Escaping Eritrea — a state ruled by fear, not law

There is no civil war in Eritrea, but why are thousands fleeing the country every month?

September 10, 2015 09:58 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:05 pm IST

There is no civil war in Eritrea, but a pervasive control system used in absolute arbitrariness to keep the population in a state of permanent anxiety forces thousands to flee every month

Reeling under a reign of terror

The east African nation with a population of 6 million is one of the world's poorest

It has been marked by repression and fear since its independence from Ethiopia in 1993

Ultimate power has remained largely in the hands of one man, President Isaias Afewerki

Faced with a seemingly hopeless situation they feel powerless to change, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country. It is not law that rules Eritreans – but fear — Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, 2015

Eritreans have no say in governance and little control over many aspects of their own lives

The nation has one party, has never held free elections and has no independent judiciary

People are forced into decades-long military service, then exploited as slave labour for the state

Tens of thousands are arrested, often without charge and tortured for indeterminate periods

Isaias is accused of sponsoring regional rebels including Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Shebab

Eritrea’s state-controlled economy is in the doldrums and Isaias rejects foreign aid

Journey to freedom

Eritrea is the third-largest source of refugees trying to reach Europe, after Syrians and Afghans

Many crawl under razor wires, tiptoe across minefields and sneak past guards in their bid for freedom

They first make the perilous journey into Sudan, then across Libya before setting out to sea to Europe

4,00,000fled Eritrea in 2014, numbers have doubled over the past six years
2,16,453Eritreans live in refugee camps in Sudan and Ethiopia
5,000people flee Eritrea every month
26,700of the 3,81,412 arrivals by sea in Europe this year were Eritreans
3,394of the 13,000 unaccompanied children who arrived by sea to Italy in 2014 were Eritrean
3,239Eritreans made the perilous journey to the U.K. in 2014
27%of the 121,000 arrivals by sea in Italy this year were from Eritrea
90%of Eritreans who sought asylum in EU this year received protection
9%of Eritrean refugees in 2015 are unaccompanied and separated children
15%of the 6,770 unaccompanied minors in Europe this year are from Eritrea
2%income tax has been levied on all Eritrean citizens living abroad
87%who applied for asylum in U.K. were given the right to stay

Eritreans in Europe



United Kingdom










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