Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why so many people are fleeing Eritrea

Today it was brought to my attention by Sam Tranum that the second largest group of people after Syrians fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy are Eritreans. Large numbers of Eritreans have also fled to neighboring countries and as far afield as Israel and Canada in recent years. The widespread use of forced labor of men and women conscripted into permanent and very poorly compensated military units appears to be one of the chief motives for fleeing the country. Such forced labor of course is not new to Africa. The French colonial authorities also conscripted men in West Africa into military units used principally for forced labor. While the Portuguese and Belgians did not even bother with a military pretext to press men into labor gangs. The massive scale of forced labor used by the state in Eritrea along with other repressive measures to maintain the current dictatorship in power has led to a mass exodus from the country. An exodus that has not been stopped even by the shoot to kill orders issued to border guards regarding people fleeing from the country. Human Rights Watch estimates that 1,500 Eritreans flee the country every month. Their 2013 report on Eritrea can be found here.

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