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Thousands flee isolated Eritrea to escape life of conscription and poverty

ASMARA, Eritrea—On a cool March evening soon after his 16th birthday, Binyam Abraham waited until his mother and young siblings were sleeping and slipped away to begin the long trek toward Eritrea’s southern border.

With his father trapped in open-ended military service that would soon snare him, too, Binyam walked for 19 hours without food or water to reach Ethiopia. He made a choice 5,000 of his countrymen make each month, by a United Nations estimate: to flee Eritrea and brave the world’s deadliest migrant trail, across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe.



Watch Soft Landing Missoula Presents lecture, "Eritrea: Country, Culture, and Circumstance."

For the past 130 years, but for one brief, jubilant moment after the war for independence, Eritrea has experienced an endless succession of conquerors and dictators, ravages and depredations. Yet its people still seek to be free.
— "Eritrea: the horror and the hope," The America Team for Displaced Eritreans
The secluded East African nation of Eritrea has been described by Human Rights Watch as "a giant prison," and by others as "the Cuba of Africa" for its repressive regime. In the last decade, thousands have fled the country seeking asylum in Europe, while others have opted for a lengthy, costly and dangerous transatlantic odyssey through South and Central America to reach the United States.