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We know how many Eritrean children reach Europe on their own, but not how many die trying – UN expert

NEW YORK (28 October 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, expressed alarm about continuing human rights violations in the country resulting in mass departures. She warned the UN General

NEW YORK (28 October 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, expressed alarm about continuing human rights violations in the country resulting in mass departures. She warned the UN General Assembly about the high number of children fleeing from Eritrea without their parents.

“By mid-October, more than 4,000 Eritrean minors had arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year, including more than 3,200 children travelling without their parents,” Ms. Keetharuth said, quoting recent data collected by the UN Refugee Agency.

“The numbers provided only reflect those who make it to Europe. We do not know how many children perish along the flight,” the human rights expert stressed. “In all circumstances, unaccompanied minors require special protection.”

The children risk their lives, travelling on their own or with friends, to escape from looming military training and conscription amounting to forced labour, to join family members or in the hope of finding their rights protected across borders. They are very vulnerable and run the risk of exposure to abuse and violence, including falling in the hands of traffickers and smugglers who ask for ransoms from their families.

Eritreans are escaping systematic and widespread human rights violations, such as indefinite forced conscription and violations in the context of the national service, arbitrary arrests and detention, incommunicado detention, inhumane prison conditions, extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture.

“In recent months, we have seen a considerable increase in Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees crossing into neighbouring countries with almost 4,000 fleeing on a monthly basis,” she said. Significantly higher numbers of Eritreans are arriving in Europe. Between January and September 2014, 32,537 Eritreans arrived in Italy by boat. With Syrians, Eritreans constitute the largest group of arrivals.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the situation has deteriorated in the context of the attempted coup in January 2013, dubbed as the ‘Forto incident’. An unknown number of people, though the numbers quoted are as high as 800, including public figures, were reportedly arrested and detained, with no information as to their whereabouts, nor have they appeared before any court of law.

“The violations described are committed with impunity. No perpetrators have been brought to justice,” Ms. Keetharuth stated. “This is why I welcome the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council to investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea, as outlined in my reports.”

The expert called on the Eritrean Government, the Eritrean people, in and outside of the country, as well as the international community to cooperate with both the Commission’s and her mandate. “I remain fully committed to continue delivering on the mandate entrusted to me by the Human Rights Council in a constructive, transparent, independent and impartial manner and look forward to starting work as a member of the Commission of Inquiry,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed Eritrea’s accession to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in September, which was long overdue. “I hope this is an indication of Eritrea’s willingness to comply with the prohibition of torture under international law,” she said.

Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea during the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012. She took her functions on 1 November 2012. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. A lawyer from Mauritius, she has extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, advocacy, training and litigation in human rights in Africa. Learn more, log on to:

Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/26/L.6):

UN Human Rights, country page – Eritrea:

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André-Michel Essoungou, (+1 917 367 9995 / Cell: +1 917 940 0685 /
Nenad Vasic (+1 212 963 5998 / Cell: +1 917 941 7558 /
In Geneva:
Birthe Ankenbrand (+41 22 928 9465 / or write to

Review overview
  • Dawit Meconen October 30, 2014

    The following message blocked by Madote:

    “This sleazy and evasive tactic of blame the reporter, blame the investigator, blame the victim, blame the UN, blame the UNSC etc. is , as we say in Tigrigna, Aregit Shitara of the con artist isaias afeweerqi E’u.

    And when asked, Why don’t you let them in to Eritrea to see the real situation?

    His answer? No, that won’t make any difference to their negative reporting against Eritrea.

    But remember, any one who does not have anything to hide and that the situation in Eritrea is far better than being portrayed by the alleged enemies, he would have a higher chance of gaining by opening up himself to the UN investigators, and others whom he trusts for their evenhandedness in their reporting, if there are any.

    However, the con artist knows deep in his bone that by opening up to any investigator, he has nothing to gain but all to lose because the Eritrean situation is a hell worse than being reported. Hence, his resolve to stone wall the investigators by blame game.”

  • true lies October 30, 2014

    Why do not we learn from history .UN is doing it’s job ,I do not doubt the sincerity of Sheila ,but the 1991 secret agreement included how to destroy the eritrean question ones and forever. Eritrean government did not get sanctioned because of Sinai or the atrocites happenning in our country .Weyane accepts refugees and facilitates the refugees departure to europe & the rest of the west .I am not blaming Weyane, they will gain 5000000 people & 2 ports …It is the USA ,WEYANE & ISAIAS triangle…How is that Eritrea going to have famine when 50% of the people are supported by us diasporans ,Unicef ,unhcr,and we have gold potash & 2 ports .But ,It has been decided Eritrea not to sustain as a nation.The agenda has been set ,so that people vacate the nation.Children leaving Eritrea & the government is not presented to world court .The Eritrean government is the one selling Kidneys through it’s Rashaida & bedouin agents ,the world knows it ,but the world wants the old Ethiopia (includes Eritrea) to be a strong nation as pro western democracy .Eritrea is going back to be a vcolony of Ethiopia again,except this time people will not protest ,hungry people need food not a country. Famine is coming soon ,it is man made agenda. We need to liberate our country from the west, Weyane & Eritrean regionalist government or forget our martyrs.

    • Tamrat Tamrat October 30, 2014

      Have the world wanted old Ethiopia? When?

      When Italia including ‘some askaris’ tried to invade Ethiopia?

      When Elf, eplf, tplf engaged in civil war from North With the help of Arab lands including Sudan, while Siad Bare With the help of Usa attacking from East while the Whole wastern countries boicotting Ethiopia and People were falling like flies in civil war and hunger? On top of all this we had derg abusing humanrights in all possible ways. No the world doesnt care about Ethiopia. We ethiopians only care about ethiopians. People were marchning to all direction, even isreal government was takin flasha People by plane in hundred thousands.

      So mister when you have independent country the price to pay is measured by Ethiopians standard, you got it. Challenging war from all sorts of cornors, 20 years western embargo, civil war, rumpant corruption by the communist leaders, human righ abuse in the worrest form, mass exodes, hunger, et. What Eritrea expriencing now is not easy but compared to What ethiopia went therough 1974 to1998 is a pice of cake.

      It is a Wild world we have and keeping an independent country is not a gift from any other country as some lusers try to convince us.

  • Simon G. October 31, 2014

    I don’t buy this UN initiative for so many reasons but the most ignorants are the Eritrean people. Let me boil your blood.
    1. Once a betrayer (the UN) is always a betrayer – just like isaya.
    2. Un actually like isayas – 180 degree shift than what they claim.
    3. EU is helping isayas while they pretend to care about the disgruntled Eritrean immigrants.
    4. UN is pretending to investigate what’s happening in Eritrea, until there is no more Eritrea. They are hoping to provide the report, when it is too late.
    5. Isayas does communicate with Weyane – thru back door. Dawit is correct on this (but I don’t agree with his wordings – it ruins the message).
    6. Oppositions are contaminated by isayas messengers (undercover agents)
    7. Opposition are equally responsible as HGDF
    8. Diaspora HGDF supporters are worse than all combined

  • Tamrat Tamrat October 31, 2014

    Hgdef retaliation to the continuation of the sanction as wierd as as its activities which in the first place caused the sanction.
    I quote the following from hgdef replay:

    1)”making sweeping statements such as, “extrajudicial killing, torture, slave labor, indefinite national service”, has not presented any evidence to back up her allegations

    2) ”It is true Eritrean refugees located in different continents are also referred in the report as “credible source of information”.”

    And since 2000 hgdef sanctioned freedom of press in Eritrea and the internaitonal community are not allowed to interview non-political persons in Eritrea.

    So my question to the self imposed smart zombies of hgdef instead of working through out of all the year justa month before the dicission you attakced the UN and almost all the world and when the final decission is made you come up With this looser asseretion.

    How come a country led by this kind of gungsters Escape the punsishment of the international communities?

  • Tesfay araya October 31, 2014

    let me remind you one fact. Eritrea was highly subsidized by Ethiopia during the federation and unity with Ethiopia, including during the times of Derg.Life in Eritrea was even better than in the mainland Ethiopia. Eritreans took this for granted and hoped to sustain the same level of living after independence. in the few years after independence, things were still better because the Eritrean government was involved in embezzlement of resources and money laundering from Ethiopia, taking advantage of Ethiopia being in transition.
    The reality check for Eritrea came when Ethiopian government started to assert its authority and formalize trade activities with Eritrea.So this is the real independent Eritrea and Eritreans have to accept this reality and work to wards better Eritrea.Celebrating independence, by itself, does not make life better.


  • Daniel October 31, 2014

    Now the brave Burkina Faso youths said enough is enough and within one day protest they ousted the long time dictator blaise campaore from power. Why the Eritrean people can’t do the same?

  • Simon Aberaha November 1, 2014

    Guys, forget the UN, NGOS, WEST,EAST, AFRICAN UNION & other so called diplomatic intertaining or PR showes, they are telling us what we know alrady for their corupted institutiongs doing in world wide what a fuction , they need a drums to servive don,t be fooled by their Hollywood shows, instead lets take our mission to the higher degree on the top, means action on the ground like the Burkinanes done it yestarday with two-three follen martiers only, a new age formula to kick Dictatores & power hungery, selfish,unfair, undimocratic unhuman creatuures out of their sick dreams thats it, no more to much intertaining, writngs artickles, demosor other soscialmedia bargaings. If u r men do it like Burcinofasos childeren of Tomas Sankara this is the best mesthod i here and live obseved in my life time how africans done by them selfs with out any outside interfierece or help within two day & with less lost not like so called Arab spring with west interfierense with so many sucrifeses and so much damge.We dont need big military, big organisations or swiside birgades or…only to organise, uplift awakening and togather with our peaple inside no more no less. So we need that and hopfuly carry this message to us and make it happen by us at home in the near future.So guys we dont have to blam others for their intertaining bussiness benefits other that oursefs. PS. use the easiest formula of Burcino method to get your dream to come.