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Eritreans' Migration

Horn of African migrants escaping from 'democracy and freedom' in France for the UK. 


Madote: The author of this article used disputed figures. Eritrea's migration issue has been exaggerated and politicized for regime change purposes. Migration from Eritrea is a real issue. Unfortunately, UN agencies in Ethiopia are staffed by Tigrayans who exaggerate the numbers to demonize Eritrea. 

Eritreans’ Migration (Exodus):

by Kidane Tekle

I. Background:

It is migration and not exodus, as such, as many claim it to be as to what is happening in Eritrea. In exodus, it entails departure or exit. It refers in history to the “defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”

Very sad indeed and we witness an alarming departure of Eritreans and now very young people and under-age children leaving Eritrea to Ethiopia. The skilled and professionals aspired for better life and, hence, opted to flee to outside of their country. Even the old are seen in many cities of Europe and the United States.

Migration is the movement of people from one place to another with various intentions such as settling temporarily or permanently. It could also be made voluntarily or forced. It is worth noting that migration is frequently done in long distances, such as from one country to another. People may migrate as individuals, in family units or in large groups.

A person who moves from his home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, if so within the same country, a displaced person.

The relatively permanent movement of people across territorial boundaries is referred to as in-migration and out-migration, or immigration and emigration when the boundaries crossed are international. The place of in-migration or immigration is called the receiver population, and the place of out-migration or emigration is called the sender population.

There are two basic types of migration studied by demographers:
  1. Internal migration: This refers to a change of residence within national boundaries, such as between states, provinces, cities, or municipalities. An internal migrant is someone who moves to a different administrative territory. People in rural areas are attracted by what they think life is in the urban areas. The cities have a pulling effect to the rural areas.

  2. International migration: This refers to change of residence over national boundaries. An international migrant is someone who moves to a different country. International migrants are further classified as legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees. Legal immigrants are those who moved with the legal permission of the receiver nation, illegal immigrants are those who moved without legal permission, and refugees are those crossed an international boundary to escape persecution.
Jay Weinstein and Vijayan Pillai (2001) denote a third classification: forced migration. Forced migration exists when people are moved against their will (slaves), or when the move is initiated because of external factors (natural disaster or civil war). The distinction between internal and international migration is crucial because they happen for different reasons. Because structural barriers are more likely to impede the mobility of a potential international migrant than an internal migrant—international migration involves more administrative procedures, greater expense, and more difficulties associated with obtaining employment, accessing state services, learning a new language, and the like—the motivations behind international migration are usually stronger than those behind internal migration.

II. In Which Category the Eritreans Fall?

Large scale migration from Eritrea had its roots in years of fighting for independence from Ethiopia. During this time many Eritreans fled to refugee camps in the surrounding countries. In 1993, many have been repatriated but for some repatriation was not a viable option.

Since independence many Eritreans have gone out of their country under Family Reunion scheme, prompted by circumstance. Eritrea has been devastated by decades of war and the effects of continued drought, widespread presence of land mines and little arable land. In addition, economic instability and the threat of border conflict with Ethiopia meant that many Eritreans have continued to flee their country.

After Syria, Eritrea has provided the second largest number of people looking to migrate to Europe. One in 10 of all prospective migrants to Europe are Eritreans, and the UN estimates around 4,000 people leave the country every month. Most say they are fleeing military service, but the Eritrean government maintains those who leave are economic migrants.

Eritrea is the origin of a significant share of the mixed migration flows seen both in the Greater Horn of Africa. The limited data available suggest up to 5,000 people leave the country every month in contrary to the figure mentioned above. At the end of 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that more than 411,000 Eritreans were refugees or in refugee-like situations—and this is likely an undercount, considering many do not register with authorities. These ones join an Eritrean diaspora estimated at more than 1 million—a sizable one considering Eritrea's total population was just over 5 to 6 million.

Eritreans pose a special case among displaced populations due to the reasons why they leave their homeland, the manner in which they do so, and the special risks and vulnerabilities they face in transit. Many Eritreans cite their country’s conscription policy for all adults between ages 18-50 as the main reason underpinning their decision to move. Other key factors include poverty and lack of opportunities and freedoms.

Even in a region characterized by mobility, Eritrean refugees stand out for the frequency and distance of their onward movement. This mobility challenges traditional concepts of refugees as static populations and raises questions about how to provide effective protection.

Is there no future for the youth in Eritrea? There are college graduates with degrees, diplomas and certificates. But there are hardly any jobs in Eritrea's tiny private sector to employ them other than the government and parastatals. Wages and salaries in the numerous state-owned enterprises are low. No residential quarters to enable them establish families.

Peter Schwidtal runs a small German NGO, Archemed, dedicated to improving the healthcare infrastructure in Eritrea. It is one of the few aid projects in Eritrea. Despite all his idealism, the German medical practitioner admits that he is forced to face up to the reality of life in Eritrea. That includes the exodus of the young and the skilled. He said that it can be very hard when after having trained up a surgeon or a pediatrician, you suddenly discover that person is no longer there. It's huge loss because there are so few trained medical personnel in the country.

III. Alarming Immigration Waves:

Between 750,000 and one million Eritreans left the country as refugees as a result of a 30-year long war with Ethiopia, and approximately two-thirds of them relocated to Sudan.

The top destination in 2015:
Switzerland 9,520
Germany 7,885
Netherlands 6,980
Sweden 6,780
UK 2,895
Italy 475

Eritrea produces a disproportionate number of migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe. Between 2014 and 2016, more than 95,000 Eritreans arrived in Italy by boat, according to the International Organization for Migration. For years, the United States has resettled Eritreans stranded in Ethiopian refugee camps.

IV. End Result:

Is Eritrea emptying its population? It looks so. The way people are going out of the country is very alarming. During the last 20 years, the no-war no-peace situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea created an environment of endless service of the youth in the national service. The United Nations sanctions on Eritrea added salt to injury. The economy is at shambles as the country spends its meager resource in keeping a big force to defend itself. Many factories closed because of lack of foreign currency to purchase the necessary inputs. The agriculture cannot grow and expand as expected because of lack of available labor to undertake agricultural activities, especially in the small farms run by private land-holders. Hence, the young ones are seeing no light through the tunnel. Life has become gloomy and full of despair. This has created frustration and hopelessness. We do not forget the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck in which over 300 Eritreans vanished. That tragedy left us with agony and the tears still bathes our cheeks.

Despite the wave of migration from Eritrea, many countries are not happy accepting them. About a year ago, Denmark, followed by the UK, expressed their belief that the human rights situation in Eritrea had improved, and that there were fewer reasons for fleeing the country (such as indefinite conscription). Therefore, both countries have begun to greatly reduce their recognition rates to Eritrean refugees, compared to the average rate in the EU. The United Kingdom closes the door to Eritreans. Requests for asylum no more accepted. Israel has 29,367 Eritreans according to the latest data published by the Israeli Immigration and Population Authority. As of last December, there were 1,860 Eritreans and Sudanese living in the Holot Detention Centre for Illegal Immigrants, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. Israel is planning to re-send the Eritreans to third countries like Uganda and Rwanda.

The United States is threatening to apply visa sanctions on Eritrea as leverage to force Eritrean authorities to accept its citizens who could be deported from America. “Our goal is to get countries to agree to accept the return of their nationals,” David Lapan, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman told reporters. During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump railed against countries that were refusing “to take their people back after they have been ordered to leave the United States,” as he said in an August 2016 speech. Eritreans are rarely deported from Western countries, but some have recently been sent home from Sudan and Egypt.

V. The Solution - Way Forward:

The problem of migration from Eritrea is alarming. It is sickening and bringing shame to all Eritreans be them at home or abroad. Migration has been another name associated with Eritrea. The source of the problem be it the pushing effect (national service, economic problem, etc) or the pulling effect (freedom, better income, etc) have to be addressed well in terms of the country’s policy. The Diaspora Eritreans, who most of them work two to three places to make ends meet and pay their bills, are the main culprits in this exodus. Some send photos and videos pretending to live as kind of quasi heaven like life. The recipients believe that the life of that kind to be of their attraction and want to enjoy that.

As a solution, we need a reverse trend in the migration process. The process is multifaceted. It is government-actioned process or Eritrean diaspora-led action. The international community, at large, has also its role albeit its role is secondary or augmenter to the first one.

1. The Diaspora:

Many, in the the diaspora, are the ones that instigate their fellow Eritreans to leave their country and come to alien destination where they reside. In pursuit of this, many face and encounter unprecedented problems in their journey. Some were abducted as hostages for ransom. Criminal aliens kidnapped and tortured the immigrants. Some lost their kidney and other organs and left to die in the deserts. Some are forced to work as domestic servants. The human trafficking involved sex and many Eritrean women are expected to have children from their smugglers. The detail of the story is hard to finish and talk about it without being mentally distracted. It is horrific.

What the Eritrean immigrants faced and even those who reached their destination did not fulfill what they aspired for. Their expectation have not been met. When they reached their destinations after all the worst encounters they faced, they did not get what they think will get. No mana from the sky. No milk and honey as expected. Rather, the problem they faced left them with shocks and trauma causing them depression and anxiety. More and more problems they faced as immigrants with no way out.

There were many of our family members who got abducted in the Sinai or the Libyan desert and were asked to pay ransom for them to be released. Some of us did. Think if we had given that big money to them while they are in their country, how much it would have benefited them and the country. If added all the ransoms paid, it would be a source of capital to employ all those who immigrated and paid in life. Some tortured and faced, at last, a shame in the recipient country by being denied a legal status of life and left in limbo. What a disdain!

Let us be realistic and advise our fellow brothers and sisters to stay at home and try to manage their lives. We in the diaspora can assist by investing and open businesses, hotels, and factories in Eritrea. Let us support the Government through a Trust Fund to finance economic and social ventures.

2. The Government:

It is said that “they are our citizens; we have to advocate for their affairs. When we proclaimed to Israeli bodies that at least, every immigrated citizen have to get a compensation of $50,000 as prerogative measurements, the conversation destined to closure. As those volunteer immigrants, those who are now started to be branded as ‘infiltrators’ by Israel, have the right to be catered or trained in profession, the compensation claim is shrouded on imperative aspects. When they returned home, they have to be helped in adjusting their life apparently.”

This is not what should be done. We have to receive our fellow Eritreans if they are rejected as what they have faced in Israel. It is our obligation. We have to show pride and courage to welcome them home.

The Government has to enlighten its people by making them aware of its policies. It has to give hope and inspire them. If people are aware of the positive developments going on Eritrea, then they will refrain from thinking of going out of their country.

Eritrea is a very rich country by way of hard-working people, natural resources and strategic location in the world. Its agriculture can employ more people if strategic programs are designed. It can feed itself well. Its sea coast can serve as a source of employment. Its closed factories can employ lots of people when maintained and opened. Lots of construction work are expected in housing, infrastructure and ports. The opportunity of better life is high.

With the advent of production of potash by Danakali Ltd. and gold, copper and zinc in Zara, more foreign exchange can be generated. The revenue generated will assist to expedite further development and undertaking economic activities and fulfill the needs of the population. Its oil and gas if explored, Eritrea can easily go out of the quagmire in which it has now immersed in. Eritrea will be a heaven if the proper plan and program are designed and jump start the economy. The Government has a very big responsibility to shoulder and lead the country out of the problem it has faced with the advent of peace with Ethiopia. The future is bright. We see the light through the tunnel. In conclusion, we sing loud and clear part of the national anthem of Eritrea:

Dedication that led to liberation
Will build-up and make her green
We shall honor her with progress
We have a word to her to embellish!

God bless Eritrea!!

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Eritreans' Migration Reviewed by Admin on 12:00 AM Rating: 5

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