Geeska Afrika Online

Eritrea: Eritrean Children Are Committing Suicide in Ethiopia

Asmara (HAN) November 21, 2015 – Public Diplomacy and Regional Humanitarian stability Initiatives News.   Eritrea — nicknamed the “North Korea of Africa” — is currently experiencing an exodus of children. Opinion By Sally Hayden, Eritrean Children Escapees Are Committing Suicide in Ethiopia.

After Syrians, its citizens were the second most common nationality attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe this summer. That voyage is only one hurdle on the long and treacherous journey out of the tiny Horn of Africa nation, which is estimated to have lost nearly 10 percent of its population — 400,000 people — in recent years, as they risk death to escape its repressive dictatorship.

A large proportion of these people are minors, often unaccompanied, who are fleeing compulsory and indefinite military service.

What happens to those who don’t make it across the Sahara, to Libya, and on into Europe? VICE News has discovered that between June and August this year at least four unaccompanied Eritrean minors in refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia attempted to kill themselves, while a fifth succeeded.

Job Onyango, a counselor for the Center for Victims of Torture — who work in several camps in northern Ethiopia, close to the Eritrean border — told VICE News the spike in suicide attempts came during the summer when the seas were calm and migration to Europe reached a peak. “Most of these young people had expectations of migrating [further on],” he said. “And so they are not being able to go, and that’s one of the reasons that is causing them to feel desperate and take these measures.”

It is common for families to save up and pay for one child to make the journey to Europe, Onyango said. Those left behind can feel devastated and become desperate.

Eritrean refugees are currently arriving into the camps in northern Ethiopia at an average of 200 each day, according to Onyango. “Almost half of them are minors,” he said. “The majority are under 35 — minors and young men and women, and even the adults coming in are coming with two or three children.”

Medhanye Alem, an Ethiopian counselor and focal person for child protection issues in the Mai Aini refugee camp, south of Shire, a town in northern Ethiopia, told VICE News that challenges for Eritrean minors include not getting enough food or other basics like soap. “The ones who stay in the camp for three or four years get depressed and attempt suicide,” he said. “And there is also peer pressure, especially the ones who are living under group care.” In Alem’s experience, many young Eritreans discriminate among each other based on ethnicity. Eritreans from the south are particularly vulnerable, according to Alem, because they’re believed to be “evil-eyed.”

“Those children usually attempt suicide,” he said.

Eritrea has compulsory military service, meaning many young people flee the country before they have to enlist. Those who stay are paid low wages and often enlisted indefinitely. Some are thought to be sent to conflicts abroad — Eritrean troops are believed to be currently fighting with UAE troops in Yemen.

Refugees who survive the border-crossing — where a “shoot-to-kill policy is enforced — arrive in Ethiopia owing money to smugglers or saddled with the knowledge that their escape has put their families’ lives at risk and swaddled them in debt. “In most cases the ones who are close to Ethiopia, they cross by their own but the ones who are far they pay the smugglers 5000 nakfa ($298) per child. Most of them cannot afford that,” Alem said.

Alem has worked with young people who were caught the first time they tried to escape Eritrea and sent to prison, or have been victims of rape and other attacks along the border.

“Among the recent group of young people we had were those who had been captured at the border and were taken into prison and tortured in prison and these are minors under the age of 18,” Onyango said. Their condition was “very symptomatic with trauma and similar to other marks that we have seen in other escapees.”

Onyango agreed young people — including those in refugee camps — tend to be very concerned about their future. “The Ethiopian government gives them access to education to the highest level — primary, secondary, and university,” he said, though admitted that life was still a struggle.

“Our main role is just to teach them to cope with life in the camp. Control emotions, deal with conflicts, and have realistic goals for the future.”

Onyango said the camp’s services had responded quickly to the crisis by offering emergency help and training for those working directly with children.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

Watch the VICE News documentary, Drowning for Freedom: Libya’s Migrant Jails:

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4 Responses to “Eritrea: Eritrean Children Are Committing Suicide in Ethiopia”

  1. jo

    The gallows around the neck of Ethiopia’s minority regime seems to be tight and close. they hire everything possible to fabricate lies to keep the media away from their own misery. They are masters in lies and deception and begging. that makes them unique.
    2015.11.15 Austrian ambassador in Ethiopia, Andreas Melan, in an interview with APA explained that as thousands of Ethiopians continue to illegally migrate to Saudi Arabia and South Africa, those who fled to Europe usually claim they are from Eritrea as that have better chance of recognition for asylum.

    The “mass exodus” of Ethiopians that no one speaks about attracts about 100,000 Ethiopians annually Eastwards, said Ambassador Melan. The official figures of course not known as Ethiopians mostly migrate illegally as legal migration has been prohibited by the government.

    The 2013 and 2014 European migration statistics Eurostat also confirms Ambassador Melan’s assertion. Among the top countries of origin for asylum seekers, Ethiopia is not listed even among the top 20 origins as the thousands of its illegal migrants already claimed they are from Eritrea. For such simple fact and error, Eritrea has been singled out as the second most refugee producing country next to Syria.
    In fact, Ethiopia is consistently praised as an economic success story, with the World Bank having recently announced that the African nation is the world’s fastest growing economy for 2015-2017. Despite this alleged ‘economic miracle,’ Ethiopia is still hemorrhaging population as citizens flee in their thousands, providing further evidence that outside the glittering capital of Addis Ababa the country remains one of the most destitute and violent in the world.
    First appeared:

    Please cease to spread lies that are not assignable by fact. Ensure that Ethiopians finally has something to eat. 15 millions starving that’s tragedy

    1. Alemu Tolosa

      You must be Joking, don’t stick your stupid Eritrean problems on Ethiopia. Ethiopia has nothing to do with your exodus belive it or not your fault your problem.

  2. Elias

    Brilliant!!!Jo,you hit the nail, today thank you technology,weyani and funder CIA left in cold.

  3. Elias

    Is that what you are dreaming to see Eritrea collapse? sham on you Alem,but careful you will collapse your self in front of your laptop, do no wish to Eritrean people such disgusting wishes.

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