Under the current 28-year old dictatorship of Isaias Afeworki, Eritrea is singled out to be the only sovereign state lacking many fundamental elements, like a constitution, that are vital to every country. Only to cite another example, Eritrea does not yet have a population census – a simple count of its own people.
UN estimates usually show the current population of the country to be about six million. However, the regime in Asmara prefers to keep silence although at certain occasions gives much lower population estimates designed to serve its own wicked calculations.
On the other hand, the number of Eritreans forced to live outside home has been growing every year since the Eritrean refugee phenomenon started with a sizable number 28,600 refugees who fled to the Sudan in February-March 1967.
UN and other humanitarian agencies and concerned countries have been providing figures of Eritrean refugees, usually only of new refugee caseloads. Other than that, no serious attempt has been made until recently to assess the number of Eritreans who are outside home, mainly because of Eritrean’s unending political problems. Many of them have fled Eritrea because of repressions inflicted by the Ethiopian governments of Emperor Haile Selassie (1952-1975); Colonel Menghistu Hailemariam (1975-1991), and other Eritreans fled the country trying to escape the cruelties of one-man dictatorship of Isaias Afework since independence nearly three decades ago.
In an informative 26-page pamphlet published this summer by the Social Affairs Office of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), it is estimated that the number of Eritreans in exile/diaspora is at least 2,000,000. This number includes Eritrean asylum seekers, political refugees, and Eritreans naturalized by host countries.
Assessments show that most of the exiled Eritreans are hosted by about 40 countries of the world. It is also reasonable to assume that Eritreans are found almost in over 90% of the countries of the globe.
Undisclosed 1997 estimates of the Eritrean regime released by Awate.com showed that people of Eritrean origin who lived in the Sudan at that time (including refugees denied return back home by the Eritrean regime) totaled about half a million while those living in Ethiopia were given at about 450,000.
Today, it is believed that about 1.4 million Eritreans live exiled in the Greater Horn of Africa region alone. The estimates include old refugee caseloads in the Sudan (total of 850,000); Ethiopia (over half a million including existing/recent 270,000 refugees), and many in Djibouti and Kenya.
Other places where Eritreans are found in big concentrations include North America (about 200,000); Italy (125,000); Germany (80,000); Sweden (50,000 – updated figure); UK (40,000); Switzerland (39,000); Israel (35,000); the Netherlands (25,000); Norway (20,000); Australia (6,000); Denmark and Finland (each 4,000); France and Belgium (each 3,000)… and many other places like Saud Arabia, Kuwait etc in the Middle East and like Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Libya and Egypt in the African continent.
These are sad figures of the sad Eritrean saga. One for sure needed to know where Eritreans are forcibly dispersed in big concentrations.
Thanks to the EPDP pamphlet now made public (initially in Tigrigna language), readers will know more than the figures quoted above. The paper, among other things, introduces readers to the meaning of the word refugee in UN parlance; the key reasons as to why Eritreans had been and are still being forced to flee home during so many decades, and the abuses and injustices they have been subjected to both at home and in different places of exile.
The refugee camp of Hitsats (110,000) south of Shimelba camp in Northern Ethiopia.