Human rights violations pushing thousands of Eritreans into exile

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Migrants arriving on Italy’s Lampedusa Island after crossing the Mediterranean on a dilapidated boat. [UNHCR/F.Noy]

Up to 3,000 Eritreans are leaving the country every month to escape human rights violations perpetrated by the government and its security agencies, according to a United Nations Human rights expert.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, cites the compulsory military service and harsh economic and social conditions many Eritreans are facing as a motivation for them to escape the country often using dangerous and life threatening routes.

Ms Keetharuth who has been visiting Eritreans in Tunisia and Malta, says the open-ended national service is a system which keeps Eritreans captive in a situation of despair.

She says Eritreans who had managed to escape the conscription spoke of severe human rights abuses, punishment amounting to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as detention in inhumane conditions.

Women explained they were particularly vulnerable to sexual abuses by officers.

These violations, she said, are committed with impunity and victims have no recourse to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Ms. Keetharuth is calling on the Eritrean Government to respect its human rights obligations and to put an immediate stop to human rights violations that are committed in the country.

Many refugees she met during her mission were rescued at sea after a dangerous journey across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

Since her appointment in November 2012, the Special Rapporteur has made several requests to visit Eritrea, which have so far not been granted.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1:39″

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