War Resisters' Stories: October
WRI supports Eritreans fleeing indefinite military service
War Resisters' International, along with our partners Connection e.V., PRO ASYL, the Eritrean Movements for Human Rights and Democracy, Eritrean Law Society and European External Policy Advisors co-organised the 'Eritrea and the Ongoing Refugee Crisis' conference, held in Brussels on 19th October.
Militarisation in Eritrea is extreme, with indefinite conscription in often unbearable conditions. Conscientious objectors are imprisoned. Many people flee the country if they can, but if they arrive in Europe, they are not always given protection. WRI has been working with Eritrean activists in diaspora for a number of years.
The 'Eritrea and the Ongoing Refugee Crisis' conference was opened by Sheila B. Keetharuth, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, which was followed by panels focusing on the human rights situation in Eritrea, challenges Eritrean refugees face in the European Union, and conscription, forced labour and gender perspectives.
The final panel focused on the need for protection of Eritrean refugees outside of Eritrea - including from the Ertirean regime's supporters outside of Eritrea, who work to often intimidate those who speak out against the regime. Read the press release here: UN Special Rapporteur emphasises the gravity of human rights violations in Eritrea
On the following day, a closed strategy meeting was held, with Eritrean organisations in diaspora, and European refugee rights groups, focusing on how to support Eritreans in exile, and press for the recognition of human rights in Eritrea itself. The groups agreed to work together in future, and a network was formed to collaborate. This gathering also issued a statement in response to the comments made by Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, the previous day, in which he boasted that there was a 'a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route' [to refugees].