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11 September 2020 – Eritrea

Eritrean Refugee Camp in the Tigray Region near the Eritrean Border, (Tiksa Negeri, Reuters,
Eritrean Refugee Camp in the Tigray Region near the Eritrean Border, (Tiksa Negeri, Reuters, "Ethiopia plans to close Eritrean refugee camp despite concerns," Al Jazeera, 19 April 2020,

Although Eritrea long hosted a small population of Somali refugees (roughly 2,000 as of early 2019), in mid-2019 the government closed its only refugee camp, Umkulu, spurring most of the refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Ethiopia. By the end of 2019, UNHCR reported that there were only 650 refugees remaining in the country. The move to shut the camp came after many years of growing concerns about the treatment of foreigners in the country, including past concerns about possible clandestine detention of migrants. However, there appears to be no public information available about the current status of refugees and migrants in the country, nor about any efforts to safeguard them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 3 April, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Eritrea called on the government to “immediately and unconditionally release those detained without legal basis, including all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and to adopt urgent measures to reduce the number of people in detention to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” In addition, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, a local NGO, urged the government to release the 10,000 prisoners of conscience that are detained throughout the country’s 350 facilities. The organisation stated that in Eritrean prisons, there may be 100-400 people in a single cell. Containers are also reportedly used to hold some 30 detainees at the same time.

Prison visits were suspended on 2 April. However, according to Amnesty International, sanitary measures were not implemented. Conditions in prisons have been described as inhumane due to the “overcrowding and the general lack of adequate sanitation, healthcare and food.” In Adi Abeyito prison, which is meant to accommodate 800 people, there have been reports of the populations exceeding 2,500. Amnesty International also noted that there are many unofficial detention centres across the country about which there is little or no information available.