AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - The odyssey of Eritrean refugees, forced to starve, rejected, victims of traffickers

Thursday, 10 September 2020 migrants   refugees   violence   human trafficking  

Addis Ababa (Agenzia Fides) - Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia run the risk of being repatriated. The government of Addis Ababa no longer considers them in need of humanitarian protection. At the same time, Ethiopia no longer plans to welcome women, children and men fleeing the Asmara regime in refugee camps (unless they are somehow linked to the Eritrean armed forces). This is what Abba Mussie Zerai, a priest of the eparchy of Asmara and has always been sensitive to the problems of refugees and displaced persons from the Horn of Africa, reported to Agenzia Fides. We are currently experiencing a delicate situation, a consequence of the agreement signed in 2018 between the two nations. What was hoped could be an agreement capable of guaranteeing peace and development in the region, is in fact turning into a nightmare for many Eritreans who cannot return to their homeland.
"This situation and the closure of one of the four refugee camps which hosts over 15,000 people - explains Abba Mussie - has produced many urban refugees without any form of protection without rights. In Tigrai (the northern region bordering Eritrea) thousands of Eritreans often reduced to hunger, are exposed to all forms of exploitation and abuse. The most vulnerable people are women and minors, especially unaccompanied minors, many left to themselves, with the risk of ending up victims of sexual predators, reduced to slavery work. This situation is increasing desperation creating the conditions for those who traffick human beings, the exodus to Sudan and Libya is increasing all due to the bad conditions of non-reception they find today in Ethiopia".
Refugees who have arrived near urban centers also suffer. In addition to the loss of rights, they also have to face the pandemic and the very high cost of living. Eritreans are thus victims of exploitation, prostitution and deprivation.
"We appeal to the Ethiopian government to respect the international obligations deriving from its adherence to the conventions that protect the rights of children and the rights of refugees", concludes Abba Mussie. "We ask the European Union to invest resources in order to welcome these Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia with dignity. Otherwise the exodus to Europe will increase, with the sad death toll in the desert and in the Mediterranean Sea". (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 10/9/2020)