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Remittances To Eritrea Shrink As Refugees Spend Money On Helping Others Leave

Remittances to Eritrea, once estimated to account for about a third of the country’s gross domestic product, are shrinking with Eritreans in the diaspora now spending the money on helping people leave Eritrea instead of supporting relatives at

Remittances to Eritrea, once estimated to account for about a third of the country’s gross domestic product, are shrinking with Eritreans in the diaspora now spending the money on helping people leave Eritrea instead of supporting relatives at home, an official told BBC.

Five thousand Eritreans leave the country each month, making it one of the world’s top producers of refugees, according to a U.N. commission report.

The scale of the migration has drawn Western interest and attention to conditions inside what is one of the world’s most closed countries. With a population of 3.5 million to 6 million, it’s one of Africa’s poorest countries. Eritrea is a one-party state with no functioning constitution and no independent media, BBC reported.

Youth who have risked their lives to flee Eritrea describe a long-standing system of forced labor, among other human rights violations. A U.N. commission said these may constitute crimes against humanity, according to the Council On Foreign Relations, a U.S. foreign policy think tank.

In the past, Eritrean authorities were happy for disaffected youth to leave the country, a diplomat told BBC. They were a potential threat to stability and once working abroad, were likely to end up sending remittances home if they made it safely to their destinations.

But Eritrea now faces a shortage of workers and is doing more to encourage youth to stay, including paying more. The Eritrean national service is increasing its pay from about $50 to $130-to, said Hagos Ghebrehiwet, economic adviser to the president, BBC reported.

The cost of living has shot up in Eritrea, and there are electricity and water shortages.
Families receive food subsidies for cereal, oil and sugar but other items are expensive. A liter of milk costs more than $2.

Taxi drivers, shopkeepers and hoteliers say their incomes have been cut in half since a new form of currency was introduced at the end of 2015 — part of a government effort to control smuggling and human trafficking. They say restrictions on imports and limits on the amount of money they can withdraw from banks are hurting business, BBC reported.

Conscription in the national service program is the factor most commonly cited by asylum seekers who have fled the country, according to the Council On Foreign Relations. The Eritrean government justifies the program as one that will develop the country and foster a common sense of national identity. A statutory requirement of 18 months of military or civilian service was extended in 2002, following the war with Ethiopia. In practice, many adults report serving into their 50s, often earning less than subsistence wages.

For many, desertion and immigration are the only way to leave the Eritrean national service, according to the U.N. Commission.

The Eritrean foreign ministry refutes the U.N. Commission report, saying it is part of a “politically motivated campaign to undermine the political, economic, and social progress the country is making.”

The Eritrean government is ambivalent about people leaving because it benefits from the large diaspora, the International Crisis Group reported. The government collects a 2 percent income tax from many immigrants through consulates or party affiliates overseas. In 2011 the U.N. Security Council called on Eritrea to “cease using extortion, threats of violence, fraud, and other illicit means” to collect this tax, which yielded $73 million for the country from 2010 to 2013, the U.N. monitoring group found in 2014.

According to the International Crisis Group:

After initial, sometimes brutal attempts to obstruct emigration, a symbiotic system has emerged that benefits a range of actors, including the state. The government ostensibly accepts that educated, urbanised youths resistant to the individual sacrifices the state demands are less troublesome and more useful outside the country – particularly when they can continue to be taxed and provide a crucial social safety net for family members who stay home. Meanwhile, those who remain tend to be the more pliant rural peasant and pastoralist population. Yet, the exodus is not limited to urbanised and educated youth; migrants, including an increasing number of minors, now come from a wider cross-section of society.

Eritreans in the diaspora contribute to Eritrea’s economic survival by sending their families remittances, which provide the country with foreign reserves and help families survive.

Where do Eritrean immigrants go?

About 250,000 Eritreans live in refugee camps and cities in neighboring Ethiopia and Sudan, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. In the first eight months of 2015, the top three recipients of asylum applications from Eritreans were Switzerland (7,475), Germany (5,500), and Sweden (4,645). The U.K. and U.S. have well-established diaspora communities.

Another well-traveled route for Eritrean immigrants goes through Egypt to Israel. In the Sinai Peninsula, Eritreans face torture, extortion, and rape at the hands of traffickers—at times with police and military cooperation, Human Rights Watch reported. From Sinai, they cross into Israel, where 33,000 Eritreans live, the country’s interior ministry said in August 2015.

After Syrians and Afghans, Eritreans are the third largest nationality to cross the Mediterranean Sea, Al Jazeera reported.

Review overview
  • Sirak July 16, 2016

    I hope and pray to the almighty God that poor Eritrea doesn’t become like Lebanon, where and when their Christian (Lebanese) population emigrated to the Western world for further and higher education the muslims as uneducated stayed behind and as their numbers got bigger and bigger and started getting the key government positions, the genuine and indigenous Lebanese Christians were outnumbered and in minority and almost stateless like refugees in their own country. Never trust the moslems of this world especially with their mad ISIS dogs everywhere terrorizing and invading innocent people and nations.

    • k.tewolde July 16, 2016

      The noble Islam faith never been a problem in Eritrea.The tyrant and Ethiopian feudalism shoved this fear down your throat for years to achieve their wicked agenda. That is why we’re where we’re today

      • Ghenet July 17, 2016

        How could you defend the barbaric 7th century Islam unless you are a sold out poor slave? It is killing civilans, destroying lives and properties with no mercy.
        You sound and think like a caveman and you should be sentenced to live your remainder
        life in a cave or in Arab deserts with the ISIS and they will feed you chopped heads before they come to your head.
        You have no hope or future as you have sold your soul and identity too cheap.

    • AHMED SALEH July 16, 2016

      Are you a member of Tigrai online extremists full of hatred toward Eritrean nation
      with hidden agenda in this forum .
      Poor ASSENNA spoiled you to corrupt their forum . You think I will get personal
      to fight back such arrogant comments like used to do . No way , have a fun .
      Either way people with identity crises became elites to rule the country . Right ?

      • Ghenet July 17, 2016

        You are a disgusting sick old man always going about tigray and pure hatred nonsense.
        When your young sick fanatics see you as their models or example no wonder they are extremely sick and mental badly disturbed wild dogs.
        Act like a grown up not like a street ghetto criminal kid. Your kind of people don’t belong with civilized society but 7th century islam and dinasuers.

        • Sol July 19, 2016

          Ghenet, I think this is the first time you are using female IP Mr. many names as i said before ‘if you stayed in life for 1000 years, you will not amount to Ahmed’s shoe”..

          You are the one obsessed by hate of Eritreans for personal reasons may be one Torwerait father was killed by Eritrean fighters.

          • Ghenet July 20, 2016

            Assenna team or moderator, do you have two rules and guidelines one for these deki barbaric evil dinasuer Islam and the other for the rest of peaceful and lawful commentators?
            Where is my main reply to this monster evil idiot sol that I posted earlier, why are you scared to death of these cheap ghetto moslem criminals? Play and treat everyone fairly unless you are of a paying site and also follower of barbaric savage dinasuer 7th century Islam.

        • yesorno July 19, 2016

          Stupid some Eritreans you are in the door step of civil war.
          You live in democratic countries, but you learn nothing good. even if you are not Eritrean once the civil war is set the blazing will be enough to burn your face.
          born evil

    • Ghenet July 16, 2016

      We will never allow it to happen to our mama Eritrea over our dead body they will even try it or even think about it this moslems from hell. But you are right we have to watch them and always be on alert and watchful on this untrustworthy moslems. But never again will it happen what happened in Lebanan to Eritrea. I beleive the moslems should never be given important positions or allow them any where near power sharing or holding athority in Eritrea. Already they have created so much pains and destractions from their ELF past beginig of full crimes.

      • AHMED SALEH July 19, 2016

        MAMA ERITREA & MAMA ETHIOPIA . You greedy thief want exploit resources from both sides . Better focus on ABAY TIGRAI manifesto that put you in hellish situations .
        Thanks God , Eritreans resist to follow your fanatic way of thinking .

        • Ghenet July 20, 2016

          So what, what is wrong with kind Christian countries of MAMA ERITREA & MAMA ETHIOPIA? Would you be more happy with your evil Islam’s MAMA SOMALIA & MAMA SUDAN? If so you who forced or invited you into our peace loving kind Christian countries in the first place?
          People are sick and tired about your repeated evil dinasuer Islam hate and talk about Tigray all the time? Why are you so bitter and so poisonous about Tigray/Ethiopia? Your hatred and bitterness is it to do from past dejection or pure hatred to all Christians? What ever the reason learn for forgiveness and love not your dinasuer barbaric Islams killings and bloodshed revenges. Act like human not savage dogs and dinasuers.

          • AHMED SALEH July 23, 2016

            Leave Eritrea alone , KURDID .
            The worst enemy of Eritrean Christians bled them for centuries , And it came from across the border not from Sudan or Somalia .
            I advice you to find a healing process for tolerance and peace than act like immature stupid person full of hatred .

  • k.tewolde July 16, 2016

    By the way, that picture above breaks my heart every time I see it. And these children aren’t victims of Mujahideen ,the tyrant is sending them to become one

  • Aster Tesfai July 16, 2016

    The sad death and the denial of poor kebessa Eritrea in front of our eyes – almost the entire people that are in exodus or dying in their thousands in the passage Arab, in the Sinai peninsula and the Mediterranean Sea hail from kebessa. So are the hundreds of thousands that have been heading to Israel, Europe, Canada, Australia, South Africa, USA, etc – “all destination points of no return”.
    What is being depopulated at an alarming rate is my kebessa Eritrea, with little prospect of turning the tide back. Yet, the confused kebessa elite, in the hade hizbi, hade libi spirit that evil gedli has instilled in their brick heads, are scared stiff to name what is happening to their people for what it is – that, so far, it has been primarily a kebessa existential crisis. Even in death, they shamefully disclaim their own, and rather lament at the loss of the generic “Eritrean”, thus defusing the victims identity in order to meet the nationalist demand of fake Hadinetina.. I sometimes wonder if the evil brutal muslim Arabs are paying for this evil mission of getting rid of the kebessa Christians so they can take over and also pass their evil sha’ria laws on Eritrea with ease!

    • Ghenet July 17, 2016

      I could not agree more my dear sister Aster and please continue it and God bless you sister.

    • realistic eritrean July 17, 2016

      Dearest Aster Tesfai,

      While I do not believe is peaceful nor loving ,what the moslems in our country practice is not Islam, It is some peaceful religion far away from the real islam, the quran is literal and those that faithfully practice it seem to rejoice at the slaughter of women and children and like the proud pedophile Mohammed that at the age of 54 warmed his loins by a 6 year old girl that he started consumating at the age of 9 ,the Eritrean moslems are neither pedophiles like the father of islam (Mohammed) neither do they find pleasure in sadism and murder like the violent religion commands ,Eritrean moslems do not follow Islam ,they are closer to true christianity (that we christians do not follow) ie forgiveness and love your enemies..when Jihadist Jebha started it’s religious wudub non refugee Eritrean moslems (non tigrinya speaking moslems) did not follow jebha’s jihadist agenda.
      For what this children of Italian banda askaris kebessa baboons are doing Eritrean moslems have nothing to do .It was mudada eplf that was slaughtering moslems by using demeaning nick names (deqi halima)….Yes the savage Arabs and their pedophile religion want Eritrea to be barren only inhabited by 7th century savages, but the k4ebessas are the ones doing this ,Eritrean moslems have always been victims,with the exception of the moslems that were deported for biting the hand that fed them ,they tried to do the same in Eritrea..THe children of Rabvitta Islamiya.

  • tesfaldetabraha July 16, 2016


    • AHMED SALEH July 17, 2016

      If you are the HGDF supporter who used to give us hurt times in this forum , lately
      we encountered our real common enemies anti-Eritrean elements .
      Our disunity invited intruders to maneuver in our national affairs because current environment of divided communities in diaspora opened the door for their hidden sinister agenda .
      To degrade Ghedli Eritrea and legacy of Eritreans martyrdom is the work of worst people’s enemy that refused to recognize Eritrean sovereignty . As frustrated as
      had been they will not stop from dreaming the fall of our nation .

      • Tsige July 18, 2016

        You are the enemy of yourself and highland Eritreans. “Zemen gribit mai naqeb”, yiblu.
        You have the nerve to tell us a pure fabrication of information lies and falsify it unashamedly. Get real and get your facts straight by pointing the accusation finger solely on yourself for not knowing your limit as well as where you belong or come from!
        Your usual unsubstantiated comments can’t be anything but an attempt a desperate for that to confuse and disrupt. Just for a change bring a serious topic to discuss or an argument to make rather than always accusing outsiders for your sheer ignorance and arrogance.

        • AHMED SALEH July 20, 2016

          A serious topic with uninvited outsiders who don’t show a little shame to belittle our history in our own forum , are you kidding ?
          By the way , who are you trying to defend and why ?
          Are you concerned because it does concern you .
          Your negative contribution in this forum is enough prove not
          to trust suspicious anti – Eritrean elements . Remember that I
          never questioned HGDF supporters nationality because they
          don’t express ill-will toward the nation of Eritrea like you guys day and night attempts starting from your websites .

  • Alem July 18, 2016

    The article was not timely or critical. It was not educational either. Assenna is not doing good job at selecting sharp, high grade and effective articles. This is rendering it a second class or even useless as a media outlet for information. I believe many Eritreans are loosing their appetite to surf assenna for current information and communication. Good luck assenna

    • k.tewolde July 21, 2016

      Alem,with all due respect,you must be an avid internet surfer,in the west we have the choice of consuming any info we like,’sharp,high grade,effective’ are relative words depending on the consumer.That said,have you contributed any literary,educational articles to this medium so that it can bolster the appetite of readers? or are working on a better,faster,more sophisticated medium that will resonate throughout the Eritrean social strata around the globe? if you are I will be tuning in,if not Assenna is just doing fine,and it doesn’t need luck because it is not running a gambling establishment,it is a voice of the voiceless.Good try smart ass.

  • hp July 21, 2016

    Hi commetetors :since I understand assenna moderator is un able or not willing to take action against some like GHENET for sure we will be in trouble. But, could we do some thing? Yes we can by ignoring this ugliest.