Eritrea. According to Countryaah.com, Eritrea population in 2020 is estimated at 3,546,432. The regime’s severe repression received increased international attention during the year. Eritrea was described as Africa’s North Korea, and the United Nations Human Rights Council reported on forced labor that contributed to hundreds of thousands of people moving the country, tens of thousands to Sweden.
Eritrea became the worst country in the world in this year’s Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders and received the lowest rating of Freedom House’s Freedom Index. Transparency International’s corruption index placed Eritrea in 160 of 177 countries. The UN identified Eritrea as a country suspected of illegal arms trafficking with North Korea.
In June, an open letter from four Catholic bishops in Eritrea was published describing an “abandoned” land, where traditional family cohesion was broken by young people being in exile, in military service or in prison, while the elderly were left without care.
According to the UN Human Rights Council, torture, rape and executions continue. In homes, workplaces and public places, people are arrested for military service and are often placed in forced labor indefinitely. Minors have also been arrested. Deserters are chased and risk execution or long prison sentences and torture. Many arrested women are raped by officers or punished for resisting, according to the UN Reporter.
In November, the UNHCR stated that the flow of Eritrean refugee youths has risen sharply as a result of a renewed military service campaign. In just over a month, more than 6,000 Eritreans had sought asylum in Ethiopia, and more and more fled to Italy, although many went down in the Mediterranean. The Eritrean military duty must be just over four years, but will often be beyond the limit.
Relatives of those who fled Eritrea are forced to pay 50,000 nafka, about SEK 23,000, for each family member who left the country. Most cannot afford it, and family members can be imprisoned until the sum is paid. Property can be confiscated and permission to conduct business is revoked.
The Eritrean authorities rejected all allegations of abuse as unfounded, claiming that military service was indefinitely needed due to the conflict with Ethiopia. However, the UN decided to conduct a more thorough investigation into Eritrean’s abuse, similar to the investigations conducted in North Korea and Syria.
In Sweden, President Isaias Afwerki and several of the regime’s ministers for human rights violations were reported to the police. This was made possible by a new law that gave the Swedish judiciary the power to prosecute human rights violations committed in other countries.
In September, the Swedish government decided to expel the first secretary at the Eritrean embassy in Stockholm, after being accused, among other things, of spying on Eritreans in Sweden and forcibly collecting taxes from them. But the Riksdag voted down a proposal to stop the tax of 2 percent of the income Eritrea’s embassy collects from Eritreans in Sweden.
It was reported in April that a group of prisoners of conscience were released from Eritrean prisons. The reason was unclear. However, no news came about the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, who has been detained in Eritrea since 2001.