Refugee Crisis: AI Makes Case For Eritreans Fleeing National Service | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Refugee Crisis: AI Makes Case For Eritreans Fleeing National Service

Posted: Nov 30, 2015 at 2:11 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

A new report by Amnesty International has said the huge number of young people fleeing indefinite national service in Eritrea have the right to international protection.

In a report Monday, Amnesty International identified this as adding to global refugees crisis. Based on interviews with 72 Eritreans who fled the country since mid- 2014, the report sheds new light on the harsh conditions facing conscripts and the brutal methods used by the military against those who attempt to evade it.

Some of the people interviewed told Amnesty International they had been conscripted for more than 10 or 15 years before fleeing the country. Others had husbands or fathers still conscripted after 20 years of service.

Meanwhile, despite claims by officials that conscription would be limited to 18 months, national service continues to be indefinite, often lasting for decades. Conscripts reportedly include boys and girls as young as 16 as well as the elderly and conscription often amounts to forced labour.

Attempts to flee national service have resulted in Eritreans making up the third-largest number of refugees trying to reach Europe. Yet, despite the reality on the ground, European states are increasingly rejecting asylum applications from Eritrea.

“The situation facing conscripts in Eritrea is desperate and exposes the lie behind claims made by certain host countries that most Eritreans arriving at their borders are economic migrants,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Michelle Kagari, said.

“These people, many of them children, are refugees fleeing a system that amounts to forced labour on a national scale and that robs them of choice over key aspects of their lives.”

In some cases, multiple family members are conscripted at the same time and geographically separated, denying them the right to enjoy a family life.

Every former conscript interviewed by Amnesty International said it is impossible to meet the basic needs of a family on the salary received. The basic monthly conscript salary is 450-500 Nakfa per month (USD43-8) before deductions.

People caught trying to evade or escape national service, including by fleeing the country, are detained, sometimes indefinitely, in appalling conditions. Detainees are often kept in underground cells or in shipping containers. The same fate would likely befall those forcibly returned from overseas upon the rejection of their asylum applications in Europe or elsewhere, and there is a generalized risk of arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment for any returned asylum-seekers.