“African Dictatorship Fuels Migrant Crisis”
The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2015
“With his father trapped in open-ended military service that would soon snare him, too, Binyam walked for 19 hours without food or water to reach Ethiopia. He made a choice 5,000 of his countrymen make each month, by a United Nations estimate: to flee Eritrea and brave the world’s deadliest migrant trail, across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe. They leave behind one of the world’s fastest-emptying nations: a country of about 4.5 million on the Horn of Africa, governed by a secretive dictatorship accused of human-rights violations, that is playing an outsize role in the biggest global migration crisis since World War II. … Attention is focused, amid the intensifying migration crisis, on Syrians fleeing civil war and making a dramatic run to Europe. Yet by some measures, the exodus from the smaller Eritrea is more extreme. From the start of 2012 to the middle of this year, 1 in 50 Eritreans sought asylum in Europe, nearly twice the ratio of Syrians, based on data from the European Union statistical service Eurostat. The U.N. estimates that 400,000 Eritreans—9% of the population—have fled in recent years, not counting those who died or were stranded en route. On the rickety smuggling boats crossing the Mediterranean, Eritreans comfortably outnumber other nationalities. More than a quarter of the 132,000 migrants arriving in Italy between January and September were Eritreans, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Eritreans accounted for a majority of the 3,000 people who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year, humanitarian agencies say. … The Eritreans flee one of the world’s most isolated nations, governed under emergency rule since a war with Ethiopia in 1998. Eritrea earlier fought a 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia, which is 20 times its size. A June U.N. report accused the regime, led by former rebel commander Isaias Afewerki, of ‘crimes against humanity’ targeting its own population, including torture, mass surveillance and indefinite military conscription that amounts to a form of slavery. The government said the report, based on interviews done outside the country, was biased and false. Eritrea is also under U.N. sanctions on a charge of supporting al Qaeda-linked terrorism in Somalia. In Eritrea, which is evenly split between Christians and Muslims, the government denies the charge.”
Quickie analysis: When regimes like Eritrea’s are allowed to exist, they have a way of spreading the misery around.