Former recruits of the Indefinite National Service in Eritrea are appalled by the finding that the regime in has now officially reneged its promises to reinstate the national service to the legally sanctioned 18 months period.

Swiss Authorities on a fact-finding mission to Eritrea, found that the human rights situation has not improved and that the Eritrean regime has now officially gone back on the promise to reinstate the indefinite national service to the legally sanctioned 18 months.

The promise announced by Yemane Gebreab- the Presidential Advisor and repeated by various diplomats was announced about two years ago, although the president refused to make it official or announce it in local media. However despite the lack of policy clarity the promise was a centrepiece in EU-Eritrea aid package discussions, that resulted in the Eritrean regime gaining €200m worth of aid package.

Stop Slavery in Eritrea, a campaign group coordinated by former recruits of the indefinite national service have today called for a review of the aid package, in light of the findings of the Swiss Mission which has confirmed that the Eritrean regime has no intentions in stopping the modern day slavery in the guise of national service that it has subjected all Eritreans over the age of 18 to.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx. The vast majority arrived by sea. 135,711 people have reached Europe by sea since the start of 2016, according to the UNHCR. Eritrea, despite is small population and the fact that there is no active conflict, is currently in the top seven countries where migrants originate. According to the IOM, more than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015. Most died on the crossing from North Africa to Italy. In 2013 a single boat accident off the cost of Lampedusa claimed the lives of over 365 Eritreans and there were many similar incidences since and before that widely reported tragedy

Veronica Almedom

Veronica Almedom a Geneva based activist for the Stop Slavery in Eritrea Campaign said ‘ I am appalled at the Eritrean regime, however unfortunately it was always clear to us that, good will on behalf of the EU alone isn’t going to solve the problem inside Eritrea, every member of the Eritrean public knew two years ago that the regime had no intentions of instating the national service to 18 months, that is why the number of refugees fleeing the national service didn’t go down. Infact figures from the refugee camps in the region indicate that younger and more vulnerable children are fleeing ahead of conscription or as a result the crisis of the national service. It is time to look for realistic solutions to the refugee crisis and appeasing the regime isn’t one. We call on the EU to revise the aid package negotiated on the back of this promise’.

It is to be noted that last year a UN Commission into human rights in Eritrea presented its findings indicating ‘possible crimes against humanity’ and that ‘Eritrea is ruled by fear and not law’. The mandate was then extended for another year and will be presenting a second report next month in Geneva.