Over the years, the America Team has worked and spoken with many hundreds of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in the United States and abroad. But in an attempt to capture their condition at its most elemental, in November 2014 we travelled to several of the refugee camps that are maintained for Eritreans in northern Ethiopia, just across the Eritrean border: Hitsats, Mai Ayni, Adi Harush, and Enda Abaguna. During our visit, approximately 150 refugees per day were crossing the border from Eritrea and were being brought to reception facilities by Ethiopian security personnel for processing and distribution to the camps. The camps are administered by the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), with the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
From this page you can meet some of the refugees with whom we spoke. Some had arrived from Eritrea fairly recently. Others had been in camp for a number of years, with little near-term prospect of secure repatriation, third country resettlement, or living a normal life outside of the camp. Some, despite the harsh realities of refugee life, displayed resilience and empowerment. Others were still struggling with trauma. It is our hope that from these interviews our readers might surmise what tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers have undergone, and continue to undergo.
We have edited the interviews for conciseness, and have omitted the full names of the speakers for their protection. While we are not able to corroborate the accuracy of their statements, we find the statements credible, in that they are consistent with the many other published reports of the experiences of Eritreans within Eritrea and as refugees from that country.
We are grateful to both ARRA and UNHCR for their efforts on behalf of the refugees and for their facilitation of our visit to the camps.