Are there people who are not scared of death? Readers might wonder about this query and they might simply answer with a resounding “no.” Only those who are mentally handicapped or those who are stressed due to various life challenges could not cope with that question. Naturally, human beings wish to stay alive even when they are old and become senile. Everyone is frightened whenever the death is mentioned.
But heroes, and Eritreans are not an exception, are prepared to die and do not hesitate to get involved in risky undertakings. PFDJ’s merciless border patrol are as fierce and deadly as wild animals, the vast and barren Libyan Desert, the colossal Mediterranean Sea and the cruel Egyptian boarder patrols do not hinder Eritreans when they decide to escape the horrible situation in their country. These days we are witnessing quite a dangerous phenomena in the history of Eritrean refugees; it had never happened even during the era of past colonizers. Eritrea under the PFDJ’s rule has became a nation that detest its own seeds and pushes everybody out. The young are on the run. The elderly, the children and even pregnant women, are all just flocking in a mass exodus in shocking numbers. Even if one does not refer to the statistical data of the UNHCR, the horror is evident in surrounding. Think of your old friends, colleagues and those who were your schoolmates, your groups in the armed forces, public service and acquaintances from all walks of life. How many of them are still living in Eritrea? And if there are some left, for how long do you think they will tolerate that calamity? The response is very clear! If you are lucky enough, you might find one or two individuals you know who are still waiting patiently for any opportunity; but after a while you hear that they have either fled and reached a certain destination safely or captured and put behind bars in Me’etr, Hadish M’asker or Wia.
Eritreans used to being a refugees. In fact, personally I went through all the miserable life twice: first when I was a mere child during the Derg era and the same experience repeated itself with the ruthless Shaebia. The sufferings of refugees vary with time, situation and space. During the Ethiopian occupation, a large number of Eritreans were forced to leave their land and escape to the neighboring countries. And today I would like to shed light on the situations of the neglected Eritreans who are still languishing in refugee camps in Eastern Sudan. Several years ago, those refugees fled with their skin due to the Hailesellasie regime’s barbarous acts and later due to the brutality of the Derg regime. Now they are stranded between the forces of the wild tyrant in Asmara and the harsh camp life of Eastern Sudan.
I was moved to write about this issue after I saw a video clip on Awate.com a few months ago. The clip was produced by ETHAR, a Relief Organization1. As I watched the clip again and again, I couldn’t control my flowing tears and I watching the sufferings of the refugees was tormenting. Each time I watched the clip I became angrier, and increased sympathy with the refugees. At times I wished if I were not an Eritrean! Children crying for help, orphans exposed to grave danger of extinction, the disabled struggling to secure a loaf of bread, the sick with no medical care and poor widows shyly telling their miserable stories. Worst! though they spent several decades in the Sudan, they lack the supply of clean water and they quench their thirst from the dirty seasonal water reservoirs and micro-dams. The video clip, titled “Remembering The Forgotten,” exactly portrayed the plight of Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan. But they are not literally forgotten by the PFDJ, Isaias and his faction know them very well. They not their ancestral places. They know the possible socio-cultural, linguistic and economical impact on the PFDJ’s policies if these refugees return to their home. Definitely, the conspiracy and stalling tactics against their repatriation is an excuse to loot their land and resources. From the outset, Isaias carried out evil plots of sectarianism, defamation, alteration of the traditional norms and instigated explosive temptations among various Eritrean groups to secure his position.
But the refugees have been forgotten by many Dispora Eritreans. How many people have ever thought to contributing a penny to save the destitute refugees? How many have visited the refugee camps to observe their situations? How many have advocated their predicament to the international community? Isn’t it shameful to keep silent while our flesh and blood is vanishing? Though the recent plight of post-independence refugees dominated the international media, nothing remarkable was done to alleviate their anguish.
Most of the time a few websites publish news about refugees, but little has been done to resolve the case or save their lives. Refugees who fled to the Sudan during the Ethiopian occupation era are still vulnerable in refugee camps—Wedesherify, Wedalhlew, Kilo 26, Khashm Algirba, Shegerab, etc. After independence, a considerable number of refugees voluntarily returned to Eritrea but no assistance was offered to them by the government in terms of emergency help, resettlement, clean water supply and schools. But those who were not capable to return were deserted without any humanitarian aid. There seems to be a crisis of consensus on the issue of refugees: politicians and civil society organizations couldn’t agree even on their numbers; some don’t even know why these refugees are still desperately trapped in the Sudan, hence, they did nothing to reduce their agonies.
It is evident that the general situation of Eritreans is depressing, but the future of the most disadvantaged nationals, the refugees who had neither been repatriated nor provided with help, is more depressing. When Osman Saleh, the minister of foreign affairs of the regime, was asked about the refugees in Eastern Sudan, he replied: Let the refugees stay in Sudan forever! The message is obviously not uttered unconsciously, he just revealed the hidden agendas of the PFDJ in a broad daylight. Isaias and his cheap ‘national sovereignty’ cry are lies—and gradually the misguided are becoming aware of that.
PFDJ’s Eritrea is heading from bad to worse: corruption and lawlessness has reached its zenith and the nation is being led by a clique of cruel individuals with no value or morality. The regime has betrayed the ideals of our fallen heroes and transformed the nation into a field of lucrative thievery for the benefit of the top brass of the military and security men. The issue of post-independence refugees and the pre-independence deliberate s’gre dob, the recent expulsion of Eritreans from their motherland, its causes, consequences and solutions had never been raised and discussed neither in their state owned media nor in their propaganda seminars and festivals abroad. The main objective of the PFDJ is to systematically banish Eritreans (particularly the youth and the intelligentsia) from the country and dry it of its potential development component. Soon, the Bisha Gold Project will start production and the traitors will stash the proceeds abroad because there is high probability that the regime might collapse any time. No one should expect miracles from the PFDG regime whose principal policy of the PFDJ is jawe’e alkalb liyatba’uka (starve the dog, it will follow you.)
The issue of Eritrean refugees, both old and new, must be given a serious attention. We need to focus on the roots of the problem without and find a means help and save them. The news about shootings at the borders, drowning in far seas, deportation, abuse and other serious problems facing the refugees must motivate us to do something. Any contributions we make to minimize their sufferings would be very significant. I plead to all Eritreans to give the refugees a helping hand to stay alive so that they would be able to celebrate the demise of Isaias and his regime.
- Documenting the perilous state of Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan and publicizing it to the international community and solicit aid. This could be done through video-taped reports and testimonies. Eritrean civil societies and humanitarian organizations, political parties and notable Eritrean activists could play an important role is this aspect.
- Organize fundraising events all over the world and collect materials aid by encouraging Diaspora Eritreans be involved in serious projects—every Eritrean is morally obliged to feed a starving child, treat a dying patient, shelter a bare family and provide school materials for the needy.
- As long as the PFDJ are in power, our tragedies will not come to an end. We have to share the bad fate together and avoid the selfish character for the sake of saving the lives of our people. We could skip one meal or a cup of tea, save one dollar a day and let the Eritrean refugees smile.
- We must prioritize our goals: before politics, democracy and others, we need to attend to the solvable problems. The plight of Eritrean refugees needs our urgent attention.
1. ETHAR is a non-governmental, non-political humanitarian aid organization that operates currently in the United Kingdom and Sudan. It is planning to extend its operations gradually to entire Horn of Africa region, including Eritrea, in the near future. It is dedicated to helping people in need regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation, gender or religious belief.