Eritrean President Says Countrymen Living in 'Concentration Camps' in Israel

President appeals to Eritrean exiles to return to Eritrea during interview with state media.

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Haaretz
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Haaretz

Eritreans in Israeli detention are living in "concentration camps," Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki said this week. Afewerki's comments were reported on Dissident Diaries, a blog maintained by an Eritrean exile and dissident.

“When you consider the life of those in camps, concentration camps, of Israel you can’t even say there is anything worst or more horrific than that.” Afewerki said in an interview with Eritrean state media (the only media in the country) on the 24th anniversary of the pre-state victory over the Ethiopian army at Massawa.

Israel has tens of thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers, most of whom have fled years of forced military service in their home country. In an attempt to pressure the Eritrean to leave Israel, the government has begun detaining them in a new, so-called "open" detention camp in the Negev.

The purpose of the president's comments was to stress how unappealing life is for Eritrean exiles, Dissident Diaries said.

Regarding other Eritrean refugee destinations Afewerki said, “even in other cities, European cities, you can’t say [Eritreans] are having any life that has much meaning”

The president said that the country has suffered absolutely no setbacks due to citizens leaving the country. The only damage, he explained, is to these individuals themselves. He repeatedly pleaded Eritreans to return, “for the sake of yourself, please return to your country.”

In an effort to discourage those planning to flee the country, the President challenged them not to be shortsighted and instead to, “Think in terms of where you’ll be in five or six years' time. The things you are losing today, you can’t gain back tomorrow,” he said.

Afewerki advised the youth not to succumb to trivial thinking such as, “I don’t have enough salary, or I don’t have any salary; I don’t have this and that; my family are going through this or that; my mother is suffering because of this or that, … and I’ll go abroad and send her money.”

President Isaias Afewerki (right) with former U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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