Eritrean migrants face severe violence on their journey to Europe

TMP – 10/03/2017

Eritrean migrants face severe violence on multiple points along their journey towards Europe, a new report published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) shows.

The report, ‘Dying to Reach Europe: Eritreans in Search of Safety, is based on hundreds of conversations and 106 in-depth testimonies from Eritrean migrants. In MSF’s medical projects in Libya, Ethiopia and on its rescue boats in the Mediterranean, Eritreans arrive almost every day with wounds, heavy scarring and other medical conditions, including severe psychological traumas, that are consistent with their testimonies.

It is illegal for Eritreans to leave their country without an exit visa, which are notoriously difficult to obtain. Those who are able to escape face many hardships including;  extended periods in refugee camps in neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia, physical, psychological and sexual violence, arbitrary detention in Libya and dangerous sea crossings to Europe along a route that claimed the lives of at least 4,500 people last year alone.

Every Eritrean interviewed by the MSF reported being either a direct victim or a witness to severe levels of violence in multiple locations throughout their journey from Eritrea to Europe. Over half reported seeing fellow migrants die as a result of violence.

One 22-year-old pregnant Eritrean woman spoke of how she miscarried through the stress and trauma of the journey. “We were taken towards the coast to go to Europe, but the police stopped us. They shot towards us. I lost my baby from the fear and stress. I was six weeks pregnant,” she said.

People held in detention centres run by Libyan authorities often received less than half of the nutrition needed to maintain their weight, according to the report. Skin diseases, respiratory tract infections and acute watery diarrhoea caused by overcrowding and unsanitary conditions were also reported as common. Injuries include head injuries, severe swelling to the groin, broken collar bones and extensive scarring as a result of prolonged beatings in the detention centres.

Every Eritrean woman interviewed by MSF has either directly experienced, or knows someone who has experienced, sexual violence, including rape, often inflicted by multiple perpetrators.

One of the men interviewed in the report said: “Witnessing the sexual violence done to our women and sisters was the worst. If you tell them to stop they will kill you, or drop you off to die in the desert.”Another woman, a 20-year-old mother, said: “Having survived this journey of death, I would advise anyone against it. I would not wish the journey on my worst enemy. It makes you feel worthless, totally put down and degraded.”