Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – After Syrians and Afghans, Eritreans comprise the third largest group to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
They are aware that their lives are at great risk during the journey, but they would rather take their chances. Back in Eritrea, they say the situation has “reached the bottom”. They are fleeing from a country where, according to Amnesty International, arbitrary detention without charge or trial and torture is the norm for thousands of prisoners of conscience, the rule of law remains sparse, political opposition is banned, and there is no freedom of religion or movement.
Ethiopia is the starting point for Eritrean refugees making their way to Europe. This neighbouring country has the highest number of refugees in Africa – more than 700,000 people according to international monitors, of whom more than 100,000 are Eritrean.
Most refugees are placed in camps by the government, where they say “life is not acceptable because of the heat, the small amount of food and because there is nothing to do all day”.
Many refugees eventually move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
Once there, they discover a city with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and with a population of 4.5 million which is expected to double by 2040.
Some decide to stay “because life in Addis is not so bad, even if it is quite difficult to earn good money”. They say they scrape enough together through informal jobs or have relatives or friends abroad send them money.
*Some names were changed at the request of the refugees.