Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Campaign to End Slavery in the Guise of National Service in Eritrea

Record number of refugees left Eritrea in 2014; UNHCR reports indicate that the number of asylum-seekers in Europe from Eritrea nearly tripled in the first 10 months of the year. The numbers in Ethiopia and Sudan also saw a sharp rise with close to 6,000 refugees arriving in Ethiopia in the month of October alone. UNHCR records also indicate that a majority of those who flee are within the national service recruitment age range and claim to be fleeing the indefinite national service, which has become a form of modern day slavery.
Building on its success last year, highlighting the nature of the Eritrean National Service, Stop National Service Slavery Campaign is today launching an initiative to highlight the plethora of human rights violations that are making it possible for the regime in Eritrea to maintain such an abusive system enslaving an entire generation.
Titling their campaign ‘Time to Break the Chain of abuse’ Eritrean activists from Sweden, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, UK and Italy will, over the next six months, call upon European governments and the UN to address the cycle of grave human rights violations being perpetrated against conscripts, forcing them to leave their country in droves. They will also invite Eritreans inside the country and in the diaspora to break the cycle of abuse by exposing and resisting the human rights violations in Eritrea.
Organisers of the campaign state: ‘we are alarmed by the magnitude of the exodus of young Eritreans and understand the cause to be the abusive and indefinite national service, indeed many of us have fled it too, we would like the world to understand the multi-layered cycle of abuse that maintains the national service. As recruits we had no freedom of expression, we had no rights to family life, we were denied rights of association or religious freedom, we were forced to engage in hard labour and were paid next to nothing, in short we were treated as slaves in our own country’.

Campaigners believe that unless these violations are addressed adequately young Eritreans will continue to leave the country at great risk to their lives and will continue to create a refugee crisis in the region and further afield.
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