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The U.S. wants to deport more Eritreans. Here’s what would happen if they were forced to return

By Kevin Sieff

NAIROBI — The United States is threatening to apply visa sanctions on Eritrea, one of the world’s most repressive countries, for not accepting its citizens ordered to be deported from America.

German policemen check a 16 year-old boy from Eritrea after finding him under a train in the southern city of Raubling on Aug. 24, 2017 during a search for illegal migrants on the German-Austrian border. (Guenter Schiffmann/AFP/Getty Images)

“Our goal is to get countries to agree to accept the return of their nationals,” David Lapan, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman, told reporters Wednesday.

Lapan said DHS had asked the State Department to implement the sanctions on four countries, but declined to identify the four countries facing sanctions. But the Washington Times quoted unidentified sources as saying they included Eritrea

The new U.S. policy — if implemented — appears to ignore what would likely happen to Eritrean deportees once they are forced to return.

The country — on the Red Sea between Ethiopia and Sudan — has a long track record of jailing and torturing people who attempted to flee the country. Last year, the United Nations reported on the regime’s use of “indefinite national service, arbitrary detention, torture enforced disappearances.”

Ironically, even the State Department last year said that the Eritrean government “tortured and beat … persons attempting to flee the country without travel documents.”

Now, the United States appears eager to send Eritreans back to those very conditions.

Many of those fleeing Eritrea are trying to avoid a lifetime of military service, which the United Nations and human rights groups say amounts to modern-day slavery. Some analysts call the country the “North Korea of Africa.”

The Post asked the the State Department whether it was concerned that Eritrean deportees would be jailed or tortured. There was no immediate response.

Because of the government’s litany of abuses, Eritrea produces a disproportionate number of migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe. Between 2014 and 2016, more than 95,000 Eritreans arrived in Italy by boat, according to the International Organization for Migration. For years, the United States has resettled Eritreans stranded in Ethiopian refugee camps.

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump railed against countries that were refusing “to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States,” as he said in an August 2016 speech.

Eritreans are rarely deported from Western countries, but some have recently been sent home from Sudan and Egypt. Meron Estefanos, a Swedish-Eritrean radio journalist and human rights activist, followed their cases through their families in Eritrea.

“They all ended up in prison,” Estafanos said in an interview.

It remains unclear which Eritreans would be deported from the United States — whether it would be those accused of crimes or those whose only transgression was entering the country illegally.

As of now, the State Department considers 12 countries to be “recalcitrant” in re-admitting its citizens when they are deported from the United States: China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Cambodia, Burma, Morocco, Hong Kong, South Sudan, Guinea and Eritrea.

The United States is considering additional sanctions for Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according the Washington Times, a rare step in trying to increase deportations. Those so-called “visa sanctions” would amount to restrictions on the legal travel to the United States of nationals — including government officials — from those countries.

In the Wednesday news conference, Lapan said immigration authorities have recently released a number of undocumented immigrants from detention because their native countries had not provided travel documents.

The State Department said in a statement that it had not yet implemented the visa sanctions.

“We follow a standard process to implement a visa suspension as expeditiously as possible in the manner the Secretary determines most appropriate under the circumstances to achieve the desired goal,” the statement said.

Source: Washington Post


  1. Washington post should look into as to why hundreds of Eritreans residing outside Eritrea are adamant supports of the despotic regime in Asmara. It is true, if deported most if not all will face jail time and harsh treatment by the sadistic regime in Eritrea. As the Washington post pointed out correctly, Eritrea produces a high number of migrants in the world without including war torn countries such as Syria, Iraq etc. One should ask, why are these people fleeing their country after fighting 30 years of war against their brothers and sisters to gain independence? In reality, after colonialist Ethiopia is beaten soundly on the battle field, independent Eritrea should have been an Oasis to its people and neighboring countries. Yet, the country is known around the globe as “The North Korea of Africa”. The root of the problem lies to the very foundation of the independence question.
    Just recently, the Italian authorities threw out Eritrean and Ethiopian women, children and men out in the cold for no valid reason. It is clear the world is tired of us. We do not seem to get it. A good friend of mine recently went for a job interview for an “Electrical Engineering” Position. In the interview, he was asked where he is from, and what hobbies he enjoys. None of the questions were anything to do with the position he applied for. The interviewers took a default position once they know he was from a certain part of the country. Three days later, he was told he is not the candidate they were looking for. Mind you, he has 4.0 GPA with stunning level of common sense. It did not matter in this case!
    What is my point in all these chatter? We simply need to fix our problems at home and make it a place where we can be what we want to be. Running from tyranny and seeking asylum in other parts of the world is changing us to be the modern slaves that we have become. I expect more deportation, denial of residence permits for people from Africa no matter what part of Africa you came from or which ethnic group you belong.

    • Hey you dingay ras. Your problem is because you listen your masters like the washington post. The western media are experts in fabricating propoganda. They call Eritrea ‘African North Korea, or a country producing the highest number of migrants. Why these fake media always continue singing the same song because Eritrea does not give them a shit. Now, TPLF is the worst human rights violator. TPLF has committed genocide in Gambella, Ogaden, etc. TPLF is busy killing innocent Oromo and Amhara. Yet, the fake western media through mercenary (Obama) call TPLF democratic. Ethiopians are also leaving their country in droves. In 2016, over 96 thousand Ethiopians crossed the Red Sea into warn torn Yemen, and around 700 thousand illegal Ethiopians are in Saudi Arabia to be ready for deportation. Many of the illegal Ethiopians in Italy or other parts of Europe ask asylum in the name of Eritreans. Why is Eritrea considered worse than Ethiopia by the fake corporate media? Do you have any idea?

      • No one in their right mind will think Ethiopia is better off than Eritrea. However, had you been writing your comments right at the center of Asmara sharing and seeing the suffering of our people it would of been amusing. I am certain you are saying these idiotic things sheltered somewhere out of Eritrea. Die hard supporters of the EPLF and TPLF do not see the suffering of others. In the first place, we should not compare Ethiopia to Eritrea or vice versa. They are two sides of the same coin. One is no better than the other. Take a look what is going on currently in Ethiopia. People are risking their life for freedom and democracy after 26 years of brutal dictatorship.
        Have you seen what has happened to Ethiopians and Eritreans in Italy? Moron politicians may think Ethiopia’s fate is different than Eritrea’s fate. They are wrong on all counts. We are intertwine. Criticizing a rouge regime be it in Asmara or
        Addis Ababa has nothing to do with the people. The fact remains a fact, what is fabricated will remain as fake news. Blindly supporting any government or group without merit is, comparable to a bat attempting a flight at midday. Not a wise decision at all! Therefore, stop categorizing people by ethnicity, language and region or compare one from the other to downplay or hype unfounded things. Think global. Become a thinker that surpasses creed, religion, language and ethnicity. To lighten your mind, I invite you to Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” presentation. We live in a small world. Wake up and smell the coffee man!!

  2. eritrea? there is no eritrea, every where in horn africa is fake cauntry, made up by white yankees.

    i tought these people cal eritrea are reall and innocenty, but they are evil and fake no 1. even worse then ethiopia.

    eritrea is just another woyana country,dumb.i thought different, its just usiless another subhuman tigrinya.

    go their webcite called tesfanews, how they hate somali people,they insult us everytime,even somalia suported eritrea indepedence, and afewerk used to somali passport, and the peple called eritrea they are somali enemy? they are not eritrean, they are just subhuman woyana created by evil white pple,

    who dont want see ather strong people in horn africa, haasidiin tigrayshit, just that,

    they hate allso amhara people, i am 100% sure.

    • You know there is a country in east Africa very well. You also know how many life lost to preserve tbat nation including your loved ones and also You know that you dont dare to mess with their government except in facebook and twitter. Shut your rotten AGAME WAHID

    • You know there is a country in east Africa very well. You also know how many life lost to preserve tbat nation including your loved ones and also You know that you dont dare to mess with their government except in facebook and twitter. Shut your rotten mouse AGAME WAHID

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