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Relocation to Finland

Relocations in Progetto Itaca continue
Bandiera Finlandia

Relocation to Finland

Zenebu and Seleme and Ezra’s family are leaving towards North Europe to reach Finland.

6 people, 6 Eritreans, 3 adults, 1 boy and 2 children: all of them hopeful about reaching the region of lakes. They all escaped from Eritrea because of the dictatorship.

Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world. 70% of inhabitants is still employed in agriculture. In order to understand why thousands of people continue leaving this little country (it’s around one third of Italy) it is necessary to further explore its history.

In 1890 Eritrea became an Italian colony then, in 1941 it was occupied by Great Britain. In 1952, it became a federal state of Ethiopian Empire but it still preserved its independence till 1962, when the emperor decided to add Eritrea to Ethiopia. This is the beginning of a long war between the Ethiopian empire and the independence movement; between the Eritrean liberation front and the popular front for Democracy and Justice that, in 1991, prevailed and that contributed to negotiate a cease-fire that led to the end of the conflict. In 1993, after a referendum supervised by UN, Ethiopia became an independent country ruled by president Aferwerki, who established a dictatorship. After 40 years of wars and destructions, Aferwerki isolated and militarised Eritrea, making people poorer and poorer and leading corruption to a prominent level.

Eritrean government established a never ending military service, for both men and women, under the pretext of being always prepared to face the Ethiopian threat. Everyone that is more than 17 years old must join army and nobody is allowed to make passport before he’s 60 years old. The current situation can be compared to forced labour in which recruits receive a minimum salary which is not sufficient for the sustenance of the family. Moreover, people can hardly obtain a permit to go away and, if they are not employed in the defence of the country they are employed in agriculture, school or public fields. Children are forced to follow military training and among those who are enlisted there are also people who are about to be 70 years old. There are frequent mopping-up operations in order to recruit new people for military service. More than 300.000 young people do permanent military service.

The country is living a lack of duties: political parties are not allowed, there’s no freedom of information and education. There are religion restrictions: Christian, Pentecostal and Shiite places of worship have been closed and it is forbidden to practice their faith. Conscientious objection is not considered, there are thousands of political and conscience prisoners, including ex politicians, journalists, followers of a non-authorized religion, who are detained (without any accusation or trial) in harsh conditions, in metal sheet containers under the sun, without food or water, without any bed to sleep and without any toilet facility.
Eritrean government is accused of avoiding democracy development; political elections that should have been held in 2001, never took place. There is no news about economy and food shortage: in 2011, an important food crisis hit the whole horn of Africa but Afewerki had always denied the problem and refused to receive help.

According to UN and Human Right Watch, the current exodus is powered by human rights violation, people speak about hurried executions without any trial, disappearances, tortures and compulsory conscription.
[“Perché tutti scappano dall’Eritrea”, di Riccardo Barlaam – il Sole 24 ore]

In 2016, June 8 the UN Investigation Committee published a report in which, for the first time, Eritrea (also called Korea of North Africa) was said to practice crimes against humanity. Afewerki didn’t give authorization for the organization to enter the country, affirming that the country already faced an evaluation concerning the respect of human rights. So, Commission mapped 77 detention facilities starting from the testimony of Eritrean people who left the country. The report outlined a situation characterized by tortures, disappearances and constraints. Human rights interruption is justified because of the risk of invasion by Ethiopia. But, could Ethiopia really start a long war as it continues threatening? Ethiopia should deal with Oromo internal pressure, which makes the country unable to face a long war. An example comes from what happened in June 2016, when Ethiopia attacked the Eritrean city of Tzorona and this caused a lot of deaths.

Every month, more or less 5.000 people leave Eritrea, according to UN data. It is assumed that almost 10 thousand Eritreans are currently imprisoned, according to the annual report of Amnesty International referring to 2015/2016. In 2015, 47 thousand people asked for international protection in Europe, while a non-specified number of people live in Ethiopia and Sudan suburbs. When possible, people leave the country, helped by corrupted soldiers that help people in change of money. The regime profits also from country diaspora: in fact, the families of escaped people are victims of revenge; parents and relatives can be arrested and, to avoid prison, they must pay. Moreover, there’s a 2% tax on money coming from abroad.

Learn more

A regime heir of a liberation war that is still betrayed. ∼ G. Zandonini


Zenebu is the eldest daughter. She hid for months in Eritrea to continue helping her family before deciding to escape to avoid military service. She crossed Sudan and Libya before reaching Italy in October 2016 and she managed to join his brother in Finland in April 2017 thanks to relocation. She made us know that the first person she met at the airport was her brother and that she was really happy.

Seleme and Ezra’s family arrived in Italy in October 2016 too. Their journey started in Eritrea when Seleme, who was pregnant, left with Medani her 3 years old child, to reach his husband in Uganda. After that, they left together to reach Libya where they met Bereket, their niece, and they all arrived here in Italy. Seleme, Medani and Bereket had been immediately hosted by Progetto Itaca, while Ezra had been sent to a reception facility in Salerno. He could join the family in February 2017. In March 2017 Seleme gave birth to Bana (light in Eritrean) and they are now all together with their family in Finland.



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