Civic Voices on the State of Eritrea

Eritrean professionals and intellectuals in December 2018 convened to discuss the implications of Eritrea and Ethiopia peace rapprochement and developments for peace in the region and specifically for Eritrea from a civil society perspective. Is this yet again just the peace between two leaders? What are the pitfalls of a “rushed peace” devoid of specifics and public participation? And what are the prospects for change in Eritrea?

Over the 6 months which followed the workshop, participants engaged in intense consultations and decided to publish their critical reflections in the paper “The State of the Nation” just a day ahead of Eritrea’s Independence Day on 24 May 2019.


Another 222 Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen

Another 222 stranded Ethiopian migrants in Yemen have been airlifted from Sana’a to Addis Ababa on 6-11 May 2019, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The migrants returned to Ethiopia on board four separate flights. The migrants were “unable to continue to support themselves or fund their travel home”, according to IOM, finding themselves stranded in war torn Yemen. These are the first to return from Sana’a since mid-March 2019.

Voluntary return flights were suspended in 2015 when the Yemen conflict started, and resumed in November 2018. During the period of suspension, UN agencies used boats to return vulnerable Ethiopian migrants via Djibouti. Since the start of this year, 733 Ethiopian migrants have returned home voluntarily. The UN said in January that it would repatriate around 3,000 migrants this year.

Despite ongoing conflict in Yemen, migrants seeking economic opportunities in Gulf countries continue to make the journey by land and sea to the Arabian Peninsula. Migrants caught in the crossfire have been rounded up and placed in makeshift detention centres. IOM reports had previously revealed that migrants have been shot at or are dying due to inhumane treatment in detention. Held in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, at least eight migrants have died from acute watery diarrhoea. Overall, there are around 5,000 migrants from the Horn of Africa held across two sports stadiums and a military camp in Yemen’s Aden, Lahj and Abyan governorates.

Migrants also face other risks along the way. Some have been killed as a result of  accidents at sea. “All along the route, migrants face many challenges in accessing protection and assistance. IOM is committed to supporting Yemen and the region in managing migration in a sustainable and humane way,” IOM said in a statement. According to the UN, almost 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen in 2018.






More Eritrean refugees enrolled in schools in Ethiopia

Thousands of refugees in Ethiopia are enrolled in schools across the country, according to new figures released by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Some 196,350 refugees are currently enrolled across different levels of education in Ethiopia, according to UNHCR.  More than 60 percent (126,000) of refugees are enrolled in primary and secondary education while 3,000 refugees are attending tertiary levels, according to UNCHR. More than 30 percent of the refugee students are children enrolled in early childhood care and pre-school.

In January this year, UNHCR reported that between 2017 and 2018 around 7-in-10 primary school age refugee children in and outside refugee camps in Ethiopia had enrolled in formal education.

In recent years, Ethiopia has granted more rights to refugees to help improve their lives and in turn, help curb migration to Europe. In January 2019, the Ethiopian parliament passed a new law giving almost 1 million refugees the right to live and work outside the camps. The new law allows refugees to access primary education, obtain work permits and access financial services, such as banking. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, applauded Ethiopia’s new law calling it “one of the most progressive refugee policies in Africa”. 

Ethiopia, which hosts the second largest refugee population in Africa, according to UNHCR, has been investing in measures to better integrate refugees into the country. For example, in November 2017, the Ethiopian government launched the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) to support the integration of refugees and improve their access to basic social services and economic opportunities. In December 2018, Ethiopia announced plans to close all 27 refugee camps over the next ten years to help integrate refugees into host communities.

Ethiopia is also working with European governments to improve the lives of refugees in Ethiopia. For example, at the end of 2018, the UK signed a GBP 115 million grant aimed at creating 100,000 jobs in Ethopia, 30 per cent of which will be allocated for refugees.




Ethiopian migrants are dying in Yemen

At least eight African migrants have died in a makeshift camp in war-torn Yemen, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

All eight migrants were reported to have died from complications related to acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) at the Ibn Khaldoon Hospital in Lahj governorate on 1 May 2019. They were mostly Ethiopian.

“I am deeply saddened by the deaths of these eight migrants, who were among the thousands of migrants being held in deplorable conditions across Yemen. We have decried this policy to the authorities, urging them to take a humane approach to irregular migration,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies.

Despite four years of war in Yemen, thousands from the Horn of Africa continue to make the irregular migration journey each year through Djibouti and Yemen with the goal of arriving in the Gulf countries.

According to the UN, almost 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen in 2018. Overstretched and under resourced, Yemeni authorities struggle to cope with tens of thousands of Horn of Africa migrants who are stranded in the country. In January, the UN said it plans to airlift 3,000 Ethiopian migrants back to Addis Ababa. Hundreds have since been returned.

Some stranded migrants in Yemen have been detained by authorities in areas with poor living conditions. Prior to their death, the eight migrants were held at a military camp in Lahj governorate in southwest Yemen, along with more than 1,400 others. Authorities at the camp reported that they have detected at least 200 AWD cases.

Overall, IOM reports that there are around 5,000 migrants from the Horn of Africa held across two sports stadiums and a military camp in Yemen’s Aden, Lahj and Abyan governorates.

IOM said in a statement: “Neither open-air stadium is designed to accommodate large numbers people. [H]olding thousands there will inevitably create a substantial sanitation problem, risking the spread of disease amongst detainees.”




Migrants detained in Tripoli face rising food prices

Migrants held in Tripoli’s detention centres are struggling to cope with rising food prices as conflict continues in and around the cityAl Jazeera reported.

Detainees at the Abu Salim detention centre say food prices have more than doubled since clashes started on 4 April 2019. More than 400 people including about 30 children are now living at the centre in southern Tripoli.

The Libyan government should provide for the people it detains, but migrants said they have been buying their own food for the last six months. They either work for the cash or wait for money sent by their families such as those in Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan.

The escalation of the conflict in Libya has now made it much harder for them to receive money from home. “At this time, because of the war, the way of receiving money from family [is] completely closed. Also, there’s no transportation. Due to the war, it’s impossible to bring any food from outside,” said a teenager at the centre.  “We don’t have any food from any NGO. Like me, people don’t have money… It is very hard.”

Hunger at the Abu Salim centre is disproportionately affecting those who are already weak, such as those suffering from tuberculosis.

“We adapt to hunger, […] we accept [it],” said an Eritrean teenager there. “[We don’t care] about the scarcity of food, but we care about our life. How to leave the worst country of Libya to [a] safe place. Please, you do your best to evacuate us to a safe place.”

According to a report from Al Jazeera, there are roughly 3,000 migrants held in detention centres run by the Libyan authorities.

A spokesperson from Doctors Without Borders, Craig Kenzie, told Al Jazeera that food has been a chronic issue before and since the conflict. “We reiterate the obligation that the [UN-backed Tripoli] government has in providing sufficient amounts of quantity and quality of food for people that they have chosen to arbitrarily detain in these detention centres,” he said.

Aid agencies are working to evacuate migrants caught in the crossfire. On 1 May 2019, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) evacuated 325 Eritrean, Sudanese and Nigerian migrants from the Qasr Ben Gashir detention centre in southern Tripoli to Azzawya in western Libya where they will be “at reduced risk of being caught up in the hostilities.”