A these men are no longer able

A careful examination of life today in Eritrea quickly reveals how difficult it is for Eritrean minors. Eritrea is an extremely isolated country, like North Korea, and there is little contact with the rest of the world. Many live in daily fear of military conscription or being picked up by the Eritrean military in unexpected roundups. Both boys and girls face gruesome conditions once conscripted into the military. Keetharuth states that violence within the military is often gender-specific (Keetharuth October 2016). For example, girls are put in charge of domestic work and sexually abused by officials or by other soldiers, while boys are put in charge of night watch and are also mistreated by the guards (Keetharuth October 2016). Keetharuth states, “…other forms are gender-specific such as the beating of pregnant women in military training camps or in the army to induce abortion. Instances of sexual violence against men were also documented by the Commission, including sexual torture done intentionally to ensure that these men are no longer able to reproduce” (Keetharuth October 2016). In another report in March 2016 Keetharuth further details the experiences of minors in Eritrea. Eritrea’s isolationist policies and the nature of its dictatorship does not allow UN monitoring groups into the country. As a result, a good portion of the reports done by Keetharuth and other monitors come from interviews of Eritrean citizens who have already fled the country. In fact, Keetharuth interviewed numerous unaccompanied Eritrean minors and in one interview she states, “One of the unaccompanied children said he was caught in a ‘giffa’ after he had gone to the market to buy food for his family. He was detained together with other boys who were even younger than himself and his parents were not allowed to see him while he was in detention.” (Keetharuth March 2016).National service makes it extremely difficult for Eritrean minors to finish their education since the majority is conscripted into the military in their last year of high school (Assenna, Reidy). This makes it extremely difficult for minors to plan for their future (Assenna, Reidy). In addition to facing the challenges of national service, the majority of Eritrean minors is crippled by poverty (Assenna, Reidy). The government of Eritrea recently implemented economic policies that have contributed to poverty in the country (Reuters, Blair). For example, in November 2015, in an effort to prevent human trafficking and black market operations, the government of Eritrea issued a new currency. Eritrean officials wanted their citizens to use cheques and bank transfers in order to control cash flow (Reuters, Blair). Eritrean citizens were given six-weeks to deposit any cash they held into their bank accounts (Reuters, Blair). Many Eritreans, however, argue that this policy is a violation of their individual right to privacy since the government’s intention was to control every cash that enters and leaves individual bank accounts (Keetharuth, March 2016). In addition, Eritrea has limited banking facilities (Reuters, Blair). Blair in fact states that the policy “…has created challenges for a country with just two commercial banks and 30 branches combined. A cash crunch has left shops and restaurants struggling to find customers, as few people have enough notes to spend on anything more than basic needs” (Reuters, Blair). This policy has had an enormous economic impact especially on the Eritrean minors whose families are poor rural farmers that do not have bank accounts and use cash on a daily basis. These policies, as a result, have contributed to the massive exodus of unaccompanied Eritrean minors who are not only fleeing national service but also are escaping poverty engendered by failed government economic policies.Those unaccompanied Eritrean minors who are able to escape the country begin a grueling journey to Libya. Libya’s proximity to Europe currently makes it a popular destination for refugees trying to cross over to Europe. In order to reach Libya, however, unaccompanied Eritrean minors must cross the Sahara Desert, which is extremely difficult. People die in the desert as a result of extreme heat and without parent supervision, unaccompanied minors are especially vulnerable to dehydration (Assenna, Reidy). Once in Libya, families of unaccompanied minors are extorted by smuggles for the trip to Libya (New York Times, Kirkpatrick). This threat leaves families no option but to come up with the money otherwise their children might be killed (New York Times, Kirkpatrick). In some cases these families are also expected to come up with funds for the trip to Europe imposing an additional burden on the families (New York Times, Kirkpatrick). After the death of Gaddafi, Libya’s government collapsed, which allowed smugglers to thrive. Libya is increasingly becoming a lawless state with war zone territories that are often controlled by ISIS. The overall lawlessness and lack of a strong central government has made it easy for smuggles to traffic unaccompanied minors over Libya’s borders (McVeigh, The Guardian). Life in Libya is also extremely tough for unaccompanied Eritrean minors who are held up in detention centers. In detention centers unaccompanied Eritrean girls are especially vulnerable to rape and becoming the property of smugglers. Refugees in Libya also get caught in the chaos of the ongoing political conflict. For example, in 2015, ISIS captured and beheaded a massive numbers of Christian Eritreans and Ethiopians who were waiting in Libya to sail to Europe.Unaccompanied Eritrean minors, who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in boats from Libya are set to begin the deadliest part of their journey. Many unaccompanied Eritrean minors have died as a result of capsized boats, but data is limited on the exact number of unaccompanied Eritrean minors that have died in this manner. On one day, April 19, 2015, as many as 900 people died in the Mediterranean Sea (Quartz, Cocotas). Cocotas states, “Of those 900, the largest group, estimated at 350, were from Eritrea, a country of about 6 million people on the Horn of Africa” (Quartz, Cocotas and The New York Times, Yardley). The UN speculates that children also died in this catastrophic humanitarian disaster. April 19 speaks to the level of urgency with which Eritreans are fleeing their country in order to reach Europe.The journey through Europe itself is painful, and for unaccompanied Eritrean minors, unfortunately, the pain does not stop having reached their destinations. Once in Europe, unaccompanied Eritrean minors, along with other minors, are taken to holding centers that are set up at migrant arrival points. Under international and regional laws, like those of the EU, unaccompanied refugee minors who reach European soil automatically come under the jurisdiction and responsibility of the receiving state (Feijen, p.66). According to Papademetriou, there is “…the principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in Article 33 of the Geneva Convention” prohibits states from deporting refugees (Papademetriou, p.3). Yet, despite international and regional laws, unaccompanied Eritrean minors in Europe are not protected. Today, it is nearly impossible for an unaccompanied Eritrean minor to receive any government papers from an EU state. As a result, unaccompanied minors are ignored and left in holding centers that are unsanitary, lack food and access to clean water, and are exposed to diseases and infestation.In Europe, unaccompanied Eritrean minors again are extremely vulnerable. Often minors get trapped in a smuggler’s network and once a smuggler takes a minor into Europe, he or she can easily be trafficked. The minor is seen as collateral for the debt owed to the smuggler.


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