The Eritrean government, which has been accused of torture and other widespread human rights abuses, claims that human trafficking is to blame for the large number of Eritreans fleeing the country. UNHCR has stated that about 5,000 Eritreans leave the country each month, many of them crossing the desert and landing in Libya, where they hope to make the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean to reach the safety of Europe.
According to Al Jazeera, the Eritrean foreign ministry appealed to the U.N. Security Council, urging them to bring smuggling networks to justice and denying that human rights violations perpetrated by the government have anything to do with the mass exodus:
“The principal objective of this organised crime is to prevent Eritrea and its people from defending their sovereignty by dispersing and debilitating their human resources.”
Eritrea’s foreign ministry
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- Eritrea is referred to by some as the North Korea of Africa. Since its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, the country has been ruled by President Isaias Afewerki, who has banned other parties and not held a national election since he came to power.
- Conscription at the age of 18, forced labour, and government surveillance are just some of the reasons so many are fleeing the country.
- In a lot of cases, smugglers facilitate this exodus. While smuggling and human trafficking are not the same thing, sometimes smuggling can rapidly turn into a human trafficking situation.
- Instead of admitting its own crimes against humanity as the reason so many citizens are leaving the country (no dictator would, of course), the Eritrean government is accusing the people who facilitate the mass migration of destabilizing the country.
- Since many of Eritrea’s “best and brightest,” as well as army-age men and women, are among those leaving, the government is probably concerned for its future and is trying to convince the U.N. to fix the problem.