster several government leaders called for emergency talks and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said foreign ministers would discuss the immigration crisis at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. European Council President Donald Tusk said he was considering calling a special meeting of EU leaders, a summit that Renzi had called for earlier.

Meanwhile Italian and foreign ships and helicopters worked into the night to find possible survivors. So far 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies recovered, Italian authorities said.

The 20 meter-long vessel sank 70 miles from the Libyan coast, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, as a large merchant ship approached it. A survivor told the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR that 700 people on board, hopeful the ship would save them, moved to one side, toppling the boat.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said details were still "nebulous" and that he couldn't estimate the total death count.

French President Francois Hollande said the EU had to do more, telling Canal+ television that rescue and disaster prevention efforts needed "more boats, more over flights and a much more intense battle against people trafficking."

"More EU countries must take responsibility for the refugee situation," said Sweden's Minister for Justice and migration Morgan Johansson. He called for an expansion of the EU's Triton border protection program, the scheme that recently replaced a broader search and rescue mission run by Italy.

The Italian "Mare Nostrum" was canceled last year because of the cost and because some politicians said it encouraged migrants to depart by raising their hopes of being rescued.

"It was an illusion to think that cutting off Mare Nostrum would prevent people from attempting this dangerous voyage," said the German government's representative for migration, refugees and integration, Aydan Ozoguz.

Yet Renzi warned that resolving the crisis was not only a matter of search and rescue at sea. He said a concerted international effort was needed to locate and stop people traffickers, many of whom have flourished during the chaos among warring clans in Libya.

"We mustn't leave the migrants at the mercy of criminals who traffic human beings," Renzi told the news conference. "We are asking not to be left alone."


Carlotta Sami, a UNHCR spokeswoman, said initial information about the capsized boat came from one of the survivors who spoke English.

This survivor "said that at least 700 people, if not more, were on board. The boat capsized because people moved to one side when another vessel that they hoped would rescue them approached," Sami said.

She later added that "several sources confirm the death of at least 700 people."

Renzi said Italian and foreign navy and coast guard vessels, patrol boats and merchant ships, as well as helicopters, were involved in the search-and-rescue operation, which was being coordinated by the Italian coast guard in Rome.

Maltese Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said the survivors and the corpses were on an Italian naval vessel coming to Malta, from where the survivors would continue on to Italy.

Pope Francis, who has spoken out repeatedly on the migrant crisis, repeated his call for quick and decisive action from the international community.

"They are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life, they were looking for happiness," he told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday noon address.

Aid groups have called for the opening of a "humanitarian corridor" to ensure the safety of the migrants but in Italy there were also calls to stop the boats from leaving and even to destroy them.

The leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, called for an immediate naval blockade of the coast of Libya while Daniela Santanche, a prominent member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party said Italy's navy must "sink all the boats."

Libya's lawless state, following the toppling of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has left criminal gangs of migrant smugglers free to send a stream of boats carrying desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

Around 20,000 migrants have reached the Italian coast this year, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates. That is fewer than in the first four months of last year, but the number of deaths has risen almost nine-fold.

Last week, around 400 migrants were reported to have died attempting to reach Italy from Libya when their boat capsized.

"A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella, Paolo Biondi and Gavin Jones in Rome, Robin Emmott in Brussels, Chris Scicluna in Malta, Noah Barkin in Berlin, Laurence Frost in Paris,; writing by James Mackenzie and Gavin Jones; editing by Alessandra Galloni and Sophie Walker)




Europe can’t afford to sit back and do nothing when thousands of migrants are dying every week in search of a new life in Italy and Greece

Immigration, leader

A fishing boat carrying 300 illegal migrants in the Mediterranean. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A vast human tragedy is unfolding along the shores of the Mediterranean, its horrors largely ignored by Britain’s inward-looking, election-fixated politicians and an insouciant, slow-to-react European Union. Dozens of orphaned and malnourished children daily cry out for help; injured victims are thrown to sharks or forced overboard by religious fanatics; and hundreds die needlessly in this ruthless, expanding traffic in human suffering.

These grisly events are not occurring on the tourist beaches of Spain’s Costa del Sol, the French Riviera or the sheltered resorts of southern Turkey so beloved of well-to-do European holidaymakers. If they were, there would be more of a fuss. This tragedy has its origins, instead, in impoverished Chad, Darfur and Sierra Leone, in Eritrea and Somalia, in Syria and other war-ravaged countries of the Arab spring. And it reaches its usually unseen, often fatal denouement in the waters off northern Libya, as a growing number of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants desperately bids to reach Italy and Greece by sea.

The numbers involved are hard to gauge accurately. But it is clear the exodus, principally from Libya, is accelerating rapidly. Italian ships picked up about 11,000 migrants in the past week alone. Around 950 have drowned or been murdered so far this year, including about 450 in two shipwrecks last week. Although the overall total reaching Europe safely is similar, so far, to the same period last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration, the death toll is 10 times higher. As we report today, many are children who have been abandoned or sent on ahead by their parents in the hope of a better life.

Explanations for this developing tragedy are numerous. Libya, a failed state in all but name, is now embroiled in a multi-factional civil war. In the absence of effective governance, Islamist militias, including jihadis from Isis, hold increasing sway.

In these conditions, people-trafficking and smuggling gangs operate with impunity and readily resort to violence. Only last week the Italian navy was forced to storm a trawler that had been seized by armed men off Libya. The Vatican, meanwhile, condemned the alleged murder of 12 Christian migrants by 15 Muslims who were sharing their boat.


Migrants and refugees, the majority young men, are coming to Libya, the closest point to the Italian coast, and other staging points, from all over the Middle East and north and west Africa, driven by a range of factors. These include all-out war, Islamist insurgencies and climate change-related drought and famine. Rapid population growth, exacerbating a chronic lack of jobs and economic opportunity, is another powerful spur. The result has been called the biggest human upheaval since the Second World War. Mostly, these legions of the displaced are heading for Europe.

So what is Europe doing about it? The answer, so far, is dismayingly little. Instead of rallying around Italy’s admirable Mare Nostrum search and rescue programme, which plucked 100,000 people from the sea in 2014, the EU replaced it with a more limited border security operation run by its Frontex agency. So far this year, Frontex, by comparison, has rescued only 5,000 people. Monthly funding for its Triton programme is less than a third of the Mare Nostrum budget.

As the crisis deepens, Brussels’s dithering grows lethal. The European commission is due to publish a policy document next month, entitled Agenda on Migration. As its name and timing suggest, they are not in a hurry. Member states will consider a more collectivised approach to asylum and legal migration and the contentious idea of migrant processing centres in north Africa. Given the political sensitivity of the immigration issue in EU countries, and the eurozone pleas of poverty, the prospect of quick, effective action is remote.

Both Italy and Greece appealed urgently for increased financial help and practical assistance last week, as did Save the Children and Human Rights Watch. Jan Egeland, a former UN emergency relief co-ordinator, warned that the Mediterranean has become the world’s most dangerous border between countries not at war. He lambasted European governments for their inaction.

Meeting Barack Obama in Washington, Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, said the Mediterranean was a sea, not a cemetery. Obama promised to help, but his focus is on fighting Isis terrorism and stabilising Libya. From an American point of view, this seems understandable. This crisis on its doorstep is primarily a challenge for relatively wealthy Europe and its professed human rights values. If the EU cannot act collectively to counter such a threat to its shared security, borders and interests, then what, truly, is the EU for? But it seems few in Europe are listening. Europe’s politicians and the EU’s insulated, insular functionaries are shamed by their silence.

Before British Eurosceptics, Ukip included, use this failure to further write off the EU, they should reflect on Britain’s own inexcusably irresponsible response to the emergency. The government refused last autumn to support Mare Nostrum or Frontex’s replacement operation. Its argument, that search and rescue programmes only encouraged increased migration, has been totally discredited by this spring’s surge. Yet far from acknowledging their mistake, the Conservatives persist in ignoring what is happening beyond Dover. They will not or cannot see the bigger picture.

Their election manifesto makes no mention of the migration crisis in the Middle East and Africa or the link to non-EU immigration into Britain. Does home secretary Theresa May really believe the young men jumping lorries at Calais have materialised from nowhere, like shadow figures emerging from a hidden underworld? Does Nigel Farage really think Britain is alone in facing these difficulties, and that it alone can resolve them? And what does Ed Miliband, whose immigration policy focus has also been disappointingly domestic, propose to do about the wider issues? It is time such matters were included in the wider election debate.

The challenge is enormous. The fundamental causes of this crisis will take years to address. An urgent first step is to reinstitute EU-underwritten search and rescue operations. At the same time, as the UN has urged, a top priority must be to create safe, legal options so that would-be migrants do not need to turn to people smugglers or put their lives at risk at sea. More should be done, too, to broker peace in Libya. Britain and other EU governments have a joint responsibility, to victims and voters, to act swiftly to halt the mayhem in the Mediterranean.

© UNHCR/F.Malavolta
A UNHCR staff member watches as people rescued from the Mediterranean disembark from an Italian Coastguard vessel at Palermo, Sicily, this morning.

GENEVA, April 14 (UNHCR)The UN refugee agency on Tuesday renewed its call for stepped up rescue operations in the Mediterranean after the Italian Coastguard saved some 8,500 migrants and refugees trying to cross the high seas by irregular routes to Europe from North Africa.

Those rescued since last Friday included an estimated 3,000 people in four boats and 16 dinghies rescued on Monday. At the same time, at least nine people are known to have drowned. These figures are provisional and could rise, as not all the boats have disembarked yet and some are still on their way towards various ports in southern Italy.

The coastguard often requests merchant ships to take part in search-and-rescue operations if all other vessels are being used. On Monday, seven ships travelling towards Libya were asked to help boats in distress and to take those rescued to Sicily. UNHCR has also called for a compensation scheme to alleviate the costs of rescue operations for commercial vessels.

Among those arriving at Palermo early Tuesday was 30-year-old Gebre from Eritrea, who said his boat left Tripoli three days earlier carrying about 400 people. "It was dark and so crowded I could not even move," he said. "After the first night of travel, the boat started taking on water; I have never been so scared. I felt helpless and terrified. Luckily, the Italian Coastguard came shortly after and rescued us all."

Aali, a 21-year-old Libyan from Sirte, said he fled after his brother was killed and his food shop torched by militants. The war changed everything," he said, adding: "Was there really an alternative to this dangerous sea journey?"

UNHCR praised the commitment shown by the Italian authorities in rescuing people in need on the high seas, before renewing an appeal for stepped up rescue efforts and the urgent establishment of a robust European search-and-rescue operation.

This year's toll of dead and missing in the Mediterranean Sea is now well over 500, a number which is 30 times higher than the same period of 2014. These figures show that not enough resources are being used to address the population flows and that, without proper search, rescue and monitoring operations at sea, many more people will die trying to reach safety in Europe.

UNHCR is also calling for legal, safe alternatives for those fleeing conflict and persecution, so that they are not forced to attempt the crossing to Europe by sea.

In the Gulf of Yemen, meanwhile, refugees continue to arrive in Djibouti and Somalia from Yemen, with a total of 1,260 people arriving by boat to both countries over the past two weeks.

All those arriving in Djibouti were Yemeni nationals, aside from three Syrians. The latest new arrivals have fled the intense violence in Aden, whereas earlier waves came mostly from Bab el-Mandeb.

In Djibouti, refugees are registered and receive medical checks and vaccinations before being transferred to a new camp under construction at Markazi, which has 70 tents in place so far.

A total of 915 people, including 156 Yemenis, have arrived across the Gulf of Aden, in Somaliland and Puntland. Recent arrivals to Bossaso port in Puntland have departed from Al Mukalla port in Yemen, and included women and children who arrived extremely thirsty and asking for water.

One woman was heavily pregnant and taken to the Bossaso health centre to deliver her baby. Recent arrivals to Berbera port in Somaliland left Mukha port in Yemen, with other ports closed. The refugees said they paid US$50 per person and that many more people were waiting to depart.

UNHCR and its partners are making contingency plans to receive up to 30,000 refugees in Djibouti and 100,000 in Somalia over the next six months

Inside Yemen, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate as conflict spreads. Eighteen out of 22 governorates are now affected by conflict. "Many of the 250,000 mainly Somali refugees in Yemen are also affected by the conflict and we continue to see an increase in people moving from urban areas around Aden to the Kharaz refugee camp, hosting 18,000 people," a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile boats also continue to arrive on the Yemen coast. Last Sunday, 251 people (mainly Ethiopians, but also Somalis) arrived at Mayfa'a. UNHCR partners and staff are registering new arrivals.





Appeal to all Eritreans caring and jealous of their families to donate generously to save the Eritrean refugees in Yemen. We in the Eritrean National Constants Front, in cooperation with the Committee of Eritreans Refugees in Yemen, appeal to every Eritrean caring and jealous of his family to contribute in order to rescue the lives of Eritrean refugees in Yemen who are facing harsh conditions because of the war ignited there, where they lost everything in their refugees' camps and fled after the bombing of Sanaa for their security and safety.

However, the United Nations Office did not provide them with the necessary protection which compelled them to look for renting shelter in Sanaa or lodging with relatives. Their number according to preliminary estimates is about 1,000 refugees, who currently, these poor Eritrean refugees and war victims, run out of all the food and money they had and are unable to get any kind of assistance from the United Nations, which evacuated all its employees from Yemen because of the war resulting in the loss of lost any financial resource to enable them pay for their houses' rent or buy food for their children, especially milk, sugar and flour.

We kindly demand and call upon all Eritreans abroad to urgently donate to their fellow Eritrean refugees in Yemen who became war victims and became entrenched between war oak and hunger hammer, and became homelessness according the Eritrean Refugees' Commission ..

As we all know, the Afwerki regime abandoned its legal and national responsibility to protect its citizens… so, do want to do the same thing and forsake them (the Eritrean refugees in Yemen) too?

Since the possibility of introducing food or medicine to Yemen is not possible, please donate in cash because it can get those nutrients from the black market, despite their very high prices. This action is urgently needed to improve the situation there.

Dear Eritrean compatriot, please donate even one dollar or one Euro… this can save one Eritrean child and mother who are facing real death threats from all sides. We also appeal to all human rights organizations abroad to be active through contacts with concerned international organizations to raise the grave situation of Eritrean refugees' in Yemen.

Eritrean refugees Committee in Yemen account is the( Yemen International Bank account 0002-505936 )

To communicate with the ManagementCommittee of Eritreans Refugees in Yemen to write this e-mail

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

April 13, 2015

Besikdira and its children, በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ is the latest Blin literary work, in the fiction genre, mainly based on historical, real events in Eritrea since 1960s. The book consists of 21 chapters opening up with a Preface and Acknowledgement. In this review, I find only point out the main story lines. The narrative is centred around, but not limited to, the massacre in the village of Besikdira, 15km east of Keren town. After burning seven villages the previous days, the uninvited Ethiopian army visited Besikdira in November 30, 1970 only to destroy it. The officer (ሻምበል) Teshome, and his Amharic-speaking troops, also including Eritrean-born Kumandos, posed two immediate questions to the people in Tigrigna (only 5 adults could speak it) as the people did not understand Amharic: (1) if the village is free from bandits (ሽፍታ, shifta)[i], in his own words bedbugs and fleas), and (2) if they were either Muslims or Christians. Mr Mender Beimnet, the village chief, and Mr Tesfu Almedom responded that they did not know of any bandits and that the people belonged to both Christianity and Islam. Upon learning that the people did not want to get separated along religious lines, the troops forced the inhabitants into the village Mosque and shot them down indiscriminately, killing 118[ii] civilians 11 of whom were pregnant mothers, 20 were children, and the rest were youngsters and adults[iii]. The author narrates in his fictional work about the details in the killing. The next day, December 1, 1970 was the turn of Ona village, only 4-5 Kms north east of Keren, when the military forces headed by Colonel Welana massacred almost 800 civilians indiscriminately, and without any notice. There was no question that the people supported the liberation movement since 1962.

   The story starts off with the general political instability since the 1960s when the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) confronted Ethiopia’s domination after the latter had annexed Eritrea as its 14th Province, revoking the UN arranged Federation (1952-1961). As the ELF was active in the Western lowlands, Ethiopian atrocities increased heavily and the apex of that came in the fall of 1970 when the ELF ambushed and killed General Teshome Ergetu, head of the Second Military Division in October 1970. He was heading toward his new headquarters in Keren town to crash the ELF and the people, to ‘dry the sea in order to catch up the fish’, i.e., to target the civilians in order to weaken and consequently destroy the ELF. Those massacres are put in this context, and one man’s life was to be compensated for by around 1000 within less than 24 hours in Besikdira and Ona. Interestingly enough, the author accounts for how the atrocities became catalyst and intensified struggle for independence.

     In his fictional description, the author exemplifies the events in a life of a nuclear- and extended family members, the inhabitants of Besikdira, its environs, the Sekwina district, the Senhit Province, events all over Eritrea, the fate of youngsters in their yearning for freedom, justice and equality, and finally, the inflicting cruelty of Ethiopian soldiers. The centre stage actor becomes the family of Fickak and his wife Afiet, their only son Terexbe[iv] who got married to the beautiful Melika and begot two sons, Aybu and Abbe. Unfortunately, on the bloody Monday massacre at Besikdira where the people were forced into a small mosque only to be shot down, ((እልላ, ኣጣቅዕዳ, p. 57-60) the young wife of Terexbe, and the mother of the two, Malika, fell dead alongside the other 117 victims in the mosque. Survivors discovered that it was her bold that they were covered by, and that her younger son suckled her dry breasts for milk.

   On the one hand, Paulos beautifully crafts the Blin language to narrate how the family not only suffered physically the painful events of the period such as imprisonment (when Terexbe was imprisoned, (ንሽዋ p. 32-37), continued house-burning (48-49), sexual harassment and abuse but also in terms of psychological inhumation. He also describes in detail some more events, such as forced displacement (ገዓዳ, p. 49) etc., On the other hand, Paulos depicts how the Fickak family enjoyed the good sides of life, often highlighting underlying cultural values and societal norms, entertaining daily communal routines such as coffee break, child rearing and development, engagement, initiation rite, Blin-style brethren hood, story-telling (dannarjigna, p. 12-13), neighbourly life (gor-dannar, 14-17), wedding festivities (ferwenter, p. 24-28), youth love, socialization and friendship (wrznet, p. 12-15), pastoral life, initiation rite ceremonies (Hiche, shngalle, kxan, p. 18-23), wealth-sharing, development, dreaming for peace, avoiding hatred or disagreement, war and conflict.

   The family exemplified the fate of Eritreans at that time. Terexbe was imprisoned (p. 32) because a certain informant (ሺኩት) spied to the Amhara[v] that Terexbe was a member of the village lajnet, with the responsibility for collecting the monthly dollar per family, qesem, which every Eritrean adult had to contribute for the liberation movement, i.e., ELF. Malika was shot dead in the Mosque, and Terexbe’s parents were also dead because they could not bear the pain. Eventually, once on age, the two brothers joined ELF and the EPLF, respectively, in order to revenge their mother’s loss in the Mosque, leaving Terexbe alone in the house (pp 77-80).

   The reader also finds a lot of Blin liberation songs, praising the independence and rebuking the enemy, such as –“Na Shugutl: Shebab Axnima genjew DeAritl”, literally, aren’t the youth reside in Deari in such a tender age” (p. 34). +A recurring worry of the author, however, lies in the never-ending disagreement between the two ‘siblings’, ELF and EPLF, that “resulted in unnecessary loss of Eritrean lives and consequently, prolonged the independence day to 1991” (interspersed in the overall text). Paulos also notes the series of Ethiopian war crimes and major massacres and since 1961 in Eritrea, narrating the events not only as they occurred but also rhetorically in their connection to the dreams of people to live together in good or bad times, peacefully.

   Finally, in 1980, the ELF and EPLF clashed in Halhal, the worst event which occurred to many Eritrean families who sided with the wrong side (p. 99-100), and Aybu shot down his own brother Abbe ‘simply assuming that he was the foe. Aybu was not alone in that incident as many other Eritreans also shared that fate’, narrates the author. The story culminates in an eventual meeting of the EPLF fighter Aybu and his father Terexbe after the latter wanted to meet his son, Abbe. Unfortunately, Aybu was forced to reveal the truth, and finally exclaimed, “Daddy, I will tell you a taboo, (ኤበ, ዲደትድውየከ ግን), I killed my own brother even I if rejoiced at first when I thought I won over the enemy in that civil war” (p. 99). “That is the fruit of disagreement among brothers and sisters”, laments the author (p. 99-100). Disappointed, sad and frustrated, Terexbe returns home and continued living alone. Terexbe had only one hope, supporting the even much more independence movement for which he was imprisoned and waiting for the return of his only remaining family member alive, Aybu – “as did many Eritrean parents”, notes Paulos.

   The concluding chapter (p. 102) is in fact a methodological note on the writing process. The author advises potential authors to follow standard referring system, interview the living witnesses of events in Eritrea, and coming up with a quality research work: “My advice to potential authors is that we have to write different kinds of literature because there lies our cultural capital. We praise those who have already written something, and at the same time we criticize those who did not write anything (yet). Future generations need to benefit from our literature as their heritage. Thus, I encourage you all to write about something” … so that one can improve the style and content in the literature, to sustain existing knowledge and create new knowledge – for the sake of future generations” (p. 102).

   This unique work in narrative genre is a welcome contribution to the literature in Blin with its rich documentation of knowledge of values, norms and daily lives, with substantial contents as well as presentation.በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ[vi], ‘Besikdira and its Children’ fills a badly needed gap about historical events delving into Eritrean/Blin mentality in coping with problems and bad situation. I only commend Paulos work as one the boldest contribution so far on the emerging Blin (and other Eritrean) literature with its deep narration of events that will live for many generations to come.

   As a reader, I enjoyed reading በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲand I hope that this work will only be the beginning. ኣጃሀብሪዅይዳን. Well-done a young author!

   I recommend this book to anybody who is interested to know more closely the situation in Eritrea during (and shortly after) the war for independence from a local point of view. Those who want to develop literacy work in the Blin language are also recommended to read this book as well as those who want to write and learn in Blin script.

A father of two, Paulos Tesfaldet lives in Oslo, Norway.

For any contacts about the book, mail Paulos at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


[i] When the Ethiopians referred to the liberation fronts as shifta (ሽፍታ) as bandits, Eritreans in general (excluding the shikut, jasus, and some of the wedo-geba) reacted that ‘they did know anything about shifta”, implicitly protesting that the ELF and later on the EPLF were not bandits but liberation fighters. Yn shifta aerini, runs in Blin.

[ii] There were more than 50 survivors, including this reviewer’s close relatives, who still narrate the sad events vividly. The victims, however were not only from Besikdira village but also from adjacent villages who were forced to settle in Besikdira in May 1970, including Sanqa, Hangol, Feledarb and Fissoruxw, victims from the latter two were passersby. The author mentions other displaced villages in the former Senhit District (p. 48-56).

[iii]There are a couple of historical work on Ethiopian War Crimes (massacres) in Eritrea, including (1) Abba Teweldebrhan Geberemedhin and Abba Zerayakob Okbamikael, Capuchin friars (2001): መሪርግፍዒኣብበስክዲራንከባቢኣን (A Painful Massacre at Besikdira and its Environs), ትምጻእመንግስትከ (Adveniat Regnum TUUM), 44th Year, Nrs 73/74, 2000-2001, page 1-14; (2) Amina Habte (2001), Ethiopian war Crimes in Eritrea: A Case Study of the Massacres of Besik-dira and Ona in 1970. BA thesis, Asmara University; Kiflemariam Hamde (2004) “The Impact of war and climatic changes on the environment in Eritrea: The Case in Senhit Villages” (; (3) Downey, Marty & Hugh (1996), On Heart’s Edge. Arvada, CO: Mikeren Publications, and (4) (Habtu (Fr. Athanasius) Ghebre-Ab (2013), “The Massacre at Wekidiba: The Tragic Story of a Village in Eritrea”, RSP, and (5) “List of massacres committed during the Eritrean War of Independence”, in Wikipedia.

[iv] In Besikdira and Its Children,በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ, the main actor Terexbe sharply contrasts with Salih “Gadi” Johar’s actor, Ghebrebbi in his 2010 book, Of Kings and Bandits. However, if one looks closely both fiction works, they complement each other, in many, many respects, in spite of the common geographical location and the suffering incurred to them by the Ethiopian army (and their collaborators), illustrating social life in the then Senhit area, rich in diversity of values, norms and languages. Issues of religion come close in both readings, Gebrebbi being from a Muslim family, while Terexbe is from a Christian family. These are shown in the rites of passage, child development, training, and other issues. It seems to me that the authors communicated with each ‘in spirit’, without clashing, and thus made their point jointly that people can live together peacefully only if they accept and respect each other’s difference, the same way as the Besikdira residents refusing to get separated in terms their religion (to heaven or hell we got together’, expressed the late Mr. Meibetot Berih, a survivor in an oral communication with the reviewer, Besikdira, January 9th, 2007.

[v] Amharu or Amhara in the text is used synonymously with Ethiopians and Ethiopia, connoting the Ethiopian Military Army.

[vi] The reviewed work is in fact preceded by a dozen literary works in Blin, for example, the recent books by Medhanie Habtezghi (2008), Lexen (lekhen) axra-mewedi, “The Ring which became a sore”, and (2010) Enkie, (እንከ) translated into Tigrigna as lekas. I hope to review these works also so that readers who do not understand Blin may be able to get more information on such literary work. For further works in Blin and on Blin, visit the Blin Language Forum,



Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Nicky Kelvin/Flash90)
Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Nicky Kelvin/Flash90)

Israel and Rwanda are discussing a deal in which the East African nation would take in illegal migrants from the Jewish state in exchange for favorable contracts.

Under the proposed agreement, which has come under scrutiny by human rights organizations, Israel would send hundreds of Eritrean and Sudanese nationals, many of them asylum-seekers, to Rwanda in return for favorable deals that include millions of dollars in grants, The East African reported Friday.

The information is based on statements made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame during a press conference in Kigali on Thursday, the paper reported. In addition to Rwanda, Israel is rumored to have reached a similar arrangement with Uganda, though neither Kampala nor Jerusalem confirmed this.

Asked by a reporter about the contacts, Kagame said he was not aware of the specifics but confirmed the talks were ongoing.

“On Rwanda and Israel, yes, I know there has been this discussion,” he said, “and it has been a debate in Israel about these Africans who have migrated to Israel as they do to other European countries. Some of them are either there illegally or with different status.”

Israel’s Interior Ministry confirmed this week in a statement that it will “expel immigrants from the detention centers” and encourage migrants “to leave Israel in a safe and respectable way” for specific African countries that would grant them legal immigration rights.

Approximately 50,000 Africans who entered Israel through Egypt live in Israel, which is bound by international treaties to let them stay while they have United Nations refugee status. However, they can be relocated to a third country willing to accept them. Israel’s deal with Rwanda and possibly with Uganda as well have been criticized by refugee rights groups, which have expressed concern over the human rights records of Rwanda and Uganda and questioned whether the refugees’ status would be honored once they arrive in Africa.

Many asylum-seekers are held in southern Israel’s Holot detention facility. In recent years, a new barrier along the Egypt-Israel border has stopped additional newcomers from arriving.

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EMBARGO 1 APRIL 2015 00:00 hours GMT

Press Release

Rewarding repression: Proposals to aid the Eritrean government

Hastily drawn up and poorly considered plans by several governments appear about to provide succour and support to one of Africa’s most notorious regimes. The process is led by the European Union, which is planning to provide a substantial bilateral aid package worth € 312 million to Eritrea. This is almost a three-fold increase from 2009, and comes despite scathing assessments of the human rights of Eritrea by bodies including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

A group of international scholars, who have worked on the Horn of Africa for many years, has united with Eritrean activists and former Eritrean diplomats to denounce the proposal. The plans are driven by a desire to cut the number of Eritrean refugees flowing out of the country and seeking asylum in Europe and beyond. These proposals will not halt this exodus. Nor will it do anything to prevent hundreds of Eritreans dying while crossing the Sahara and the Mediterranean.

A previous attempt by the EU to embrace the regime in 2007 ended in failure. Then it was tied to assurances that Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist, arrested in a widespread crackdown in 2001, would be released and allowed to leave the country. Not only was the assurance reneged on, there was no discernable improvement in the country’s notorious human rights regime.

The current plans come after vague assurances that Eritrea’s policy of indefinite military conscription will be reduced to a period no longer than 18 months. But President Isaias Afeworki, who rules the country with a rod of iron, has made no official policy announcement to this effect.

Rather, an official UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to visit to country, to undertake a comprehensive and authoritative review of its human rights practices.

The appeal calls on the all government’s to:

  • abide by their legal requirements to provide sanctuary to Eritrean refugees and
  • urges the European Commission to put on hold its preparations for an aid package to the Eritrean government until such time that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea has been given full and unfettered access to Eritrea

In addition we call on the Eritrean government to provide unfettered access to the UN Commission of Inquiry, so that it can fulfill its mandate.

For further information please contact:

Selam Kidane, 0044 7931 554136

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Noel Joseph, +44 7886 720849

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Statement attached

March 31, 2015

We observe with grave concern the stream of official assertions by governments and official representatives, which suggest that there is a real prospect of “change in Eritrea.” This is being used to justify changes in official policy towards Eritrean asylum seekers that affect their protection. We make the following observations:

1. A recent report by the UK Home Office suggests change in policy in Eritrea, referring to a controversial Danish Report that has fallen into disrepute in Denmark.

2. The Danish report has been the source of much controversy in Denmark, after the main source and named source of the report, Prof Dr Gaim Kibreab declared he had been misquoted and misled and he subsequently demanded that all citations should be removed from the report. Prof Kibreab has also criticized the content of the UK report in a commentary of 25 March 2015.

3. The Danish media has widely reported that officials were bribed to change the content of the report (with promises of pay-rises) – an allegation officially denied by the Danish Immigration Service. The officials concerned have subsequently resigned, after denouncing the methodology and the conclusions of the report. There were further accusations that the report was politically driven and that the Ministry of Justice “provided guidelines on the report’s content and conclusions in order to tighten the practice in Eritrean asylum cases”.

4. The report has not been officially withdrawn, but its conclusions are no longer used as a reference for policy in Denmark. The immigration service has announced that illegal exit and desertion from the national service in Eritrea remain grounds for granting asylum in Denmark. However this has not been communicated in English by the Danish authorities and the Report by the British Home Office does not highlight this crucial change in policy.

5. The Report by the UK Home Office on Guidelines for Eritrean Asylum-seekers makes 48 references to the Danish Report, advancing and building on the conclusions of the discredited Report. It conceals the serious flaws of the Danish Report and obscures the criticism the report has met. Its intent appears to be to mislead, rather than serve the truth.

6. The Danish Report, which underpins the report by the UK Home Office, has been widely critiqued for its content, by, among others, UNHCR, Human Rights Watch, Europe External Policy Advisors, Stop Slavery in Eritrea, Asmarino, and the Report by members of the Eritrean Diaspora “Listen to our Agony”.

7. The EU Commissioner Neven Mimica announced that a substantial bilateral aid package of € 312 million has been prepared to support the Eritrean regime – an almost threefold increase from 2009, despite the deteriorating human rights situation. News reports have suggested that the aid would be provided in exchange for promises that Eritrea would curb migration. This is despite the fact that the EU’s policy cites human rights as an essential element for development cooperation. Human rights groups have protested, pointing to the devastating human rights record in Eritrea – the central driver of refugee and asylum migration.

8. A Report from the Norwegian Immigration Service and a debate in the Canadian Subcommittee on Human Rights have followed similar lines, suggesting that the situation in Eritrea has changed. At the same time the Chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, Mike Smith, pointed out in the oral debate of the interim findings of the Commission regarding the conditions in Eritrea (such as the national service) that the Eritrea government has refused to given the UN Commission on Inquiry permission to visit Eritrea. Furthermore, a recent mission from Switzerland concluded that there was no evidence of change on the ground.

9. It is clear that there is no evidence that the government of Eritrea has implemented any change in its human rights regime, including its conscription practices. Instead it has given hearsay promises about what it may do so in the future—promises that are vigorously disputed in great depth and detail by the testimonies of refugees who have fled the country within the past twelve months.

In light of the above we urge that:


1. Eritrea gives full access to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea to carry out its mandate.

2. All governments observe the basic customary principle of non-refoulement and implement asylum procedures in line with UNHCR guidelines. State-parties to the Refugee Convention should refrain from discriminating against and singling out of Eritrean refugees as a group and ensure their individual protection based on international refugee law and fair domestic asylum policies and procedures.

3. The European Commission puts on hold its preparations for an aid package to the Eritrean government until such time that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea has been given full and unfettered access to Eritrea so that it can carry out its investigation and has presented its conclusions. The EU must act in accordance with its own legal provisions that identify human rights as an essential element of EU development policy.

Signed by:

Dr. Anna Arnone, Research associate SOAS, University of London, UK

Prof. Dr. Victoria Bernal, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, USA

Dr. David Bozzini, visiting fellow, The Graduate Center CUNY, New York, USA

Dan Connell, Visiting Researcher, African Studies Center, Boston University, USA

Dr. Bettina Conrad, Germany

Dr. Sara Rich Dorman, University of Edinburgh, UK

Meron Estefanos, Journalist, Sweden

Prof. Dr. Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, Former Ambassador of Eritrea to the EU, Professor Vesalius College, Brussels

Dr. Tricia Redeker Hepner, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director, Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights Program, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA

Dr. Nicole Hirt, Senior Research Fellow, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany

Noel Joseph, Director of Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights, UK

Prof. Dr. Gaim Kibreab, Research Professor and Director of MSc Refugee Studies, London South Bank University, UK

Selam Kidane, Director Release Eritrea, UK

Dr. Daniel R. Mekonnen, Senior Legal Advisor, International Law and Policy (ILPI), Switzerland

Antony Otieno Ong’ayo, Researcher, International Development Studies, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Martin Plaut, Former Africa Editor, BBC News and Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, UK

Dr. Amanda Poole, Associate professor of Anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA

Prof. Dr. Mirjam van Reisen, Professor International Social Responsibility, Tilburg University, Member of the Dutch Government Council on Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands

Dr. Jennifer Riggan, Associate Professor of international Studies, Arcadia, University, Glenside PA, USA

Prof. Dr. Kjetil Tronvoll, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, Bjørknes University College

Simon Weldehaimanot, Immigration Attorney, Oakland, California, USA

Prof. Dr. Tekle M. Woldemikael, Professor of Sociology, Chapman University, Orange, USA

London 25 March 2015

Prof. Gaim Kibreab

London South Bank University


The UK delegation from the Foreign and Common Wealth Office and the Home Office visited Asmara on 9-11 December 2014. In March 2015, the Home Office issued two documents, namely, Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service and Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: Illegal Exit. This Note draws attention to the serious flaws contained in the Guidelines and the source material used to reach the conclusions.

The UK has been one of several European countries that have been receiving and granting refugee status to many Eritreans who either fled the country to avoid conscription or to flee from the open-ended Eritrean National Service (ENS). The single most important reason the UK has been at the forefront of providing refuge and succour for Eritrean asylum-seekers is because it accepted the UNHCR’s and other reputable human rights organisations’ reports describing the indefinite ENS as constituting persecution. This was due to the ENS’ degeneration into modern form of slavery proscribed in international law and the inhumane and degrading treatments meted to conscripts as punishment for:

  • disobeying commanders
  • attempting to escape from the ENS
  • absconding to avoid conscription
  • answering back to commanders, etc.

Many conscripts have sustained permanent injuries or died as a result of these punishments. These are amply documented by reputable human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, etc. The Country Guidance refers to and quotes from these reports extensively only to reach to conclusions that fundamentally contradict them.

The authors of the HO’s Guidance start by extensively quoting from the reports produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, US Department of State, etc. but instead of drawing conclusions based on the sources which they widely quote from, they instead use the Danish Immigration Service’s report—Eritrea—drivers and root causes of emigration, national service and the possibility of return (August and October 2014) to draw conclusions from, without taking into account that the report was deeply flawed and hence subjected to a series of severe criticisms.

The Danish report referred to in the Home Office’s Guidance as an “up-to-date information from inside Eritrea” was criticised fiercely by many organisations including UNHCR,[1] Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. for being baseless. For example, Leslie Lefkow, HRW deputy Africa directorstated:

The Danish report seems more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Instead of speculating on potential Eritrean government reforms, host governments should wait to see whether pledges actually translate into changes on the ground.” (emphasis added).[2]

Most Danish newspapers and other media condemned the report as being ill-thought-out, poorly documented and politically motivated. In response, the Danish authorities admitted the report’s flaws. For example, The Local, wrote:


The Danish Immigration Service's fact-finding report on Eritrea has been under heavy fire since its release and the agency now says that the feedback "raises doubts" and that Eritreans can expect to be "granted asylum in many cases" (emphasis in original). [3]

Despite the large number of people and organisations that have criticised the report.[4] the Home Office Team do not even mention these or the fact that as a result, of the criticisms against the report, the policy recommendations concerning desertion from the ENS and illegal exit which were the central thrust of the report were withdrawn by the Danish Immigration Service. Controversies surrounding the Danish report are such that even two out of the three officials who visited Eritrea to gather information for the report distanced themselves from it and as a result of their dissatisfaction over the methodology and how the information was used resigned their positions.It is therefore alarming to learn that the UK Home Office has decided to change its policy on Eritrean asylum-seekers who flee from the indefinite ENS based on a report whose validity was rejected even by the people who collected the information in Eritrea.

Regarding the bleak human rights situation in Eritrea, the UK Foreign and Common Wealth Office which ironically was part of the Home Office Mission that visited Eritrea, in its Corporate report—Eritrea Country of Concern issued on 21 January 2015 (i.e. two months before the Home Office issued its Country Information and Guidance in March 2015), states:[5]

The Eritrean government made no visible progress on key human rights concerns … continued to violate its international obligations and domestic law, including in the areas of arbitrary and inhumane detention, indefinite national service, and lack of religious freedom, freedom of the media and freedom of speech. The government continued to cite “no war, no peace” with Ethiopia as justification for its failure to implement the 1997 constitution, which provides for democratic government and fundamental rights and freedoms.

It is dumfounding that the Home Office has based its conclusions on a report which has been discredited in the country where it was supposed to constitute the basis of policy change. Had the HO instead of relying on the discredited Danish report tried to consider insights from the far more accurate account of the British Embassy officials’ letter in Asmara (see annex to the Guidelines) and the report of the UK Foreign and Common Wealth Office, which was part of their mission, on the state of human rights in Eritrea, it would have reached more reliable and judicious conclusions that reflect the reality on the ground.

As far as we can judge from the contents of the Guidelines issued by the Home Office, no new material which could justify change of policy was collected by the Team during their visit to Eritrea except the questionable information provided by the president’s advisor, Yemane Gebreab, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding the duration of the ENS.

The New UK Policy on Eritrean Asylum-Seekers

According to the new Guidelines:

  • the Country Guidance case MO (illegal exit—risk on return) Eritrea CG [2011] UKUT 190 (IAC) (27 May 2011 issued by the UK Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber[6] which hitherto provided guidance to decision-makers is obsolete and is superseded by “The most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea—notably the Danish Immigration Service 2014 Fact-Finding Mission Report (‘the Danish FFM Report’).[7]
  • the open-ended ENS no longer constitutes persecution or degrading or inhuman treatment hence people who flee to seek protection will not be granted refugee status in the UK
  • the open-ended ENS does not constitute forced labour
  • The ENS is not indefinite—it is between 18 months and four years
  • conscripts or draft evaders who exit illegally either to avoid conscription or to desert from the ENS will not be granted refugee status
  • Eritreans who exit illegally to avoid conscription or to flee from national service face no risk of persecution upon return provided they make good the 2% diaspora tax and sign a repentance form
  • Those who refuse to undertake or abscond from military/national service are not viewed as traitors or political opponents and as a result it is unlikely that such persons would be detained upon return
  • The most likely outcome for evasion or desertion is the requirement to return to military/national service
  • Only those who have been politically active in their opposition to the Eritrean government and are readily identifiable (high profile cases) are likely to be at risk

These new policies represent 100% reversal of previous UK court’s decisions and policies based on the two most prominent Country Guidance based on Asylum and Immigration Tribunal decisions, namely, MA (Draft evaders – illegal departures – risk) Eritrea CG [2007] UKAIT 00059[8] and Country Guidance case MO (illegal exit—risk on return) Eritrea CG [2011] UKUT 190 (IAC) (27 May 2011) in which I was the key expert witness.

The Home Office do not deny that conditions in the Eritrean National Service (ENS) are harsh (p. 8) and make adequate references to reports that make such assertions. In spite of the diverse sources referred to in the Guidelines, the HO goes on to state that many Eritreans “complete military service without suffering mistreatment. As a result, those required to perform military service are unlikely to be at real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment but may be at such risk depending on their individual facts and specific circumstances” p. 8

There are many questions one can raise in connection to such an assertion. How do the HO know that those who “complete” the ENS had not been subjected to inhuman treatment when all the available evidence shows this to be the case? As the letter from the British Embassy in Asmara sent to the Home Office shows, there are no conscripts who complete national service and therefore, the HO’s claim that those who complete the ENS have not been subjected to inhuman treatment is not evidence based. For example, when the HO asked the British Embassy in Asmara:

“Are individuals who have completed military/national service issued completion certificate? If so, who has the authority to issue them?”

The officials at the British Embassy wrote :

            There is no such a thing as a “completion of National/Military Service Certificate.” In the absence of such documents, a person’s age gives an indication regarding whether they should be in military/national/service—under 57 for men, or under 47 for women who are unmarried. [9]

Since there are no male nationals who complete national service before they reach 57 (men) and single women 47, the HO’s assertion is not backed by evidence. There is no evidence in the Guidelines to show that the team during its visit interviewed Eritreans who completed national service without suffering inhuman treatment. The Home Office does not seem to consider serving in the Eritrean National Service without remuneration indefinitely does not constitute “inhuman treatment.” This contradicts in a fundamental manner its previous position and the positions of the UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Journalists without Borders, etc.

What we find incredible about the Home Office’s Guidelines is that the standard of proof underpinning the Guidelines is very low as compared to the extremely high standard of proof employed by their adjudicators to discredit accounts of Eritrean asylum-seekers. If the Home Office were to use such a low standard of credibility, practically all asylum-seekers would have been granted refugee status in the UK.

The Guidelines conclude in their Policy Summary, “National service is generally between 18 months and four years” (p. 9). There is no evidence whatsoever that backs this assertion. The indefinite nature of the ENS has not changed in practice or at a policy level. It is further stated in terms of whether the indefinite ENS constitutes “a form of slave labour, the most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea suggests, in general” the ENS “lasts around four years” (6). The so-called “up-to-date information from inside Eritrea” is the discredited report of the Danish Immigration Service. Not surprisingly, this phrase is repeatedly used in the Danish report.

The Guidelines contain lots of inconsistent and contradictory information with regard to the duration of the ENS. On the one hand, it is stated that the UK mission were informed by the Eritrean Foreign Ministry that the issue was “being discussed in the government but no specific information about whether or when it would undergo change was provided.” It is further stated, “the Eritrean government and the EU and the embassies of the European countries are in an on going and constructive dialogue” (17).

Notwithstanding the fact that the team had been informed that no decision had been reached with regard to the duration of the ENS, the president’s advisor told them that the ENs is now limited to 18 months. The Guidelines state: “The Eritrean President’s Adviser Yemane Gebreab, told them that:

from November 2014 national service is reverting to a duration of 18 months. This will now all be based in military …This has started with the 27th round and people have been informed we have had meetings with students and families at Sawa. We do not want to publicise this by a presidential announcement—this is not how we wish to do things.”

It is surprising that the HO took his statement for granted when they were already told that no decision had been reached on the matter. Information obtained from Eritrea, including from the Sawa military camp indicate that no such information was disseminated to students or conscripts. Conscription is continuing as before. The 28th cohorts began their service at Sawa in August 2014 and those who did not pass their matriculation were assigned to the army and other ministries or departments, including the firms of the ruling party, the PFDJ.

If the government does not want to announce the “dramatic change” by presidential announcement, why have they not posted the information in their tens of media outlets? The only official to ever state the alleged change of policy regarding the duration of the ENS, was a junior member of staff at the Washington office of the Eritrean Embassy. If the Eritrean authorities had changed the duration of the ENS which like a cancerous growth has been devastating the Eritrean polity, the announcement would have been accompanied with massive accolade.

Additionally neither the Home Office nor Eritrean officials say anything about the hundreds of thousands who joined the ENS before November 2014, i.e. cohorts 1-26.

Finally the HO without any evidence concludes, “Evaders and deserters are unlikely to be considered traitors” (p. 9). It is further stated, “The most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea suggests that those who refuse to undertake or abscond from military/national service are not viewed as traitors or political opponents. It is unlikely that a person would be detained/imprisoned on return as a result” (p. 7). This assertion is a verbatim copy from the discredited Danish report.

The indefinite ENS and the severe punishment regime have been driving tens of thousands of Eritreans to flee in search of international protection. Their number in the EU member states has been increasing dramatically in recent months. These rising numbers have sent shock waves through some EU member states. It seems that the sole purpose of the Home Office Guidelines is to stem this flow disregarding the consequences on those who desperately need protection against persecution—forced labour—accompanied with severe punishment regimes. Much of the conclusions of the Guidance are drawn from a deeply flawed source that has been discredited by those who worked on it and by many who are familiar with the situation in Eritrea. It is disturbing that the UK Home Office is resorting to such unsafe practices that jeopardise the lives of many asylum seekers and the UK’s obligations to them under the refugee convention and EU and UN treaties.  


[1]UNHCR criticizes Danish report on Eritrea, 17 December. Available at

[2] See HRW Open Letter to the Danish Immigration Service. Available at see also

[3] Denmark admits 'doubts' about Eritrea report

Published: 10 Dec 2014. Available at

[4] See

[5]UK Foreign Office and Common Wealth, Eritrea—Country of Concern, 21 January 2015. Available at

[6] Available at

[7]HO Country information Guidance…, 1.3.3 and 1.34

[8]Available at

[9] Annex B: Letter dated 1 April 2010 from British Embassy in Asmara.