Eritrean refugees want fair and equal treatment [Archives:2007/1037/Letters to the Editor]

March 29 2007

By: The Eritrean Refugees Yemen
[email protected]

We, the Eritrean refugees living in the Republic of Yemen, increasingly are obliged to introduce ourselves and our problems to the public, human rights activists and UNHCR itself (as it's clear that it isn't sufficiently aware of us).

We sought asylum in Yemen because we suffered absence of religious freedom, freedom of expression, media freedom, freedom of union, speech, etc. Thus, we would like to introduce you to our overlooked plights.

We've noticed that the UNHCR in Yemen announces its concern for Somali and Ethiopian refugees, but not Eritreans. Indeed, we're indebted for the (relatively) better care that our Somali and Ethiopian brothers and sisters are receiving. However, we kindly request UNHCR representatives in Yemen to consider that there are also other refugees called Eritreans, who face problems and plights more or less like refugees of other nationalities.

We're taking the opportunity of the visit to Yemen of Erika Feller, UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection, to bring to her kind attention and the attention of the UNHCR in general to our plight.

In the Tuesday, March 22, issue no. 1035 of the Yemen Times, Feller mentioned that, “More than 2,500 people landed on the Yemeni coast” last year, noting that they were “Somalis and Ethiopians.” Indeed, this is true, but it's incomplete, as there were and are many Eritreans among them.

Not mentioning us definitely is a first step in overlooking us and making it nearly impossible to reach the appropriate UNHCR officials to apply for asylum, especially if an Eritrean entering Yemeni coasts happens to be caught and put in jail. Many of us spend long months and even years behind bars simply because UNHCR didn't react immediately or positively.

Furthermore, after a full year of useless and fruitless attempts to get our committee recognized by UNHCR and directly access the UNHCR office in Sana'a in order to speak on behalf of the Eritrean refugee community, we would like our voice heard. However, we haven't received any cooperative and/or positive response – not even a notice that they've received our letters and are working on it.

From time to time, we send letters via the so-called “Suggestion box,” but we've received no reply. We'll keep 'suggesting' the UNHCR office in Yemen hear us and we hope it will be kind enough and cooperative enough to respond to us very soon.

We are refugees for reasons we believe are obvious and we're terribly sorry to say that the UNHCR office in Yemen was/is not attempting to practically share our burden. To prove this, please note the following:

As far as we're concerned, no Eritrean refugee has benefited from UNHCR advantages/privileges provided to refugees of other nationalities (although undeniably, it's on a very limited scale), such as health care, financial assistance, education and even resettlement.

We're sorry to say that we've been ignored and neglected – whether intentionally or accidentally – and that we aren't being paid the necessary attention we deserve as human beings.

Finally, we believe in what the UNHCR was created for. We believe in the very noble goals that laid the foundation for its creation and we hope these noble goals also include us Eritrean refugees.

We humbly request our committee be recognized by the UNHCR office in Sana'a and to have a regular, organized and open channel with concerned UNHCR officials.

We thank the Yemen Times for giving us the opportunity to have our long-silenced voice finally heard. May our cry reach UNHCR ears and touch your kind hearts.

Thank you again