The Guardian, Saturday 1 August 2009

Article history

It is not often Eritrea gets a mention in the news. Thank you for your excellent article on the Eritrean refugee squat in Calais (The house of despair, G2, 30 July) explaining the appalling human rights situation that is forcing so many young people to flee Eritrea – with so many dying on the way in the Libyan deserts or the Mediterranean. As a long-time supporter of Eritrean independence during their long liberation struggle, I have been horrified and ashamed by the brutal regime that is now terrorising the entire Eritrean population, both inside and outside the country.

As well as having visited Eritrea several times before the crackdown in September 2001, I am also proud to know a number of young Eritrean refugees who have managed to escape to the UK – one of them tied under a train. They are fleeing from a country that is reliably estimated to have the worst human rights situation in the world – with more imprisoned journalists per head of population than North Korea or Burma.

The denials of the Eritrean ambassador to the UK are breathtaking. He fought alongside the 11 government ministers who were arrested in September 2001 and who have disappeared without trace. He knows that returned refugees from Libya and Malta have been arrested at Asmara airport and have disappeared into the regime’s torture chambers.