Virtually No Border Control in Eritrea

Asmara 11-04-2014) According to Members of Team Freedom Friday in Asmara, authorities in the country are totally failing to secure the border against the outflow of young refugees fleeing the indefinite national service.

Speaking from the capital this afternoon they said: ‘the sheer number of refugees making the crossing into Europe via Libya as well as the rising numbers of those crossing the border into Sudan and Ethiopia comes as no surprise to us here, everyone here talks about those who have left the country and the fact that the borders are virtually free of security forces’. The poor border control is believed to be a result of diminished capacity in the army due to the level of defections. The gap in manpower at the military has also been reported by Eritrean media outlets earlier this week. Both and have reported the situation in relation to the impact of unprecedented defections in the ranks and file of the Eritrean army.

The mood of Asmara residents is described as total resignation, whereby people listlessly spend their days queuing to buy every-day necessities.

Cooking fuel has disappeared from the market and food items such as meat and egg are luxuries that only few can afford. The expenditure of an average family is 10 times over the income of a national service recruit. Freedom Friday Team Members say this is what makes people give up and decide to leave the country.

Talking about signs of potential uprising in the country activists say ‘everyone talks about their dissatisfaction, but we are all aware of the fact that they have spies everywhere, we know even our best friends and members of our family have been recruited as spies, they pay them well and infact that is how we know they are spying for them, this again makes people decide to leave the country’.

The number of people leaving Eritrea has risen dramatically over the last few months and despite difficulties in the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan it is estimated that between 3,000 – 5,000 people, mostly young men, are leaving the country every month. Over the last four days five boats carrying over 6,000 refugees, including many from Eritrea, were rescued by Italian coastguards.

It is to be remembered that in October 2013, 366 Eritreans died in a single boat accident along the Mediterranean. That accident triggered the setting up of the rescue operation Mare Nostrum. To date the Operation has rescued over 20,000 persons at sea.



  • Freedom Friday (Arbi Harnet) is a movement aimed at encouraging civil resistance to injustice inside Eritrea
  • Every Eritrean over the age of 17 is regimented into Eritrea’s extensive National Service for unspecified periods of time. No one has been demobilised from the National Service since the conclusion of the border conflict with Ethiopia in 2004.