The British government has published a new 285-page report that challenges the existing narrative of most Eritrean migrants, the UN and pro-migrant NGOs that their home country Eritrea mistreats them when they return.
Past British as well as Danish reports had contradicted the general narrative on the issue, but both reports were called into question.
In contrast, the current report has dropped some of the past report’s controversial points and was part of a longer and more comprehensive visit by Home Office’s fact-finding mission to Eritrea.
The fact finding mission (FFM) was conducted by 3 officials from the Country Policy and Information Team, Home Office, with support from the British Ambassador to Eritrea, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, between 7 and 20 February 2016.
As indicated in the report, the purpose of the mission was to gather accurate and up-to-date information from a range of sources about national service, healthcare, and migration to and from Eritrea for use in the asylum decision making process.
Unlike the Danish report, the British report includes, for the first time, interviews with migrant returnees. It also included testimonies of diplomats and humanitarian aid workers in Eritrea.
Out of the 120 migrants who made face-to-face interviews with the mission, 30 of them were migrants who had come to Israel but later returned to Eritrea who said that they were well-treated and that their primary reason for coming to Israel was economic.
The returnees said, to be granted refugee status and obligate Israel to permit Eritreans to remain in the country, each person must prove they would be persecuted if they returned to their country of origin and did not come to the country for mere economic reasons.
According to the vast majority of Eritrean migrants, the UN and past reports from pro-migrant NGOs, most Eritreans cannot return to their home country because of persecution.
What the British fact-finding mission and facts on the ground ascertained, however, is that Eritreans can in fact return home without any fear of persecution.
One interviewee told the mission, he left Eritrea because, “I needed money for my family. Mainly for economic reasons. I went to Israel. Stayed for about five years and came back. And when I came back, I came back voluntarily… I wasn’t forced to come back. After five years, I couldn’t find a job. They sent me to a detention center and I didn’t want to be there. If I could have got more work, I would have stayed.”
He added that he had claimed asylum in Israel, “because I migrated illegally, I had to tell them I have a political problem so I claimed asylum. But my reason was economic.”
Asked if he was forced into the country’s infamous mandatory military national service with wide reports of torture and mistreatment, he said he was not conscripted – “I joined my family and the government allows me to go wherever I want.”
Another interviewee also said he left since his “main problem was economic. After five years, I went to Holot [Detention Center in Israel]. Didn’t want to go there, so left.”
The second interviewee also stated that he faced no consequences from Eritrea’s government upon his return.
Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, a pro-migration NGO in Israel, slammed the report as being based on a much smaller number of interviews than the controversial June 2016 UN Human Rights Council reports.
One major deficit with the UNHRC report was its lack of credibility. The report failed to gain the support of influential countries such as the US as it already regarded it as non-accurate and one sided that suffers with selective bias.
This new British country information and guidance reports, therefore, will be considered as the new template by many European and even Israeli immigration officials in determining asylum and human rights applications by Eritrean or other nationalities who falsely claim Eritrean.
Yonatan Jakubowicz of the Israeli Immigration Policy Center told the Jerusalem Post that there have been past accounts that Eritreans were not mistreated for returning, but this report was significant because it was the first with testimonies from Eritreans confirming that narrative who came back specifically from Israel.