Eritrea Government Shuts Down Only Refugee Camp Without Providing an Alternative

Thousands of Somalia refugees are on the move after the government in Eritrea decided to close down its only refugee camp.

Appealing to the government, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, asked authorities to continue to work with them in providing protection and solutions for those seeking help in Eritrea.  Concerns arose over not offering solutions for residents, some of whom have been in the camps for almost 20 years. Many of those who abandoned the camps are now in Ethiopia.

The move brought additional scrutiny on the northeastern African nation, already under fire for its ongoing human rights crisis. Religious rights watchdogs have long been making noise about the country’s treatment of its Evangelical Protestant population. Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman says Eritrea’s history is important context for understanding this move.

From pressure to persecution

The Church has been operating in the country since the early 1950s and seeking registration since 2002.  Musselman says, “There is this fear that evangelical Christians there they retreated are now siding with the West and the CIA. They’re ‘trying to bring down the government,’ which is very oppressive, led by President Isaias Afwerki.”

Continuing in that school of thought, the government essentially outlawed any religious practice not associated with Roman Catholicism, Eritrean Orthodoxy, Evangelical Lutheran denominations, or Sunni Islam.

“Then what happened as a result of the churches, the evangelical (Protestant) churches being closed down, believers then started to meet in their homes,” Musselman explains. “The government got wise to that, and then went around arresting these Eritrean believers and putting them in prison, shipping containers. Thousands were imprisoned; many tried to escape; some died trying to escape.”

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SOURCE: Mission News Network, R.B. Klama