Mass Migration of Eritreans Is Not Entirely Due to ‘Pull’ Factors

cropped-2121By Teweldeberhan Gebre

Some Eritreans still struggle to distinguish the difference between Eritrea as a State and its poor leadership. Hence, for them criticizing the policies of the administration amounts damaging the image of Eritrea. Of course, the Eritrean regime has, for the last 25 or more years, been disapproving any critique of its misguided economic, social and political policies. For the regime in Eritrea critiquing its policies is an act of treason against the Eritrean State. Equating rational behavior and critique of citizens with treason is not exclusive to the Eritrean leadership but the typical behavior of all authoritarian regimes. 

Unfortunately, in the Eritrean political discourse, the logical fallacy of circular reasoning or circular arguments is a major challenge to bring fruitful discussions and positive changes in policies and in leadership. In a circular argument if the premise is correct the conclusion is also correct. For instance, if the premise ‘The President affirms mass migration is due to pull factors.’ Then, its conclusion that “mass migration is due to pull factors” is correct because the President says so. In essence, the other arguments for push factors of mass migration are entirely ignored, and the solutions for this national disaster should come from outside actors. Thus, we have to passively wait until the external pull factors change their course.

I am not naïve and denying the pull factors of mass migration of Eritreans though. My argument is that that mass migrations by young Eritreans despite its risks is a rational decision because the push factors including rampant poverty, lack of opportunities, and violations of fundamental human rights. I also argue that push factors for migration are entirely ignored and overlooked not only by the regime but also by some confused regime loyalists. Ignoring the push factors means we are willing to sacrifice our young people for a trashed political game, and definitely we will be regretting about its consequences.

In fact, the Eritrean regime encourages young people to migrate amass while it keeps accusing external actors of the mass migration of our youth. Some confused regime loyalists completely deny the push factors I mentioned above and still dwell in their circular reasoning. The question is should we be loyal to our country and people or to an authoritarian regime that advocates mass migration at the international forums? In his government’s statement for the UN General Assembly during the “High-Level Meeting on Large Movement of Migrants and Refugees” assembled on the 19th of September 2016 in New York, Mr. Yemane Ghebreab, outlined the solutions for the problems of mass migrations as:

  • To agree on the need and importance of, and provide meaningful avenues for, legal, safe and regular migration. It really is incongruous that in an increasingly globalized world, where much is done to advance the movement of goods and finance, human mobility is stridently opposed and essentially blocked. This needs to change as much of the current crisis and suffering could be significantly reduced by means of safe and orderly migration.
  • To protect and promote the rights and dignity of all migrants and to provide them with opportunities for education, skills training and jobs, without which they cannot lead a life of dignity.
  • To address the main perennial drivers of migration, including forced migration, which are growing global inequality, poverty and lack of development, violation of fundamental freedoms, as well as wars and conflict; and to take cognizance of other significant drivers such as demographic and climate change.

Here, Yemane is advocating for open border mass migration and according to him humans should be treated like commodities and finance in global trading. In other instances, the regime accuses the international communities for their covert and overt agendas of drying up Eritrea’s human resources and now openly asks for open border migrations. As a side note Eritreans are not even allowed to freely move within Eritrea, but the regime advocates free movement of people at the global levels. Ridiculous!

Interestingly, the double standard of the regime is clear from his second point when he talks about the protections and promotions of rights and dignities of all migrants. While it is appropriate to call for the protections and promotions of rights and dignities of migrants, I am not sure what kind of rights and dignities he was talking about while our citizens migrate in drove through unsafe routes because of the violations of their basic rights and dignities to lead decent life in their homeland. Not only that but also, Mr. Ghebreab called the international communities “to address the main drivers of migration, including forced migration, which are growing global inequality, poverty and lack of development, violation of fundamental freedoms, as well as wars and conflict; and to take cognizance of other significant drivers such as demographic and climate change.”

If his government was up to addressing the real drivers of migration why not address:

  • the rampant poverty and lack of economic prospects for young people?
  • the violations of fundamental freedom of work of young people in their chosen field and profession?, and
  • allow young people to exercise their rights of private and family life?

Does it mean Yemane is unaware of the main drivers of migration of Eritreans state above?

I enclosed the statement of Mr. Yemane Ghebreab to the “High Level Meeting on Large Movement of Migrants and Refugees” assembled on the 19th of September 2016 in New York, for any sensible Eritrean to judge about the official position of the regime on mass migration. Unless we are victims of the circular argument I mentioned above, from the statement of Mr. Ghebreab, in fact, the regime is pro-mass migration in its all forms and shapes. In fact, the regime and its loyalists should be held accountable for committing treason against the Eritrean nation state.

Statement by Mr. Yemane Ghebreab

Mr. Chairman,

Excellencies,

Eritrea has played an active role in the preparations for this “Summit for Refugees and Migrants” because we believe it is an issue of vital importance for all peoples and nations of the world.

In Eritrea’s view, our goals must be:-

  1. To agree on the need and importance of, and provide meaningful avenues for, legal, safe and regular migration. It really is incongruous that in an increasingly globalized world, where much is done to advance the movement of goods and finance, human mobility is stridently opposed and essentially blocked. This needs to change as much of the current crisis and suffering could be significantly reduced by means of safe and orderly migration.
  2. To protect and promote the rights and dignity of all migrants and to provide them with opportunities for education, skills training and jobs, without which they cannot lead a life of dignity.
  3. To address the main perennial drivers of migration, including forced migration, which are growing global inequality, poverty and lack of development, violation of fundamental freedoms, as well as wars and conflict; and to take cognizance of other significant drivers such as demographic and climate change.

Eritrea believes that every nation has primary responsibility to provide a safe, secure and dignified life for its citizens in their country and to enable them to pursue opportunities in other countries. However, nations, and in particular developing nations, need support and solidarity to address the daunting challenges of ensuring peace and sustainable development. Meaningful global efforts are required to make our world more equal, fair and just. The propensity to seek unilateral economic, financial and trade advantages at the expense of developing countries, the resort to the violation of international law and national independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty in the pursuit of power politics, the imposition of unjustified pressures and sanctions must be firmly resisted. On the issue of refugees care must be taken to refrain from exploiting their plight and suffering against select countries in the pursuit of political goals and away from humanitarian considerations.

Mr. Chairman,

Given the fate of previous summits and solemn declarations, including on migration, it is understandable that many are skeptical about the outcome and impact of this gathering. It is, therefore, imperative that at the national and global arenas, at the level of governments, national institutions as well as regional and international organizations, we all shoulder our responsibilities to end the suffering associated with migration, to protect and promote the rights of migrants and to welcome human mobility as an integral and desirable feature of our globalized world.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Tewedeberhan Gebre: Be loyal to “the people” by becoming true to pertinent facts

    You cannot be loyal to “the people”, or the “Nation” of Eritrea, or the State (Land+People+Government) of Eritrea without loyalty to facts. First of all, describe why some Eritreans are migrating—i.e. including the so-called “Push” and “Pull” factors by providing us with credible evidence. Then, describe what the Government of Eritrea is doing to directly or indirectly (positively, neutrally, or negatively) affect migration of Eritreans, of course, with credible evidence.

    I also notice in your understanding of the concept of “the people”. Specify if you are talking about “the people” as individuals or as an organized societal entity, for as individuals each determines her/his interests, and as an a society, they have to balance each one’s interests with common interests. The two concepts of “the people” could have different consequences and may always be weighed carefully and be balanced out. You seem to have an inclination of unfairly blaming the Government of Eritrea in your articles. Unfairly blaming, because you fail to see Eritrean affairs from the position of the Eritrean State or the Government of Eritrea, whoever the President or the ruling party would be.

    Criticism is legitimate when you show with evidence that a certain policy is wrong or harmful. Criticism is constructive when you show the remedies for the wrong or harmful policies are. You fail to follow these procedure. What you follow is the circular logic you accuse others of: for example, ‘Yemane Gebreab asked support and cooperation from other foreign entities/governments in solving the current crisis of migration, therefore, the Government of Eritrea expects others to solve its problems.’ Your reasoning shows gross misrepresentation of Yemane’s statement, judging matters out of context, and critique without remedial suggestions to Eritrean problems.

    The Government of Eritrea admits, in various occasions, that there are internal problems exacerbated by external actors and internal weaknesses (or Push factors) as well as policies and actions of external forces (Pull factors) to Eritrean migration.You seem to have the tendency of repeatedly reaching at the same conclusion: The Eritrean regime is totalitarian, it is doing things wrong, and wrongs in Eritrean affairs could not be made right short of first opposing and overthrowing the Government of Eritrea. That is neither professional nor reasonable as you indicate your website’s motto rightly ought to be.

    Take the following report as an instance, and assume you are in Issaias Afwerki’s position, and tell us what remedies you could take regarding Eritrean migration:
    https://africamonitors.org/2017/01/22/particularly-these-days-migration-is-not-a-solution/

    • Someone,

      Did I say anything different from what Shewhat had to say when asked to advice her fellow citizens about her journey-

      After all these horrible challenges you have passed, what is your advice to those Eritreans, specially women, who want to flee?

      “I have a lot of advice, but they will not listen. Everyone knows that the situation in Eritrea is not conducive, but it is we the youth who must change that situation. Migration is not a solution, specially these days. In Khartoum literary the sudanese security and we the refugees are having the life of hunter and prey. There are roundups of Eritreans on daily basis. I advice those Eritreans, specially women, to stay where they are with patience. I also request the NGOs who are concerned with refugees to play their role in safegaurding refugees.”

    • Unless you are adumb,the author has presented factual and reasonable article.higdef supporters are bigots and blind. Btw,your days are numbered.

      • YAY

        Dear Senayt: We need actual facts, not interpreted “facts”

        To begin with, I am an Eritrean, but not a member of HGDeF or the Government of Eritrea. Give your response from that point of view. Secondly, understand that you are not only responding to me but all other readers, too. Try your best to convince others or see your point of view clearly.

        Tewelde wrote that …”other arguments for push factors of mass migration are entirely ignored, and the solutions for this national disaster should come from outside actors.” Show me the facts that support his conclusion in this article, or from any source.
        Tewelde said that, “…push factors for migration are entirely ignored and overlooked not only by the regime but also by some confused regime loyalists.” Show me the facts that confirm his statement is true in this article, or from any source.
        Tewelde said, “In fact, the Eritrean regime encourages young people to migrate [en]mass….” Give me credible evidence that proves his statement is true in this article, or from any source.
        Tewelde asks, “The question is should we be loyal to our country and people or to an authoritarian regime that advocates mass migration at international forums?” Forget the fact that “the authoritarian regime” is an indivisible part of our country and our people for now, but where is the evidence that the Government of Eritrea “advocates for mass migration” in this article, or from any source.
        Tewelde said that, “Here, Yemane is advocating for open border mass migration and according to him humans should be treated like commodities and finance in global trading.” Except for stating the importance of “legal, safe and regular migration,” point out the evidence that shows Yemane advocated for ” open border mass migration,” or treating human beings as commodities or finance in this article, or from any source. To me, Yemane tried to emphasize that much is done to advance freer legal movement of goods and capital while much is also done to restrict more of legal human movement.
        ከም ድልየትኪ ፈክ’ክሪ፡ ግን ሓቂ ፍተዊ።

        • Mr/Mss. YAY

          Let me keep on hold whatever you said for a moment. What “legal, safe and regular migration,” was he talking about? For example, don’t know that families of emigrants are not allowed to safely depart Eritrea and reunite with their loved ones? I can keep on responding to each issue you raised but I don’t see any point.

          Let me ask you one question. Can an Eritrean freely move from Gash-Barka to Asmara or vice-versa? How come a country that completely restricts its citizens movement within its territory advances cross-border or international free movements of people?

          Also, people are escaping their homelands from war, conflict, persecution and because of state driven poverty like in Eritrea. So, what do you mean by legal, safe, and regular migrations? You need to ask why, in the first place, people run from their homes?

          Eritrea has never advanced free trade nor free movement of labour even between departments or ministries. If it closes all doors for free movements of commodities and labour, how do you trust the official’s advocacy for free movements of labour? Can you substantiate the official’s point of view? In my point of view this is a double standard, full stop!

          • STIFANOS TEKLE

            I moved from keren to tesenai freely as well up to adiqeyh. What restriction are you talking about? If you are in the conscript or age slot , one has to get a special permission lo leave from his/her unit and that is legal procedure anywhere in the world. Please do not tray to picture the country in such way like the whiteman depicts Eritrea as a heal on earth whereas an island of peace. I moved to every corner of the country.

          • YAY

            Dear Teweldeberhan/asmaraonline: You chose not to publish my post?

            Let us talk straight as Eritreans. The first comment on this thread was mine. I forgot to put in my name and it came out as Anonymous. Senayt wrote that the author [Teweldeberhan Gebre] presented factual and reasonable article. I challenged her to answer my five questions and show me the facts supporting her claim. She failed to respond. You, too, did not want to present the facts I asked for. Instead, you asked me to answer your questions, and I wrote that I wanted Senayt to prove what she claimed was true, and that I desired for you to suggest policies on National Service, migration, etc. that you believe are better than PFDJ’s or the GoER’s. Senayt and you failed to respond. Not only that, you chose not to even publish my post. I was testing both of you if you would respect my freedoms of thought and expression, while probing into your ideas if you had any policies better than those of the GoER’s. So far, both of you failed on the test. You should have published what I posted, I believe, even if you did not want to respond to it.

            Now, I will answer your questions. You asked me, “What ‘legal, safe, and regular migration’ was he [i.e. Yemane Gebre-Ab] talking about?”
            That is a very easy question to answer. It is not me, but Yemane, who could definitely answer your question in the future. However, it is a fact that you stated that Yemane advocated for “open border mass migration.” As a matter of fact, he did not. I don’t have to necessarily know what specifics his statement involves, but checking what he said shows that he talked of “legal, safe and regular migration,” and Yemane did not treat human beings as goods and capital. Just check his press release. http://www.shabait.com/news/local-news/22580-statement

            Therefore, you did not get the facts right, and what you said in this article was a gross misrepresentation of what Yemane stated. There is no need for me to “substantiate the official’s point of view,” because Yemane can do it himself, and the 2016 UN High Level Meeting on Migrants and Refugees was an initial step, and too general, and it shall continue in the future (2018?). I presume that matters would be further specified then.

            You said “Eritrea has never advanced free trade nor free movement of labour….” I beg to differ on this blanket generalization. There were relatively far more freer movement of persons, commodities and labor within and to-and-from Eritrea before 1998 in peaceful times. It is the 1998-2000 border war and Ityopiya’s no-war-and-no peace policy that has completely changed matters to the worse. The Eritrea-Ityopiya war has continued in other forms, including foreign siege, threats of foreign-armed subversion, and international sanctions. For these reasons, national defense, national security, and public safety concerns have necessitated some regulations on the freedoms of movement (human, labor, commodities, and capital) and commerce. Human or labor movement is not an absolute human right. Such a liberty could be regulated or restricted depending on general situations (emergencies, threat of war, national security, etc.) in a locality or country. Such restrictions are reasonable or justifiable in Eritrea at the moment.

            You suggested that I “need to ask why, in the first place, people run from their homes? I do, and I understand that there are various personal and general reasons why people may leave their homes. On the other side, there are also people who opt to stay home and try their best to stay alive, free, and self-sufficient.
            Now, I want you to ask questions and answer my questions. Be straight and honest to explain your stand, or convince others.

            • YAY, thank you for engaging us.

              Back to the issues you raised.

              I said the government advocates for open migration time and again. I gave the example of family reunion. They are not allowed to safely reunite with their families abroad. In that regard they don’t have choices but to cross borders illegally and unsafely. Think about the children and women and how horrific it is when they attempt to cross the border through traffickers. Do you deny this? Hence, if Yemane is up to his principles of “legal, safe and regular migration” he or his government must have been allowed families to depart safely from their home towns and via the airport. Why do you deny this reality?
              On comparing free goods and finance trade with free movement of people- Yemane said:

              “It really is incongruous that in an increasingly globalized world, where much is done to advance the movement of goods and finance, human mobility is stridently opposed and essentially blocked. This needs to change as much of the current crisis and suffering could be significantly reduced by means of safe and orderly migration.”

              Can you tell me what “human mobility” is? It is not labour mobility. Two nations can bilaterally agree on free labour mobility or specifically in many cases skilled labour mobility. But, Yemane is advocating for human mobility like commodities and finance. I don’t know how to explain it, but even goods and finance do not move freely unless agreements are reached by countries and governments. Not only that but also international trade has got requirements, regulations and standards. Most importantly, bilateral and multi-lateral agreements and treaties between nations are key for international trade.

              Yemane and his government do not have any legitimate and legal rights to advocate for free trade because they run a closed economy. His statement to the GA is simply phony and nonsense. How come a government that blocks every basic rights including livelihoods to its citizen advocate at the international level for free movement of people and commodities?

              Interestingly, you said “…you did not get the facts right, and what you said in this article was a gross misrepresentation of what Yemane stated.”

              My friend, this is not misrepresentation and generalization.

              On ‘no peace, no war”

              You said “It is the 1998-2000 border war and Ethiopia’s no-war-and-no peace policy that has completely changed matters to the worse.” And you added that “The Eritrea-Ethiopia war has continued in other forms, including foreign siege, threats of foreign-armed subversion, and international sanctions.” These are excuses. The results are mismanagements of our resources, particularly our human and economic resources. If we are weak in managing these resources we are willing to defeat ourselves. Trust me Weyane/Ethiopia is no more a threat for us. According to the US Diplomatic cable exposed by WikiLeaks Weyane admitted that it doesn’t have military capability to go for another war. Eritrean leaders know very well about this.

              You also mentioned an important point that reads as “…national defense, national security, and public safety concerns have necessitated some regulations on the freedoms of movement (human, labor, commodities, and capital) and commerce.”

              Despite all these concerns we are not keeping our human resource. We train and educate the young but as much as we invest and train them they are leaving the country in droves. So, isn’t it a national security issue? Did the government take any measure? Absolutely no! I know many well-meaning Eritreans advised the government there are solutions for curving the human wave. One advice is that the government cannot keep the whole working age population under the military. Instead, they advised the government to disengage them from national service while still remain in reserves. If necessary you can keep them with full military gears while allowing them to support their families and lead their private life. Now we are losing the young completely.

              I wonder if movement of people is restricted what else is left for human rights. You said “Human or labor movement is not an absolute human right.” Human movement is a basic human right. According to the UN UHR Declaration for which Eritrea is a signatory Article 13(1) reads as – “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.”

              You continued “Such a liberty could be regulated or restricted depending on general situations (emergencies, threat of war, national security, etc.) in a locality or country. Such restrictions are reasonable or justifiable in Eritrea at the moment.”
              I think keeping the same reason for all restrictions over and over again should not be allowed any more. This reasoning is simply to restrict people’s economic and social life. Can you tell me how long this should go? National security issue is an ongoing activity. It doesn’t have a beginning and an end.
              Thank you for your attempted response to my question: “Why, in the first place, people run from their homes?”

              You said that “I do, and I understand that there are various personal and general reasons why people may leave their homes.” What are those various reasons? You are not clear here. You think people are escaping because of personal matters. I say it is not just personal matter it is policy matter. People have no opportunities outside the national service. They are rational human beings suffering under irrational policies of the government. If you put yourself in their situations you could understand why they are leaving their country in mass. I am dismayed by your final remark “On the other side, there are also people who opt to stay home and try their best to stay alive, free, and self-sufficient.” Just ask one of your family members or any person you are familiar with who still lives in Eritrea. Give him/her a choice to leave from or stay at home, and please share us what they have to say!

              Otherwise, keep rationalizing everything around national security, no peace, no war, national emergency and so on for all the restrictions is defeatism (ተምበርካኽነት).

      • STIFANOS TEKLE

        Senayt, I hope you have read what Mr./s Anonymous said at the top comment. Calling names is not a wise way to argue with people with different opinion than yours. Yes the author presented facts nut not enough to point fingers to the GOE or others. Unlike you, We are not bigots and blind rather we see things in all sides of it.Let me tell you one thing all those wished bad to the GOE or its people are the ones their days numbered. After all, everyone’s days are numbered.

    • Anonymous

      why then do you ask the obvious, glancing at the link above, I can see the trouble our people are facing, one parent is sick, and the other is digging trenches for life, what choice does this young girl has?

      • Anonymous, remember the circular reasoning. The premise and the conclusion are the same.