Country of Origin Information Report


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Country of Origin Information Report


13 October 2009

UK Border Agency

Country of Origin Information Service

Latest news
Events in Eritrea, 9 September 2009 to 13 October 2009

Background Information
1. Geography 1.01

Maps 1.04

2. Economy 2.01

3. History 3.01

Independence and Transitional Government 3.02

The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice and

constitutional developments 3.04

Border conflict with Ethiopia 1998-2000 3.07

Border tensions with neighbouring countries, 2005 onwards 3.09

Domestic political developments from September 2001 3.16

4. Recent developments 4.01

5. Constitution 5.01

6. Political system 6.01

Overview 6.01

Political opposition 6.05

Opposition groups in exile 6.08

Human Rights

7. Introduction 7.01

8. Security forces 8.01

Police 8.02

Arbitrary arrest and detention 8.03

Torture in police detention 8.04

Armed forces 8.06

Arbitrary arrest and detention 8.10

Torture in military detention 8.11

Extrajudicial killings 8.15

Avenues of complaint 8.17

9. Military and national service 9.01

Legislative background 9.01

Military/National Service in practice 9.12

Penalties for evading national service 9.14

Round-ups (Giffa) 9.20

Conscientious objection 9.29

School leavers and conscription 9.32

Exemptions 9.36

Overview 9.36

Exemptions of women ..9.38

Exemptions on medical grounds ..9.51

Military training ..9.54

Detention of national service and military service conscripts. ..9.60

Demobilisation ..9.61

10. Judiciary 10.01

Organisation 10.01

Independence 10.04

Fair trial 10.06

11. Arrest and detention – legal rights 11.01

12. Prison conditions 12.01

Places of detention 12.07

13. Death penalty 13.01

14. Political affiliation 14.01

Freedom of political expression 14.02

Freedom of association and assembly 14.03

Opposition groups and political activists 14.04

15. Freedom of speech and media 15.01

Arrests and detention of journalists 15.06

16. Human rights institutions, organisations and activists 16.01

17. Corruption 17.01

18. Freedom of religion 18.01

Overview 18.01

Registration scheme 18.04

Arrests and detentions 18.07

Religious groups 18.17

Muslims 18.17

The Orthodox Church of Eritrea 18.19

The Roman Catholic Church 18.24

Evangelical Protestant/Orthodox Presbyterian Church 18.26

Jehovah’s Witnesses 18.27

Evangelical’ Churches 18.29

General information 18.29

Menfesawyan “spirituals” 18.34

Known groups 18.38

19. Ethnic Groups 19.01

Languages 19.03

Main ethnic groups 19.06

Afar/Danakils 19.06

Baria/Nara 19.12

Hedareb/Beja/Beni Amber/Beni Amer 19.13

Bilen/Bogos 19.14

Kunama 19.16

Rashaida 19.23

Saho 19.24

Tigrinya 19.26

Jiberti/Djiberti/Jeberty 19.27

Tigre/Tegre 19.29

20. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons 20.01

21. Disability 21.01

22. Women 22.01

Legal and political rights 22.01

Social and economic rights 22.03

Marriage 22.06

Abortion 22.10

Violence against women 22.11

Trafficking of women 22.15

23. Children 23.01

Overview 23.01

Child rights – civil rights and freedoms 23.03

Child labour 23.05

Children in judicial and penal systems 23.09

Childcare and protection 23.10

Trafficking of children 23.11

Orphans 23.12

Education 23.21

Health and welfare 23.26

Special protection issues 23.27

Military service and education 23.27

Child soldiers 23.30

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 23.31

Documentation 23.36

24. Trafficking 24.01

Government efforts to tackle trafficking 24.02

Protection and support services 24.03

25. Medical issues 25.01

General 25.01

Overview of availability of medical treatment and drugs 25.03

HIV/AIDS 25.06

Cancer treatment 25.09

Kidney dialysis 25.10

Mental health care 25.11

26. Humanitarian issues 26.01

27. Freedom of movement 27.01

28. Internally displaced people (IDPs) 28.01

Eritreans from Ethiopia 28.03

29. Foreign refugees 29.01

Refugees in Eritrea 29.01

Ethiopians in Eritrea 29.03

30. Citizenship and nationality 30.01

Three witnesses 30.04

The 1993 referendum 30.06

Mixed marriages and mixed birth 30.08

31. Forged and fraudulently obtained documents 31.01

32. Exit-entry procedures 32.01

Requirement for exit visas 32.03

Requirement for Eritreans living abroad to pay tax 32.08

Illegal exit from Eritrea 32.09

33. Treatment of Eritrean refugees

Overview 33.01

Treatment of returned failed asylum seekers 33.02

Eritrean refugees in Malta 33.03

Eritrean refugees in Libya 33.08

Eritrean refugees in Israel 33.12

Eritrean refugees in Egypt 33.15

Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia 33.17

Eritrean refugees in Sudan 33.21

Eritrean refugees in Kenya 33.27

Eritrean refugees in Italy 33.28

34. Employment rights 34.01

Forced or compulsory labour 34.02
Annex A - Chronology of major events

Annex B - Political organisations

Annex C - Prominent people: past and present

Annex D - List of abbreviations

Annex E - List of Eritrean public holidays in 2009

Annex F - References to source material
i This Country of Origin Information Report (COI Report) has been produced by COI Service, United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), for use by officials involved in the asylum/human rights determination process. The Report provides general background information about the issues most commonly raised in asylum/human rights claims made in the United Kingdom. The main body of the report includes information available up to 8 September 2009. The ‘Latest News’ section contains further brief information on events and reports accessed from 9 September 2009 to 13 October 2009. The report was issued on 13 October 2009.
ii The Report is compiled wholly from material produced by a wide range of recognised external information sources and does not contain any UKBA opinion or policy. All information in the Report is attributed, throughout the text, to the original source material, which is made available to those working in the asylum/human rights determination process.
iii The Report aims to provide a brief summary of the source material identified, focusing on the main issues raised in asylum and human rights applications. It is not intended to be a detailed or comprehensive survey. For a more detailed account, the relevant source documents should be examined directly.

iv The structure and format of the COI Report reflects the way it is used by UKBA decision makers and appeals presenting officers, who require quick electronic access to information on specific issues and use the contents page to go directly to the subject required. Key issues are usually covered in some depth within a dedicated section, but may also be referred to briefly in several other sections. Some repetition is therefore inherent in the structure of the Report.

v The information included in this COI Report is limited to that which can be identified from source documents. While every effort is made to cover all relevant aspects of a particular topic, it is not always possible to obtain the information concerned. For this reason, it is important to note that information included in the Report should not be taken to imply anything beyond what is actually stated. For example, if it is stated that a particular law has been passed, this should not be taken to imply that it has been effectively implemented unless stated.
vi As noted above, the Report is a collation of material produced by a number of reliable information sources. In compiling the Report, no attempt has been made to resolve discrepancies between information provided in different source documents. For example, different source documents often contain different versions of names and spellings of individuals, places and political parties, etc. COI Reports do not aim to bring consistency of spelling, but to reflect faithfully the spellings used in the original source documents. Similarly, figures given in different source documents sometimes vary and these are simply quoted as per the original text. The term ‘sic’ has been used in this document only to denote incorrect spellings or typographical errors in quoted text; its use is not intended to imply any comment on the content of the material.
vii The Report is based substantially upon source documents issued during the previous two years. However, some older source documents may have been included because they contain relevant information not available in more recent documents. All sources contain information considered relevant at the time this Report was issued.

viii This COI Report and the accompanying source material are public documents. All COI Reports are published on the RDS section of the Home Office website and the great majority of the source material for the Report is readily available in the public domain. Where the source documents identified in the Report are available in electronic form, the relevant web link has been included, together with the date that the link was accessed. Copies of less accessible source documents, such as those provided by government offices or subscription services, are available from the COI Service upon request.

ix COI Reports are published regularly on the top 20 asylum intake countries. COI Key Documents are produced on lower asylum intake countries according to operational need. UKBA officials also have constant access to an information request service for specific enquiries.
x In producing this COI Report, COI Service has sought to provide an accurate, balanced summary of the available source material. Any comments regarding this Report or suggestions for additional source material are very welcome and should be submitted to UKBA as below.
Country of Origin Information Service

UK Border Agency

Apollo House

36 Wellesley Road

Croydon CR9 3RR

United Kingdom


Independent Advisory Group on Country Information
xi The Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI) was set up in March 2009 by the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency to make recommendations to him about the content of the UKBA’s country of origin information material. The IAGCI welcomes feedback on UKBA’s COI Reports, COI Key Documents and other country of origin information material. Information about the IAGCI’s work can be found on the Chief Inspector’s website at

xii In the course of its work, the IAGCI reviews the content of selected UKBA COI documents and makes recommendations specific to those documents and of a more general nature. A list of the COI Reports and other documents which have been reviewed by the IAGCI or the Advisory Panel on Country Information (the independent organisation which monitored UKBA’s COI material from September 2003 to October 2008) is available at

xiii Please note: it is not the function of the IAGCI to endorse any UKBA material or procedures. Some of the material examined by the Group relates to countries designated or proposed for designation to the Non-Suspensive Appeals (NSA) list. In such cases, the Group’s work should not be taken to imply any endorsement of the decision or proposal to designate a particular country for NSA, nor of the NSA process itself.
Independent Advisory Group on Country Information contact details:

Office of the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency

4th floor, 8-10 Great George Street,

London, SW1P 3AE



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Latest News

Events in Eritrea from 9 September 2009 to 13 October 2009

15 September According to a report published on the Dehai website, four migrants were killed by Egyptian border guards trying to enter Israel on 9 July 2009, bringing the death toll in the Sinai area to 12, since May 2009. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated that the “deaths of African migrants trying to cross from the Sinai peninsula into Israel are justified for security reasons.” Human Rights Watch stated that “Egyptian security forces killed 33 migrants at the border between July 2007 and October 2008.” The report further stated that “since February 2008, Israel has deported thousands of African migrants to Egypt on grounds they are economic and not political refugees, according to media reports from Israel.”

Dehai news - Egypt Defends Killing of Migrants Trying to Cross Into Israel -

15 September 2009

Date accessed 16 September 2009
13 September The “Sudan Tribune” newspaper reported in September 2009 that the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), had stated that the number of Eritrean refugees that had fled to Ethiopia had doubled during 2009. The report explained that “on average, 1122 Eritreans are crossing borders to Ethiopia and this figure is twofold comparing to that of last year’s average, 600.” According to the report, 36,402 Eritrean refugees are currently in Ethiopia, living in camps. The UNHCR and IOM have been engaged in arranging for many of these refugees to be settled in other countries.

Sudan Tribune - Eritreans influx in Ethiopia doubles in 2009 - 13 September 2009

Date accessed 15 September 2009
9 September According to an Amnesty International press release dated 9 September 2009:
“So far this year, Egyptian security forces have killed at least 11 people trying to cross the border into Israel. At least 11 others have been wounded - some critically.
“…thousands of individuals, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea as well as other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, try to cross from Egypt to Israel each year.

“They run the risk of being shot dead by Egyptian border guards who still appear to lack adequate training for handling such situations and frequently resort to lethal force rather than other means of intervention, despite the spiralling number of victims. No investigation is known to have been held into any of the shootings and the names and nationalities of those killed are rarely disclosed.”

Amnesty International press release - Egypt: Four migrants killed - Authorities must reign in border guards - 9 September 2009

Date accessed 16 September 2009

Background information

1. Geography
1.01 The State of Eritrea (Permanent Committee on Geographical Names) is a country in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Sudan to the west, and Ethiopia to the south. In area the country covers 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq miles). [81]. The capital city is Asmara, other main cities being the port of Massawa, Keren, and Barentu. [1a] (Europa Online, accessed on 14 September 2009)
1.02 The CIA World Factbook section on Eritrea (3 September 2009 version) gives a July 2009 population estimate of 5,647,168. [28]. According to Ethnologue, 12 languages spoken in Eritrea. Three of these languages are Eritrea’s official languages and these are English, Standard Arabic, and Tigrinya. [59]
1.03 There are nine main ethnic groupings in Eritrea. There is one further ethnic grouping, the Djerberti, Muslims of the central highlands, but the Djerberti are not recognised as an official ethnic group by the Eritrean government. [25b] (Mebrat Tzehaie)

See Ethnic groups

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1.04 Eritrea, political map, September 2006, from the main United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) website at:

1.05 Further maps of Eritrea can be found via the Perry-Castaneda collection website, the University of Texas at
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2. Economy
2.01 Eritrea’s economy is largely based on agriculture, which involves 80 per cent of the working population, but only contributes 12 per cent to the GDP; remittances from the Eritrean diaspora account for 32 per cent of GDP. [4a] (Economy) (US State Department Background Note on Eritrea, dated April 2009). Europa stated that the national currency is the Nafka. [1a]
2.02 The CIA World Factbook section on Eritrea (3 September 2009 version) noted that:

“Since independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country, accentuated by the recent implementation of restrictive economic policies. Eritrea has a command economy under the control of the sole political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)…the government strictly controls the use of foreign currency, limiting access and availability. Few private enterprises remain in Eritrea. Eritrea’s economy depends heavily on taxes paid by members of the diaspora.” [28]

2.03 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees “Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum Seekers from Eritrea” report, published in April 2009, added:
“The country has practically no exports, while the cost of imports account for roughly 40 percent of the GDP. The cost of living, particularly in urban areas, is steadily increasing beyond the reach of most Eritreans. There is a growing scarcity of basic staples such as bread, sugar and fuel, and, despite Government programmes designed to ensure food security, two thirds of the population are still reliant on food aid. Social services in Eritrea remain basic and poverty is reportedly widespread.” [18c] (p8)
2.04 The CIA World Factbook (3 September 2009 version) cites figures of 37,500 mainline telephones (2006) and 70,000 (2007) mobile telephones in use. Most mainline telephones are in Asmara. Only about two people out of every 100 has a telephone (fixed line or mobile). [28]
2.05 Awate reported on the collapse of the economy in early 2008, giving details such as:

“Conservatively, Eritrea’s annual cereal grain demand is estimated to be 600,000 metric tons (or 6 million quintals.) Even in the best of times, the government was only able to produce about 25% of the nation’s need - with the deficit accommodated by imports or food aid from donors like FAO, WFP and USAID…grain cereals are now being sold exclusively at the so-called ‘Fair Shops’ (Rt'awi Dukan), the distribution centers of Red Sea Trading Corporation, or 09 (Bado T’Shiate), the financial arm of the ruling party. Taff [tef] is being sold at 5,000 Nakfa per quintal (100 kilos), and Meshela is being sold at 1,500 Nakfa per quintal. The ration for a family of five is 10 kilos per month; for families with more than five members, the ration is 15 kilos per month. This has presented a serious hardship to Eritrean families: historically, even a family of modest means needs about 25 kilos per month.” [50a] (Awate, 7 April 2008)

2.06 The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations listed Eritrea as one of 22 countries facing food security problems, in a report published on 28 May 2008. Eritrea was cited as a country that imported 100 per cent of its petroleum; 80 per cent of its grain foodstuffs; and now had a population of whom nearly 75 per cent were undernourished. [92] (Voice of America report, 28 May 2008). On Independence Day (24 May), President Isaias made a speech announcing import restrictions and price controls “to counter rising world commodity prices”. [11a] (Agence France Presse via Dehai News, 25 May 2008). Eritrea Daily noted in June 2008 that bread and pasta were now to be classed as luxury items. [38b].

2.07 Awate on 29 April 2008 reported that “the cost of living, particularly in urban areas, is now increasingly beyond the reach of most people. One of the most shocking developments in urban areas has been that begging is now widespread and coming from quarters one would least expect.” [50al]. Awate reported on 27 December 2008 that “Eritreans are seriously malnourished and there is such a severe food shortage, Eritrean farmers have been ordered to sell all their grain to the government, at a fixed price. The ban on selling grain to anyone except the government is so literal that farmers cannot even sell their grain to relatives. In Gash-Barka, the farmers have been ordered to keep one quintal for themselves and sell the rest to local authorities.” [50c].

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