Making up the second largest group of refugees in Europe, Eritreans flee an authoritarian regime and military conscription
- Eritreans accounted for a fifth of refugees making the trans-Mediterranean voyage from Africa to Europe last year, becoming the largest group in Italy.
- The government of Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has held uninterrupted power since the country gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, with reports of torture, forced disappearance, and mass surveillance practices.
- Eritreans are forced into low-paid, indefinite military service, which the government says is due to ongoing conflicts with Ethiopia, leading many to leave to avoid conscription.
“It’s too hard to live in Eritrea because there are a lot of things they can do to you. …You can be in the military service for unlimited years, or in prison, and you don’t have a chance to raise your voice, to change the president.”
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(Image Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters, via BuzzFeed)