The 40-year-old Hussein Ahmed Adawi left the coastal town of Ta’ao, north of the Southern Red Sea region of Eritrea, on an asylum trip that ended in Norway, due to poor economic conditions and the continued restriction souring by the Eritrean government on the people of the region since the 1990s until today, as they were prevented from fishing and, at best, granted time-bound permits for a week or less, which led to their starvation, given the scarcity of resources in the region. The population of the southern Eritrean coastal plain known as The Dinkalia region (Southern Red Sea region) has gradually increased since the beginning of 2000, according to Adawi, who hails from a fishermen’s family, noting that many fishermen and their families have been forced to flee to Neighbouring countries or crossing the sea to Yemen for a living, he tells Al-Arabi al-Jadeed, as confirmed in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea issued last May, where the navy documented the dumping of five Afar fishermen who were selling their fish in the port of Massawa and the seizure of three boats owned by them, and are still missing, and 20 African fishermen are still missing in separate incidents between February 2018 and February 2019.
The number of refugees from The Dinkalia region has increased, from 27,370 on 28 February 2015, and by the end of 2016 the number had reached 42,200, and by the end of 2017, the number had reached 50 600 refugees, according to UNCHR in Ethiopia, which confirmed in its latest report that Afar constitutes 5% of the total population of Eritrea, while the number of registered refugees with UNHCR in the Afrikaans region of Ethiopia as of the first quarter of this year.
The number of refugees fleeing Eritrea appears to be large, with a total population of 6,81,000, according to The World Factbook, published annually by the CIA.
Eritrean society consists of nine main ethnic groups, some of which have extensions within neighboring countries such as Afar, Tigrinya, which has an extension within the Ethiopian Tigray region, and kunama (an ethnic group living in Eritrea and Ethiopia), according to the 2009 country report by the International Labour Organization and the African Commission for Human Rights, entitled “Constitutional and Legislative Protection of The Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Eritrea”.
The Dinkalia region is inhabited by the Dunkal (Afar) tribes with a mixture of other groups, and Afar is one of the oldest established peoples in the southern strip of the Coastal Plain overlooking the Red Sea from the Buri Peninsula to the south of Massawa in the north, to Bab al-Mandab in the north, as well as the vast desert area around this strip, according to the book “The Avery Triangle in the Horn of Africa” by the late Eritrean politician Mohamed Osman Abu Bakar. The majority of Eritrean sit-ins are Nomadic herders, and those living on the beaches depend on fishing and salt extraction from the Red Sea, while agriculture is an exception, according to the same source.
The Eritrean authorities have begun to clamp down on the population of the Southern Red Sea region since 1995, according to investigative sources who have left their homes, including Ibrahim Ahmed, spokesman for the Red Sea Human Rights Organization (Afar Al-Ahmar), who left the region in 2015 as a result of harassment as a professor at the Sawa National Service Camp in western Eritrea, according to a statement by Al-Arabi Al-Jadid.
The region has been denied access to public services, with scarce electricity outside cities, as well as the lack of infrastructures such as adequate roads and hospitals, said Ahmed, who has been living in France since 2018, adding that previous suffering has led to the flight of so many refugees to neighboring countries, particularly Ethiopia, through which he began a journey of refuge.
The government has not yet been able to provide any evidence of the existence of the crime.
Eritrea’s involvement in the Yemeni war was exacerbated by an agreement with the UAE to establish a military base in the port of Assab in April 2015, and the subsequent dredging, land confiscation, and targeting of fishermen by UAE aviation, which killed 200 Eritreans at sea from 2015 to 2019, confirms Ismail Kabeta, executive director of The Red Sea.
The Eritrean authorities are carrying out ongoing abuses against fishermen, according to Hussein Mohammed Ali, a former inspector at the Ministry of Fisheries branch in Massawa, who experienced systematic violations against the area’s residents while serving at the ministry’s branch from 2009 to 2011, including banning fishermen. From selling fish outside the country, forcing them to sell them at prices that are not equal to the effort and not covering the special needs of fishermen and their families, as well as not giving fishermen enough fuel to go out to sea, he tells Al-Arabi al-Jadid, from his residence in Sweden, where he arrived as a refugee in 2013.