Destination Unknown: Eritrean Refugee Torture and Trafficking

Report
from NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre
Published on 17 May 2013

Eritrea is considered one of the most repressive countries in the world; Freedom House, in its annual ranking of countries based on democratic freedom, considers Eritrea “one of the worst of the worst”. Since gaining independence from Ethiopia twenty years ago, the destitute and politically isolated country is often accused by international human rights groups of unlawful executions, tor-ture, and citizen detention. Eritreans, living under the harsh au-thoritarian regime of President Isaias Afewerki, are prone to un-dertake a dangerous and sometimes deadly migration to neigh-bouring countries and beyond. According to BBC, 3,000 Eritreans migrate each month often in search of asylum.

The journey is arduous at best. Eritrean refugees face fear of death as they cross the Eritrea-Sudan border as na-tional border guards are ready to shoot to kill. Life as a refugee in destination countries is not always better; it is not guaranteed that the refugee will experience basic human rights, higher education and gainful employment. Instead of deliverance, refugees often find the same lack of opportunities that drove them to leave their homes in the first place. For many Eritreans, Israel is the ultimate destination, a promise of a better life. Refugees often hire smugglers to facilitate the trek from Sudan through Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula to Tel Aviv. However, smug-gling is a risk that often ends in the torture and death of Eritrean refugees as some smugglers for hire are actually Eritrean senior military officials who ransom, rather than transport, the refugees. This report examines Eritreans migration, smuggling and human trafficking and the exploitation of refugees. This report also discusses the condi-tions during transit and within the destination countries of Israel, Sinai and Sudan.