Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Country Profiles - Eritrea

Our friends at RETAS have started this series of blog posts on the top 30 countries that asylum seekers come from to the U.K, beginning with the African country Eritrea. The original can be found HERE..

Imagine living in a country rated as having less freedom of the press than North Korea. A one party state holding a country in a continual repressive regime, using war as an excuse to rule by force.

The State of Eritrea split away from Ethiopia in 1993, though its border is still disputed, leaving the country in a perpetual state of war. Ruled by the ironically titled People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the government that was created to set up a democracy have repeatedly postponed and cancelled national legislative elections. Over the last ten years President Isayas Afewerki’s leadership has overseen a steady erosion of human rights, fair justice and press freedom.

The population of Eritrea is the second most militarized in the world according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, both men and women are required to undertake in a minimum of 18 months national service, however this is often extended indefinitely. There are reports of army labour being used to maintain property owned by generals or government employees, and the pay for military service is a pittance.

Most disturbingly of all, thousands of Eritreans are detained in known and secret detention centre’s, often without charge or trial, and no idea if they will ever be released.

People ‘disappear’ into these prisons for opposing the unelected leaders. Religion is also strictly controlled, people are only allowed to believe in approved faiths, and their place of worship must be registered and approved by the state.

No record is released giving the number of Eritreans incarcerated, and many detention facilities are in secret locations. Exiled citizens have spoken about being held in underground bunkers, regular beatings, even being tied up under the blazing sun or hung by their arms from trees. There is a shoot to kill policy if people are seen escaping across the border.

Leeds has a large Eritrean community, and various charities to help with asylum application, counseling and integrating into British life.

RETAS is based in Harehills and believes that every refugee that comes to West Yorkshire deserves help and support in finding training and employment, to begin a new life in the U.K

Article by Jake Davies, Journalism student and RETAS volunteer

For more information take a look at these sites

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