Authoritarian rule, social malaise and open-ended national service drive thousands of young people to flee Eritrea every month, exposing the shortcomings of a leadership that has lost the confidence of the next generation. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing Eritrea: Ending the Exodus? shows that while the government turned this flight to its advantage for a time, the scale – and attendant criminality – of the exodus are now pressing problems.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
- As in the past, Eritreans are fleeing for political and economic reasons, including to sustain the communities they leave behind. But through their remittances, as well as a tax that many in the diaspora pay the state, they help prop up the very system they escaped.
- Regional and wider international policies to further isolate Eritrea’s uncompromising leadership are counterproductive. Together with the border conflict with Ethiopia, they provide the regime with justification to maintain Eritrea’s “state of exception”, including an unending national service, a closed political system and the continued deferment of constitutional rights, especially individual social and economic freedoms.
- The Eritrean government, with help from international partners, especially the EU and UN, should work toward gradual demobilisation and restructure the country’s economy to enhance job prospects for the young.
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