Increasing numbers of Eritreans seek asylum in Ethiopia

Most Eritrean refugees continue their journey after Ethiopia, often to Europe

There has been a sharp increase in the amount of Eritrean refugees crossing into neighbouring Ethiopia in recent months, with around 200 arriving each day, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The agency said that 5,000 Eritreans arrived in Ethiopia during October, and more than 1,200 crossed over the border in the first week of November. About 90 per cent of these were aged between 18 and 24, and there were also 78 children who arrived unaccompanied by a family member.

Eritrean refufees began arriving in Ethiopia in 2002, following the conclusion of the brutal two-year border conflict between the two countries. There are now about 100,000 Eritrean asylum seekers in Ethiopia, housed mainly in refugee camps in the northern regions of Tigray, Shire and Afar, south of the border with Eritrea.

Due to Ethiopia's geographical location and its open-door policy, the UNHCR predicts the number of Eritrean refugees to rise to 116,750 by December 2015.

The UNHCR says that most Eritreans continue their journey after reaching Ethiopia. The majority of Eritrean asylum seekers who make the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe – often in severely overcrowded conditions on unseaworthy vessels – have travelled initially via Ethiopia or neighbouring Sudan.

So far in 2014 about 37,000 Eritreans have arrived in Europe, an increase from the 13,000 that landed on European shores last year.

Italy has borne the brunt of the so-called boat people crisis, reporting the arrival of 34,000 Eritrean refugees.

The UNHCR says that 22 per cent of these boat people arriving on Italy's coastline are Eritrean, the second largest group to arrive in Italy by boat, after Syrians.

Most Eritrean asylum requests have been lodged in Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. For more details on the refugee situation in Ethiopia see the UNHCR website.