Swiss visit to Eritrea finds few rights improvements in the country

Mario Gattiker, the head of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration told journalists on Monday (May 9) (SEM), that Swiss authorities, following a fact-finding mission to Eritrea, have determined that the human rights situation has not improved there.

He said that although there had been promises that Eritrea would lower its required military service to a term of 18 months, “those hopes did not turn out to be true”. He said “Eritrea officially went back on its promise of shortening the required national military service,” adding that “the proof of improved human rights conditions is still missing.” At the same time, Mr. Gattiker said Switzerland hoped that Eritrea would send an ambassador to Geneva. This, he said, would improve dialogue with the Eritrean authorities. He said any decision of whether to send a Swiss ambassador to Eritrea lay with the Foreign Ministry. Mr. Gattiker explained that the three person delegation of migration officials that went to Eritrea in March this year had not been allowed to see prison or military facilities. Accompanied by Eritrean officials, they visited cities, towns and schools during the two-week trip to try to gather information that could help them better understand the situation in the country and verify asylum seekers’ stories.

About 28,500 Eritreans live in Switzerland and a quarter of them arrived as asylum seekers in 2014; some 10,000 Eritreans applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2015.