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Eritrea: Demographic and Environmental Crisis

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Eritrea disclosed that 4,000 Eritreans are fleeing their country each month.

Thousands more are unaccounted for since they are not registered with UNHCR or other agencies that tracks new arrivals. Many Eritrean refugees leave their country and melt away in the neighboring countries, mainly in Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen but also in other countries around the world.

Though for the last decade the number of Eritreans leaving their country has been steadily increasing, in 2014 the number has reached 4000 escapees every month.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur, “The situation [in Eritrea] is dire.” She explained the main cause of the exodus as, “The indefinite aspect of the national service and other violations in the context of the national service.”

As per the October 1995 Proclamation (No. 82/1995), Eritreans are supposed to finish an eighteen month “national service”, but the service is usually extended for indefinite periods, with many conscripts serving for more than a decade. The conscripts are paid a wage of 400 Nakfa (apx. $10) per month.

Those who are caught escaping the forced service are court marshaled and dealt with harshly. Many have lost their lives trying to cross the borders that are patrolled by soldiers with a shoot-to-kill order. But since last year, Eritrean soldiers have become reluctant in enforcing the harsh policy.

Currently, TPDM, an Ethiopian armed opposition group enforces the government’s policies on national service, including the rounding up of those who go AWOL. TPDM has an estimated 30,000 strong well-equipped army. It is sponsored by the Eritrean ruling party.

The bulk of the TPDM forces are stationed around Aala but small size forces are stationed in Gash and Barka regions.

A man who recently escaped from Eritrea told Gedab News that, “Eritrea is not only losing its youth, it is also losing its few trees.”

Ethiopian and Eritrean forces are overwhelming the firewood supply and many trees are being cut to be used as firewood. The environmental degradation in the Eritrean countryside is so serious, “It has turned semi-arid areas into complete deserts.” Worse, farmlands are abandoned due to shortage of manpower. Villages have been emptied after losing their inhabitants to national service and migration. Old parents who are left behind cannot work the fields anymore.

Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth recommended to the international community to undergo “due diligence process in order to make sure that there’s no human rights’ violation” when executing any development program in Eritrea.

Related reading: National Security Team Discusses EPDM Role In Roundup

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  • Habte M. Teclemariam

    The special UN Rapporteur has done her job : to lay it out as it is. Yet, the amount of indifference by Eritreans in the diaspora is mind boggling. Remember when they were petitioning the State Department with regard to the sanctions. Why is it that there is no concerted effort to send the petition where it really belongs… The Generalissimo himself. Bombard him with e-mail, letters, and other forms of civilized confrontation that they cannot hide the facts…..4000 escapees a month. They cannot and must not be allowed to trade with false propaganda that it is their enemies who are encouraging the youth to leave their country.

  • Michael

    Do we really have to wait for the UN to solve our problem? If you really believe that the UN or other international communities are going to remove Issais and his gangs from power, you must be living in another planet, or probably you don’t know history , Like or lump it, the UN has no incentive to get involved to the extent that we all Eritreans believed them they would, We will continue to suffer as long as we have failed to form a unified and strong opposition movement that can create a credible threat to the cold-blooded sick man Issais. hgdef will continue to carry out its extermination policy as long as we remain divided.

  • haileTG

    Awatistas, Interesting coping mechanism, what a contrasting reality that it creates!


  • Papillon

    Sounds familiar? Be the judge! But of course, one hopes Ali Abdu will do the honour of stripping Isaias naked for what he truly is.


  • Nitricc

    Mike forgive him. Thomas must have came from the drinking party that he organizes and that was the agenda with his drinking good for nothing friends of his. You they get together with excuse of any national events just to get drunk and scream dictator. That where he is coming. He has neither the courage nor the manhood that requires to accomplish for what he is calling for. Let him screaming like a little girl. That is only good for that like the rest of his kind. Talk talk and talk. Aren’t you people tired of it?

    • Thomas

      I won’t be easy for me to go back home and drink with the alcoholic with the liver problem leader then. I know you have lack of knowledge about what goes on in our country, you cannot even admit the bunch of mafia-drunkards leading our country. They always come to their meeting to conspire and build a new prison facility to detain/torture and execute whoever is a threat to them. The bunch of drunkards who are good for organizing events such as Nadew/Fenkil and so many other events … I hope a day to see the dictator liver explode.

  • Hope

    BTW,Ghedeb news,you forgot to tell us as to where the Eritrean Opposition Armed Forces are stationed and how far they are equipped.
    May be for security reasons?Huh.
    Ms Shiela missed one THING:
    The Bisha Gold,the Colluli Potash,the Debariwa Copper//Silver,the Asmara/Embaderho Gold ,etc,income should be limited for ” gold/copper/potash for Food only–like the Iraq oil for Food only project .
    But I guess it is included in what she said : “Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth recommended to the international community to undergo “due diligence process in order to make sure that there’s no human rights’ violation” when executing any development program in Eritrea.”,
    Then the Eritreans will suffer for ever and will be homless,country less and keep fleeing for the sake of shelter and food….
    God forbid—
    Anta Amlakh,Mihretica awridelna,sile Wedikha,Yesus kristos…
    “Elohie,elohie,lemma sebektani”.”My Lord,my Lord,why have you forsaken me?”

  • Thomas

    While I doing walking the walking I can still invite people to join by doing the talkin chicken head. Do have a problem with that.

  • Hope

    “Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth recommended to the international community to undergo “due diligence process in order to make sure that there’s no human rights’ violation” when executing any development program in Eritrea.”,
    If she has had the GUT,she should,for the sake of fairness and for God’s sake,include some facts as well:
    1)That the the ‘No War,NO Peace ‘status and the deadly Sanctions imposed by the same organization she has represented,in fact,contributed to this mess and suffering.more than any thing/any body else.
    2)If she has the gut and she is honest,she should advise the same UN she represents that the same “No War,No Peace ” status imposed by the same UN and its mercernaries,has contributed to the endless National Service;and there fore:
    3)She should have advised the same UN that the above problems should be resolved,so that the suffering of Erittrea and Eritreans;the Exodus of the productive Youth will be minimized.,:
    A)The UN Should do its home work to demarcate the border
    B)The UN should help the GoE/Eritrea and Eritreans to help themselves
    C)The UN should reassure Eritrea from all the real,feared,perceived and implied threats
    But what the UN has done thus far is:
    a)turned its back away from doing its job of demarcating the border
    b)Involved,indirectly or directly in facilitating the exodus of the Youth
    c)imposed the deadliest sanctions,which have led/contributed to all the suffering,exodus,etc–of Eritreans. and at the same blaming the GoE for every thing.

    • dawit

      Dearest Hope;

      Mrs. Sheilla is interested only in one thing and that is protecting her fat salary in the name of the suffering children of Eritrea. She wouldn’t mind if there is no development in Eritrea, that will extend her job for the future till she retired.
      The root problem of Eritrean people is the UN, we can trace it to the beginning of UN as an organization, when it denied Eritrean their Independence. All hoopla by UN is to reverse the Eritrean Independence. The UN would not have Eritrean Independence if the Secretary General at the time of our Referendum and Independence was Kofee Anan or Ban Ki Moon. We were fortunate at that time it was Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt an independent minded Secretary General who served only one term and dismissed by U.S. Why did he serve only one term while every other Secretary General allowed serving two terms? Can we link his dismissal to accepting Eritrean Referendum and Independence considered as a crime? Who knows? Why is UN and US always against the Eritrean People Independence? Eritreans are most peaceful people and do not desrve such treatment from an international organization.

      By the way I like to thank you about the Eritrean Bishops letter I read the Tigrigna version and now I agree with their message, but I still believe they should have condemned the UN for imposing a deadly sanction on Eritrean people based on fabricated lies and testimonies.. That compromised their integrity, I hope they should write similar letter explaining the plight of Eritrean people addressed to the Christian world asking the same question Where is your sister Eritrea? It is important the Christians all over the world be aware of Eritrean’s mistreatments by the international community. . Otherwise I am afraid the UN is going to use their letter to lynch the Eritrean Government as another weapon to justify for reversing Eritrean Independence . I hope you are following that with the Bishops as you promised.

      • Semere Andom

        The sanctions are against the repressive regime by the peer nations. Not against Eritreans, these two entities are unrelated.There is no institution, school, daycare, hospital that is un linked the military. Imposing sanction will hasten the fall of the regime and it will not make a dent on increasing people’s suffering. You can day dream all you want but fake Eritrean independence that guys like you celebrate will be reversed or preserved by future Eritreans, not UN, not Ethiopia, this has been proved to a decimal point. But there is one entity that has been trying for 23 years now to reverse even the fake independence and it is PFDJ and people who canonize it. Insulting courageous people like Mrs,Sheilla is deja vu. Your menacing hate of successful people has commenced with Eritreans.
        Black and white issues rare occurrences, but supporting the regime vs opposing is so black and white that those who deny the cruelty of PFDJ, those who are incapable of distinguishing torture and honest mistakes are the supporters, who educate their kids in the west and when one day some people truly liberate Eritrea these western educated kids would go back and be the elites of the poor Eritreans who were defending the country. This is your deeply rooted dream and sadly, it may come true for you, but the question is how will you guys live with it?, when in the twilight of your lives, during your sun set in the land where its sun is setting with a high possibility of never to rise again like the sun of Badme. There are select people who will live without guilty for the crimes they have committed, scientists call them sociopaths

        • Hope

          But can you use your eyes,ears and mind to see and digest the negative impacts of the Sanction on Eritreans.
          You will not feel the pain sitting in Canada or whereever you might be drinking cold beer and enjoying chokolata.
          You may not see or understand the case of Eritrea as you are obssessed with PFDJ hatred but you have an ample evidence in the case of Iraq and its people.How about that?
          Aini enkelatom kestebhilu/ki’ri’eyu aideleyun aideleyun; ezni kelatom kisemu” aideleyun,

  • Papillon

    Dear Haile TG,

    I remember years ago the tyrant በታ ሓሳዊትን መታለሊትን መልሓሱ talking about HIV-AIDS as a serious national security issue for and to Eritrea pretending to care as the nation was about to get hit by a massive hemorrhage of its young and productive citizens which is far more dire and debilitating than the potentially assumed disaster that could have been caused by an epidemic. Looking at the picture you posted, one can not help it but delve onto a reversed lane of thought where under a normal and responsible government, the young guys could have been entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, doctors, academics and so on but for a reason which chronically defies logic, they are driven away not only in search of a better life anywhere but in Eritrea but their inherent and God given potential to be used by their prospective host countries as well. What’s more, the figure that is given by the UN is alarming to say the least. That is, by the current rate of influx, Eritrea will have lost 4.8% of her productive citizens with in the next five years. You can easily imagine how much the population could shrink with in the foreseeable future as the fecundity dwindles dramatically and the aging population is left with out a proper care what so ever as well. On a personal level, at this point, what I can possibly do is try not to think about the future of Eritrea for it is frightening to say the least.


    • haileTG

      Selam Papillon,

      According to latest figures, 308000 Eritreans were registered with the UNHCR by the end of 2013. Allowing for the unregistered and the first half of 2014, let’s say 400000 are out of the country. Conservative estimate put 80% of all refugees are younger than 40 years of age. So, assuming a high end guess of Eritrean population @6 million: [[0.8*400 000]/6 000 000]*100%= 5.3% of all the population is out as we speak. If we narrow this to the productive segment (a third of the population), we are currently looking at close to 16% of the productive force is already out. This being my calculation, I would love to see what has given to your less scarier than mine figures in yours? 🙂


  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    The demented regime of IA is in its final twilight. It seems that our people will soon breath a sigh of relief. Where martyrs day would be remembered for what it really means in the making of our destiny rather than for what it is worth, in political mileage, to a despotic and brutal dictatorship that has turned the nation to a desolate hell on earth.

    With the removal of the evil regime in Eritrea, the nation would start anew from the ashes it was brought down to by few criminal ex-tegadelti led by Isaias Afewerki. Eritrea is abundantly blessed with a wealth of means and resources to build a thriving, prosperous and peaceful nation. The reign of terror by IA and his group and gullible diaspora lackey had weighed too much on our people’s body and mind over the last quarter of a century. Today, PFDJ is broken beyond repair and what will follow is its dismantlement, national reconciliation and gang ho drive of nation building for our embattled population.

    Glory To Our Martyrs of battlefield, deserts, high seas, HGDEF prisons and foreign refugee camps and detention centers.

    They have all made Eritrea in their own ways.

  • Thomas

    There is only one way to remove the tumor regime and that is through rebellion. Once our people are able to divert the weapons they have against the regime which provided them with, that is when we will see results. I can see the removal of killer regime through military force becoming real and no other simple option that this. I am up for this!!!

    • mike

      What are you waiting for? If that is what you think then go for it! No sense of yapping about it online. Walk the walk tough guy