Spike in Eritreans fleeing into Ethiopia

More than 200 risk their lives every day, UN says, crossing a heavily-fortified border between arch enemy states.

    Thousands of Eritrean refugees are currently living in refugee camps in Ethiopia [AP]
    Thousands of Eritrean refugees are currently living in refugee camps in Ethiopia [AP]

    Over 200 Eritrean refugees are crossing the heavily fortified and dangerous border into neighbouring Ethiopia daily, the United Nations said in a report noting a "spike" in those fleeing.

    Tens of thousands of people have fled the Horn of Africa country, escaping open-ended conscription and the iron-grip rule of President Issaias Afewerki, with many continuing northwards to brave the often harrowing journey towards Europe.

    "The number of daily refugee arrivals spiked since the first week of September," the October report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) read.

    "At present, more than 200 Eritreans cross the Ethiopian border each day."

    Over 3,500 Eritreans have fled into northern Ethiopia in the past two months, taking the total to over 104,000 Eritrean refugees in the country.

    No reason was given for the rise in numbers, but reports by rights groups say people are struggling under Asmara's repressive government.

    Thousands have also fled into Sudan, although the UN in July reported that Khartoum has forced some to return.

    Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1991, and the countries went to war in 1998-2000. They remain bitter enemies, with their troops still eyeing each other along the fortified frontier.

    The two are at odds over the flashpoint town of Badme, awarded to Eritrea by a UN-backed boundary commission but still controlled by Ethiopia. Eritrea, with a coastline on the Red Sea, has a population of about five million  people.

    SOURCE: AFP


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