This working paper looks at how livelihood support measures and refugee resettlement shape the choices, plans and behaviours of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.
Index number: AFR 64/5578/2017. Eritrea has been unwilling to implement international human rights standards since gaining its independence in May 1991. Though Eritrea acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant) in 2002, the country has not, to date, fulfilled its obligations to submit its initial report to the Human Rights Committee (the Committee) as per Article 40.
It is important to note that the types of gross human rights violations in Eritrea documented by the Commission in its first report are not committed on the streets of Asmara, but rather behind the walls of detention facilities and in military training camps. Torture and rape are not normally perpetrated in the open; the Commission nonetheless gathered a large amount of corroborated evidence and observed the physical and emotional scars of such violence in people who have fled the country. The façade of calm and normality that is apparent to the occasional visitor to the country, and others confined to sections of the capital, belies the consistent patterns of serious human rights violations. After careful review, the Commission concludes that the submissions do not undermine the findings described in its first report.
Eritrea is one of the biggest refugee producing countries in the world. During the European summer in 2015, headlines, political summits and activism abounded over the refugee crisis. The largest groups among those risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean were Syrians and Afghans, fleeing from armed conflict and abuses by non-state actors including the Islamic State. But the third biggest group crossing the Mediterranean were Eritreans, fleeing from a tiny country in the Horn of Africa with no ongoing armed conflict. The reasons why Eritreans, especially young
adults flee, are less publicized and less well understood.
Between 2013 and 2014, the number of Eritrean applicants in the EU+ countries (EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland) more than doubled, rising from 20 295 applicants registered in 2013 to about 47 125 in 2014, a 132 % increase. 2014 was characterised by a strong rise in applicants throughout the second quarter, reaching a high of 7 875 registered in the month of July. Although the inflow of Eritrean applicants in the EU+ fell sharply from August 2014, recently figures show that the numbers of Eritrean applicants are again on the increase. Moreover, the stock of pending cases remained at over 30 000 at the end of April 2015 at EU+ level – possibly indicating difficulties in making decisions on Eritrean applications, including a lack of COI. The most recurrent asylum motives brought forward by Eritrean applicants in EU+ countries relate to open-ended national service (and those fleeing it such as deserters, draft evaders, or their family members); fear of persecution on the basis of religion (e.g. of Jehovah’s witnesses, Pentecostals, etc.); consequences of illegal departure in case of return; and harsh treatment during detention.