Some European Countries continue to deny that there is any danger to Eritrean citizens
trying to exercise the right to leave their country, as articulated in Article 13 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
Eritreans do not have the right to leave their country; to do so without a permit is to commit
a crime under Eritrean law.
Any Eritrean trying to cross the border to escape their country is likely to be shot: the UN
Commission of Inquiry into human rights in Eritrea and the Special Rapporteur have
confirmed this: “It also involves a practice of shooting at those trying to cross” (the
border)—and would-be escapees, if caught, are likely to be “detained on average between 2
and 7 years”.
Over the years Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) has interviewed many Eritreans who
have escaped across the borders. Four of those interviewed during a visit to the region in
May 2018 were shot and seriously injured. One lost an eye; two lost a leg each, and the
fourth suffered a spinal cord injury. These interviewees reported seeing the bodies of others
who had been killed as they attempted to cross the border.
Former border guards who themselves escaped from the country have previously informed
HRCE that Eritrean units placed near or on the border have direct orders from their
superiors to shoot any escapees they see flee outwards towards the border. As with many
orders divulged by a government which wants to maintain deniability, the soldiers receive
them verbally but they are nonetheless enforced: soldiers found to show mercy are
themselves punished and jailed for an arbitrary amount of time.
So why is it that certain European countries continue to deny there is a “shoot-to-kill”
practice at the Eritrean borders, and to maintain that there is no danger to escaping Eritrean
Do these EU countries have observers at the border monitoring events?
Why do they feel they have a better grasp of what occurs at the border than Eritrean
asylum-seekers, including those interviewed by the UN Commission of Inquiry, the Special
Rapporteur and human rights organisations?
Could it be that they have an interest in co-operating with the unelected regime that runs
Eritrea, namely, to prevent escaping Eritreans from reaching Europe?
Is it possible that these European countries have no thoughts other than to reduce the flow
of refugees across the Mediterranean when they deny the “shoot-to-kill” orders at Eritrean
It sometimes appears that a willful blindness affects European countries view of the actions
of the Eritrean authorities towards their own citizens. How many more thousands of
Eritreans must be imprisoned, maimed, or shot dead at the border before European
countries acknowledge the truth about the Eritrean government? —a truth already
confirmed by experts the UN appointed?
Thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers reach Europe after having escaped their home daring
to try their luck despite this deadly policy by the Eritrean government, and they all give their
statements when they seek refuge in European countries. The experiences they went
through, including the risks they faced at the border, are everyday testimonies being
ignored by such European countries when they choose to minimise the risk the Eritrean
government poses to anyone who seeks freedom by fleeing: these European countries are
silencing their voices.
More fundamentally, denying the shoot-to-kill policy and practice is actuality a denial that
the victims who died because of it ever existed, their unburied bodies left in the wilderness
only to be remembered by their companions who survived the ordeal. Turning a blind eye
and cooperating with the perpetrators won’t make it go away, it will only result in more
Must the lives of Eritrean citizens be sacrificed just to save EU countries the trouble of
having to provide them with sanctuary?