Eritrean refugees from all walks of life (elders, women, children, students, youngsters, former fighters, former national service personnel’s, disabled, veteran fighters, etc.) participated in a demonstration in Shimelba refugee camp in Ethiopia. The demonstrators came from Maiaini refugee camp – round 9,000 Eritrean refugees – and Shimelba refugee camp – over 7,000.

Some of the slogans which were prepared in five languages are as follows (English, Arab, Tigrigna, Kunama and Saho):-

“We are Political Refugees.”
“We are victims the dictatorial regime in Eritrea.”
“We condemn the statement of the Eritrean delegation in Geneva.”
“We condemn the faulty campaign against Eritrean Refugees.”
“We call for the international community attention over Eritrean Refugees.”
“We call for a guaranteed international protection for all Eritrean Refugees.”

A memorandum – a response to the statement given by the permanent Eritrean delegation to the UN – was prepared, read and submitted to different bodies.

The demonstration closed after it toured the whole camp for nearly one hour. The demonstrators gathered on a volley ball field of the learning centre and the memorandum was read by the organizers of the demonstration. It was followed with one minute silence, in remembrance of the Eritreans who have lost their lives while crossing the Eritrean border, the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea.


Response to the statement given by the permanent Eritrean delegation to the UN

Introduction :

Eritrea is a de facto one party police state and that is the ruling party Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). This party is a descendant of the revolutionary movement that won independence from the Ethiopian “Derg” regime.

In the aftermath of the national independence the Eritrean people’s expectation were:

  1. to achieve democratic governance in order to win peace, stability, progress….
  2. to attain a country in which comprehensive human and democratic rights, such as right of speech, worship, movement, life and association are respected.
  3. to achieve politically, socially and economically a civilized country.
  4. to realize a country that has a good diplomatic and neighborhood with other countries
  5. to ensure knowledge as well as skill equipped and experienced citizen.

The above dreams never materialized. Rather the condition of Eritrea is worsening from time to time. The cause of this is the tyrannical provisional government of Eritrea. Eritrea now is a hell on earth to Eritreans. Because the government is intentionally aggravating the situation in the country in order to sustain its reign, Eritrea has become a place where many gulags are found, in which thousands of Eritrean are being tortured without charges. The human rights situation has totally deteriorated; citizens have been deprived of all kinds of rights that are taken for granted in the rest of the world. As a consequence we Eritreans, especially youngsters, have been forced to live in exile in different countries of the world. We are fleeing our beloved country and people because of the following violations: 

  • Systematic slavery through the so called national service
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Restriction of movement, privacy, speech, association …etc
  • Educational deprivation (Example: the closing up of University of Asmara).
  • Political, religious and ethnic persecution.
  • Forced resettlement of people
  • Confiscation of land without compensation.

Despite the unprecedented violations of human rights in Eritrea, the Eritrean government has been trying to blind and deceive the international community by denying the political and security crisis in the country. Part of the government’s deception to the international community is the statement given by the delegation of the government at the 60th session of the UNHCR’s executive committee which was held from September 28-October 2 of 2009 in Geneva.

The government’s denial to the real Eritrean situation

As mentioned in the introduction part, many Eritreans are leaving their homeland because of political and security problems in the country, Eritrea. This flow is drastically increasing from day to day. They are fleeing from their country and dispersing to different countries, mainly Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, Libya, Egypt Israel etc. While attempting to escape from Eritrea, they have been exposed to various misfortunes, such as detention, torture, exploitation, robbery and even death. However, the government of Eritrea has denied this condition to conceal its antagonistic treatment against innocent Eritreans.

One of its surprising denials of violations in Eritrea is the statement given by its permanent delegation to United Nations recently at the 60th UNHCR executive committee’s session in Geneva: “I don’t know what current political and security devolvement the Ethiopian delegation is talking about in Eritrea. He may be confusing Eritrea for Ethiopia.”This statement is categorically denying the problem in our country, Eritrea. It is also an insult to the intelligence of the international community in general and Eritreans in particular.

The Eritrean delegation further stated: “the Eritreans that the Ethiopian delegation presented to you as refugees are not refugees. They are Eritreans incarcerated in deplorable camps that are fully controlled and managed by the Ethiopian army. They are Eritreans from all walks of life who are victims of human trafficking activities coordinated and financed by the Ethiopian military and security institutions.” This is a continuation of Eritrean government’s attempt to divert the international community’s attention over innocent Eritreans in exile by coming up with ridiculous excuses. Moreover, it is a clear affront to the 1951 international convention about refugees. On the contrary, the realty is that the Eritreans who are fleeing to different countries are real victims of brutal treatment, torture, deprivation and other inhumane treatments in their country. Hence, the world has to know that we are real refugees with real needs.

Therefore, we Eritrean refugees in Shimelba and Maiaini, Ethiopia are pleading to the international community to critically look to the hardships we are facing wherever we may be. Besides, our appeal to the international community is to give due attention to our problems so as we can get the necessary support and treatment that would ease our plight and suffering. Last, but not least, we want to express our thanks to the countries which are giving protection to Eritreans. Moreover, we would like to extend our special gratitude to the people and government of Ethiopia for being gracious hosts, based on the international conventions and UNHCR principles. And we would appreciate if they continue their good deeds.

Shimelba Refugee Camp, Ethiopia
November 29, 2009