Trapped Between Ethiopia and Eritrea

Refugees International has released a new policy recommendation calling attention to the plight of Eritrean refugees, as well as Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, who have not been fully integrated into Ethiopian society and are often targeted as undesirable “foreigners.” This problem underscores the tension of the countries’ border dispute and the festering antagonism between the two governments that precipitated the recent withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from the region. As RI’s briefing makes clear, the ones suffering are those caught in the middle:

Nearly everyone RI interviewed told a story of ongoing separation from loved ones, exacting a considerable personal and psychological toll. Travel between Eritrea and Ethiopia is prohibited, there is no interstate phone system, and Ethiopians have reportedly been jailed for communicating with persons in Eritrea via the internet. “Family separation is the problem,” one man said. “I am a nation-less person. Eritrea does not consider me as Eritrean. Ethiopia does not consider me as Ethiopian. My brother tried to go to Sudan but was caught and jailed. My sister is in Kenya. I’ve had no news from her in 5 years.”

The full policy recommendation is worth reading. Neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea is innocent here, and both need to take steps to secure the rights and dignity of those driven to a condition of essential statelessness.