Last Updated: Monday, 20 October 2014, 15:44 GMT

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Eritrea

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 14 June 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Eritrea, 14 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c1883f62d.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ERITREA (Tier 3)

Eritrea is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution. During the reporting period, acts of forced labor occurred in Eritrea, particularly in connection with the implementation of the country's national service program. Under the parameters set forth in Proclamation of National Service (No. 82/1995), men aged 18 to 54 and women aged 18 to 47 are required to provide 18 months of military and non-military public works and services in any location or capacity chosen by the government. Some national service conscripts, however, are required to continue their service indefinitely, beyond the duration specified by law, with many required to serve in their positions for over 10 years under the threat of inhuman treatment, torture, or punishment of their families. There have been reports that some Eritrean conscripts are forced to build private homes for army officers, as well as to perform agricultural labor on farms and construction activities for firms owned by the state, the ruling party, senior army officers, and private investors, functions outside the scope of the proclamation. The military's four command zones reportedly undertake diversified economic activities, including trading, farming, property development, and infrastructure construction, for the enrichment of the government, the ruling party, and high-ranking army officers using conscripted labor. National service conscripts could not resign from their jobs or take new employment, received no promotions or salary increases, and could not leave the country, as those under national service were often denied passports or exit visas. Some national service members were assigned to return to their civilian jobs while nominally kept in the military because their skills were deemed critical to the functioning of the government or the economy; these individuals continued to receive only their national service salary and were required to forfeit to the government any money they earned above and beyond that salary.

Eritrean children work in various economic sectors, including domestic service, street vending, small-scale factories, and agriculture; child laborers frequently suffer abuse from their employers and some may be subjected to conditions of forced labor. Some children in prostitution are likely exploited through third party involvement.

Each year, large numbers of Eritrean workers migrate in search of work, particularly to the Gulf States and Egypt, where some become victims of forced labor, primarily in domestic servitude. Smaller numbers are subjected to forced prostitution. In 2009, for example, five Eritrean trafficking victims were identified in the United Kingdom and one in Israel. In addition, thousands of Eritreans flee the country illegally, mostly to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya, where their illegal status makes them vulnerable to situations of human trafficking.

The Government of Eritrea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The Eritrean government does not operate with transparency and published neither data nor statistics regarding its efforts to combat human trafficking; it did not respond to requests to provide information for this report.

Recommendations for Eritrea: Pass and enforce a comprehensive anti-trafficking statute that includes prohibitions against forced labor; launch a campaign to increase the general public's awareness of human trafficking at the local, regional, and national levels; institute trafficking awareness training for diplomats posted overseas; provide training to all levels of government, particularly law enforcement officials, on identifying and responding to trafficking crimes; and in partnership with NGOs or religious entities, ensure the provision of short-term protective services to child trafficking victims.

Prosecution

The Government of Eritrea made no known progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking crimes over the reporting period. Article 605 of the Eritrean Transitional Criminal Code prohibits trafficking in women and young persons for sexual exploitation, which is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment, or from three to 10 years' imprisonment if aggravating circumstances are present; these penalties are not commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 565 prohibits enslavement and prescribes punishment of five to 20 years' imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent. Forced labor and slavery are prohibited, except where authorized by law under Article 16 of the ratified, but suspended, Eritrean Constitution. Proclamation 11/199 prohibits the recruitment of children under 18 years of age into the armed forces. Nevertheless, the government has never used these statutes to prosecute cases of human trafficking. The government did not publish information on investigations or prosecutions, if any, of human trafficking offenses during the reporting period.

Protection

The government did not appear to provide any significant assistance to victims of trafficking during the reporting period. During the reporting period, the government reportedly operated a program to identify children involved in commercial sexual exploitation and reintegrate them with their families. The government did not make available information on the program's accomplishments in 2009. The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare oversees the government's trafficking portfolio, but individual cases of transnational human trafficking are reportedly handled by the Eritrean embassy in the country of destination; information regarding embassy efforts to assist trafficking victims was not provided. The government has no known facilities dedicated to trafficking victims and does not provide funding or other forms of support to NGOs for services to trafficking victims. The government severely limited the number of foreign NGOs permitted to operate in the country; of the few remaining NGOs, none operated anti-trafficking programs. It is not known whether the government encouraged victims' assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes or whether it provided legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. The government did not ensure that identified victims were not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The government made no known efforts to prevent future incidences of trafficking during the reporting period. Eritrean media, all state-owned, made neither public announcements nor media presentations regarding human trafficking during the reporting period. There were no anti-trafficking education campaigns. The government reportedly warned students at Sawa military school and Mai Nefi, a local college, of the dangers of leaving the country, including the prospects of being sold into slave labor or sexual servitude. Although the government does not publicly acknowledge human trafficking as a problem, an office exists within the Ministry of Labor to handle labor cases, including human trafficking; the accomplishments of this office during 2009 are unknown. Limited resources and a small number of inspectors impeded the ministry's ability to conduct investigations; the government did not provide information on the number of child labor inspections it carried out in 2009. The government continued implementing a national plan of action on child labor that primarily focused on integrating or reintegrating children with families, communities, and schools as a means of preventing child labor, or rehabilitating children engaged in child labor; the government did not provide information regarding its progress in implementing this plan during the year. The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare's community child well-being committees supported 4,426 street children with educational materials and cash stipends for uniforms and vocational training. The Ministry of Labor reportedly reviewed all applications for permits to grant passports and exit visas to legal migrant workers, and immigration agents closely monitored anyone entering or leaving the country. Eritrea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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