Why Is Eritrea In The News?

Eritrea is near the horn of Africa, on the Red Sea. It is situated across the Red Sea from the Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia.

Many people are currently fleeing Eritrea, and many are trying to get to Europe aboard “smuggling boats.” The U.N. is looking into the matter.

“The number fleeing such a small country – estimated at 5,000 people each month – is forcing the outside world to take notice,” Mike Smith, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, told the 29th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Eritrea’s dire human rights situation can no longer be ignored,” Mr. Smith said. “Imagine the impact of this uncertainty on young Eritreans who lose all control over their own futures. Is it any wonder that Eritreans – most of them young people – are the second largest nationality after Syrians to resort to seaborne smugglers to cross the Mediterranean to Europe?”

5,000 people per month is a huge percentage of the population.  According to indexmundi.com, about 6.4 million people live in Eritrea.  The population increased from 3.2 million to 6.4 million between 1990 and 2014, and there are a lot of young people. The birth rate is 4.7 children.

Eritrean society is heterogeneous, and there are nine recognized ethnic groups according to the government of Eritrea, writes Wikipedia.

The number of Eritreans fleeing their country reached more than 400,000, and has nearly doubled over the past six years, according to the UN refugee agency.

A U.N. commission report said that “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government. Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity.”

Mr. Smith told the Council that after more than two decades of independence, the dream of a democratic Eritrea now seems more distant than ever.

“Instead of a country ruled by law and good governance, the Eritrea we see today is marked by repression and fear,” Smith said. “Since independence, ultimate power in Eritrea has remained largely in the hands of one man and one party. Those in control often rule arbitrarily and act with impunity… The Eritrean people have no say in governance and little control over many aspects of their own lives.”

The report notes that Eritrea has never held free elections, has no independent judiciary, arbitrary arrest is common – often ordered by anyone with de facto authority, with tens of thousands of Eritreans being imprisoned, often without charge and for indeterminate periods, writes http://www.un.org.

In addition, the Government has subjected much of the population to open-ended national service, either in the army or through the civil service, often for years in harsh and inhumane conditions.

Denied access to Eritrea, U.N. Commission members conducted interviews with some 550 witnesses in eight countries and received 160 written submissions. On 9 June, the Eritrean Foreign Ministry issued a statement describing the Commission’s findings as “an attack, not so much on the Government, but on a civilized people and society who cherish human values and dignity.”

In response to that charge, Mr. Smith said: “With respect, we The Commission are recording the voices of real Eritrean people as articulated in the 550 testimonies and 160 submissions received. We also reflect the silenced voice of the majority of Eritreans who have never been able to elect their own representatives in national, free, fair and democratic elections…”





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