“Eritrea” in Switzerland’s 2015 Election—A Missed Chance for Dialogue between Politics, Social Work, and Refugees

Magnus Treiber


The year 2015 has not only seen a considerable influx of refugees into Europe, but also a heated political debate on immigration and political asylum. Switzerland held national elections in October, and as refugees from Eritrea made up the largest group of the country’s asylum-seekers, political debate and anti-immigration campaigns focused on Eritrea itself. Eritrean refugees’ legitimacy as such was questioned and Swiss politicians started travelling to Asmara’s isolated regime, where they were warmly received. Besides this rather ideological debate on refugees from Eritrea, Swiss professionals in the wider field of social work felt in need of more empiric knowledge on this widely unknown African country and its people, whom they considered strangely elusive and evasive—leading to misinterpretations and perplexity. Refugees from Eritrea, however, had their own reasons to avoid communication and assistance. Already in Eritrea, as much as on their long and precarious journeys to Europe, they had learned to mistrust formal institutions and to rely more on informal ways. Thus, Switzerland’s much needed dialogue between politics, social work, and refugees did not take place.


Public debate in Switzerland’s 2015 election mirrored the huge refugee influx into Europe that has become a “crisis” for European countries. This is a crisis at both the state and society level, as well as national, inter- and supranational politics.[1] Since the early 1990s, refugees have become a hotly discussed issue in public debate and were singled out as a veritable “other.” Most significantly, Germany and its eastern neighbors started quarrelling on a potential European distribution mechanism for hundreds of thousands of newly arriving refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and elsewhere. Even national border control within the Schengen area—once celebrated as historical achievement of economic and symbolic importance—has been partially re-established,[2] this “refugee crisis” became the most pressing issue of domestic politics within European countries, dividing people into pragmatic pro-immigration alliances and increasingly radicalized anti-immigration movements. Yet, refugees[3] themselves rarely had a voice in recent debates. While there was much talk about refugees, there was little communication with refugees. This is especially true for Eritrean refugees, who are at the center of an ongoing debate in Switzerland. This article wants to show how, and why, politicians, social workers, and refugees missed a chance for dialogue and mutual exchange, which could have helped to ease misunderstanding and conflict. 

Small, but prosperous, Switzerland is Italy’s northern neighbor and still close to the Mediterranean. It has become a main destination for refugees who enter Europe through Lampedusa Island. Although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it is cooperating with Brussels in various ways, including the Schengen and Dublin agreements.[4] Swiss migration policy has always been more or less restrictive, but in 2015, a year of national elections, Switzerland witnessed an exceptionally aggressive debate on migration. Moreover, since Eritrean refugees indeed made up the largest group of asylum seekers in Switzerland—6,923 in 2014 and 9,966 in 2015—Eritrea itself became a topic.[5] These debates centered on two contrasting questions: a) was Eritrea—this arcane place a literal hell on earth—providing legitimate reason to accept its high numbers of refugees? Or b) was it a poor, but beautiful, country at the shores of the Red Sea, where the country’s diaspora went for holidays, thus rendering its emigrating youths into economic migrants pursuing unrealistic dreams of happiness at the expense of the Swiss tax payer? Politicians from different parties explicitly took up the topic in their election campaigns and the tiny and largely unknown country at the shores of the Red Sea was prominently covered in Swiss media. In August 2015 Guido Graf, prominent member of the Christian-Democratic Party (CVP) and head of Luzern’s regional health department, declared Eritrean refugees to be mere economic migrants and thus joined the Swiss People’s Party’s (SVP) open anti-immigration campaign that essentially focused on the legitimacy of Eritrean refugees.[6] Politicians from the liberal party FDP followed. Especially for the “national conservative” SVP, this strategy proved successful: in October’s elections, they pulled in 30% of the votes.[7] Subsequently Eritrea remained an important topic, and party officials and journalists continued travelling to Asmara, but could not find much more than friendly officials and hospitable people. In February 2016 Susanne Hochuli, representative of the Green Party and member of Aargau’s regional government, stated she did not see dictatorial control “à la North Korea,” and called critical reports on Eritrea “Western lies” and a tall tale.[8] Together with other politicians from various parties, she had accepted an invitation of Eritrea’s honorary consul in Switzerland, the Swiss gynecologist and Eritrea lobbyist, Toni Locher. Locher supported the Eritrean liberation struggle since the 1970s and the country’s development attempts since independence. Unlike his American counterpart Dan Connell, a similarly involved journalist, he did not switch sides after 2001, when Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki staged a coup d’état from above and cracked down on journalists and critics from his own circle—the so-called “Group of 15” (G15) (Connell 2004; Tronvoll 2009; Hepner, O’Kane 2009). Following Eritrea’s disastrous war with neighboring Ethiopia (1998–2000), this political catastrophe impeded any democratization efforts, eventually led towards broad impoverishment, and severely damaged public life and the educational system. Locher, however, became the regime’s official spokesperson in Switzerland.[9]

In the course of Switzerland’s debates, the State Secretary for Migration (SEM) came under pressure and faced a dilemma on which policy to follow and recommend. On one hand, Simonetta Sommaruga, the minister of justice, refused further cooperation with dictatorial Eritrea, based on the SEM’s own detailed, and well-researched COI-report on behalf of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Malta.[10] On the other hand, SEM’s vice-director openly favored Denmark’s strongly favorable, but much criticized, Eritrea report[11] after returning from Asmara.[12] Already in November 2014, the State Secretary’s director represented Switzerland at an EU-conference in Rome that initiated the “Khartoum-process”: a deal with East African states—including Eritrea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, none of them known for their respect of human rights—to diminish irregular emigration from their territories. Here, the European Union and its associates had offered considerable funding to Eritrea—until then considered a pariah state at best—for “[a]ssisting in improving national capacity building in the field of migration management,” to implement efficient border control, and “to effectively and consistently address trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, including ensuring protection to refugees and asylum seekers and assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations” [sic].[13] 

Switzerland has become active in a broader European effort to upgrade the isolated and already crumbling Eritrean regime through hastily renewed political and diplomatic contacts and financial rewards and gifts. Consequently, the EU’s representative in Eritrea and the Eritrean Minister for National Development signed a 200 million euro deal in January 2016 to develop Eritrea’s unreliable power supply, but also to keep the institutional remains of Eritrea’s formal state running.[14] Furthermore, the EU offered to strengthen the country’s control of its borders—a project coordinated by Germany’s development agency, GIZ.[15] 

During the last decade, Eritrean officials claimed they were facing defamation by foreign powers who did not give the regime credit for improving the economy, for fighting price increases, administrative chaos, crime, and corruption. While this claim was unconvincing, the regime now scented the morning air and saw a chance for international recognition of its difficulties. In the light of Europe’s “refugee crisis,” Eritrea regained the almost-lost opportunities to explain its postrevolutionary challenges to the outside world. Switzerland offered exceptionally favorable circumstances to listen to the regime’s position on the refugees. The general Swiss anti-immigration campaigns made lobbying for a Third World dictator politically acceptable again. In line with this anti-immigration sentiment, the State Secretary for Migration prepared substantial changes in foreign and migration policies itself. Officially, the authority still acknowledged the country’s dictatorial character and granted protection to the bulk of arriving refugees from Eritrea. However, the number of full asylum grants in 2015 was reduced by half. More and more applicants received “preliminary protection” only.[16] Increase of refugees and subsequent—somehow abstract—debate on Eritrea and Eritreans in the election year fueled, sometimes even poisoned, public debate on immigration in Switzerland and shifted the country’s political landscape to the right. Hence, the realpolitik to cut down refugee numbers clashed with self-ascribed values of human rights, democracy, and political asylum. 

There were, however, people who had to address new-arriving refugees on a professional basis and who—despite the heated discussion and media coverage on Eritrea—did not yet feel well informed, such as social workers, language teachers, psychologists, and civil servants from welfare and communal authorities. They had their own encounters with Eritrea and Eritreans and developed a much less polemic, but serious and professional interest.

Professional Perspectives

After its independence, and then again after the Border War with Ethiopia, Eritrea was not much discussed in the Western world—at least not beyond small, but concerned, academic circles. About 25 years later, professionals and volunteers working with Eritrean refugees were eager to learn more about Eritrea because of personal experiences with their clients. During a series of workshops organized by Caritas Switzerland in autumn 2015, participants presented and jointly discussed a number of problems arising from work with Eritrean refugees. Here, I will sketch two apparently typical cases:

Case no. 1:

An Eritrean mother of four children from two different fathers is under pressure to run and organize her family. The two elder children have crossed the Sahara and the Mediterranean on their own in yearlong journeys. Now they feel subjected to their mother’s strict rule. The social worker would like to support the adolescent children’s interests in sports, music, and language learning, for which the mother lacks resources. However, the mother is unwilling to allow activities outside school and home. The father of the two teenagers is back in Eritrea, and the father of the two toddlers lives in a neighboring city, but apparently does not care. At the same time, the mother does not allow doubt that she is in charge of the family—and she is not ready to accept social work’s professional help.

The assigned social worker wanted to know why this Eritrean mother was unable to accept help despite being clearly overburdened. She attached far-reaching questions: the social worker wonders if this is loose morality, and are the lack of durable partnership and family bonds a typical cultural trait among some Eritrean refugees? Is there, the social worker asked prudently, a lack of values? 

These kinds of questions come up among many social workers in Switzerland because they have witnessed remarkable social conflict among Eritrean refugees, and even the fragmentation of recently reunited families. 

Case No.2: 

A 22-year-old man visits a literacy class in Switzerland. In Eritrea, he went to school for only four years. After some time, he is more and more often absent, although his course is mandatory—an obligation tied to his welfare support. His excuses are numerous, but not convincing: he lost his phone or the teacher’s phone number, he overslept or was sick. . . subsequently he is warned and then called for an interview. He is all well, he insisted, no problems at all. Neither the official social worker nor the translator has the impression that their client has developed a drug problem. He is sanctioned, meaning his welfare support is cut down, but the staff involved feels helpless and uncomfortable.

This second case represented a challenge to the caseworker who wanted to support this individual, but he could not understand the motivation of the Eritrean refugee’s actions. 

Above I sketched two cases of how Swiss social workers experienced Eritrean refugees. The overburdened mother’s elder children had to grow up quickly while crossing the Sahara and the Mediterranean on their own. Now their mother—maybe in compensation for deficient parenthood, certainly for fear of an alien, threatening outer world—tries to over-control and isolate her children. While the assigned social worker doubts the mother’s morals, the mother may perceive the social worker as a threat for her precarious family, under pressure. Likewise, the young man denies communication, professional offers, and assistance. We are unable to know why; maybe family members are still on their way and at risk of life (which causes stress), maybe first social encounters in Switzerland turned out confusing, frustrating, or even shocking.[17] Here mediation and communication (including the reflection of power relations) have not yet taken place. The pragmatic professional interest to assist and support on the side of social work could not link up with the newcomers’ fundamental, but frustrated, expectations. Their hopes for formal and incorruptible rules, for trustworthy social interaction, justice, and the rule of law in the Western world had easily crumbled after arrival. So, neither of the two sides understand, nor feel understood, and neither feel safe and settled in contact with each other. Differing views and perceptions of each other—which make both sides appear strange and unknown—may not even be at the core of the problem, they could be overcome. These perceptions, however, become closed references in the construction of knowledge on each other. Knowledge of course is not static, it is characterized by processes and therefore subject to change. Thus, mediation and instigation of mutual exchange between our Swiss social workers and their Eritrean clients would have to take into account extremely different conditions, histories, and cultures of learning themselves—for the sake of mutual understanding and respect in a commonly shared place. At least social workers tried to get into direct communication and understanding—but often failed. A remarkable number of their Eritrean clients refused open exchange due to their social experience of Eritrea’s dictatorship and migration’s pitiless learning processes, which do not prepare for trust in formal institutions and their protagonists. Swiss politicians from various parties, instead, showed their willingness to believe whatever fit into their political agenda and campaign strategies and provoked further retreat, mistrust, and fear. 

In the heated political atmosphere of Switzerland’s election campaigns, more migrant-friendly politicians, professionals, and activists did not only have serious problems defending the considerable numbers of Eritrean newcomers, but also arguing on behalf of these people, so often experienced as strangely reserved and mistrustful. Large numbers of Eritrean refugees—seemingly masses (cf. Assad 1994)—became the main reference point for political discussion on migration in general. Combined with a feignedly cultural argument—“these are none of us”—political debate became a fundamental issue (cf. Brumann 1999). 

Alfred Schütz’s concept of knowledge helps to understand social work’s dilemma. Knowledge, here, is the steady and dynamic product of one’s own experience and socially mediated experiences of others—shared and rendered meaningful through communication (Schütz 1946; Berger, Luckmann 1969; Knoblauch 2010). Involved professionals obviously lacked sufficient opportunity to create satisfying and substantial knowledge on refugees and their country of origin. Political knowledge, constructed in Switzerland’s debate on Eritrea, relied on views from outside and from above, based on figures and strategic interests, alien physiognomies, as well as everyday perceptions of culture and cultural boundaries (cf. Harrison 1999). It essentially aimed at maximum control and election results, not at mutual understanding and respect. Social work’s professional perspective, in contrast, looks at individual and social practices—it is much more empiric and follows other interests: the “other” is one’s client (Grießmeier 2015; Domes 2015). However, professional empathy by itself did not enable dialogue and understanding. Remarkably, many Eritrean refugees seemed to refuse communication, explicitly or implicitly. But why? Weren’t the professional social workers and volunteers on their side and, so to speak, the good guys? To address this issue, we will leave Europe and look into the situation and process of migration from Eritrea itself, which will be discussed in the next section.

Migration’s Informality

Eritreans who illegally crossed borders to Ethiopia or Sudan faced an ambivalent encounter with the outside world—represented by national and international refugee administration offices and agencies. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) grants protection and assigns the status of an international refugee on broad rules following clear-cut guidelines. Eritrean refugees, who risked freedom, health, and perhaps life by leaving the country illegally, understood this institutional advocacy represented a strong moral legitimation and international acknowledgment of their plight. 

However, the UNHCR’s high moral stand was not followed in practice. No immediate visa to the Western world was issued; no compensation for life in Eritrea was given. Instead, Eritrean deserters became refugees. From active run-aways they became administrative cases in the extensive bureaucratic process of the organization, which is characterized by paternalism and lack of transparency. In practice, the refugees are rendered passive, practically excluded from social life and stowed away (Treiber 2013a; Müller 2015; Hepner 2009; cf. Inhetveen 2006). 

The Western world suffers from what appears an inherent dilemma: the rule of law and human rights are propagated, but not universally granted. Currently, politicians and media in Europe speak of a “refugee crisis,” a “wave” of refugees, a “catastrophe”—wordings that do not address what refugees might have gone through, but rather their massive influx into European territory. Europe’s policy towards refugees and migrants is indeed two-faced. This contradiction inevitably shapes and conditions Eritrean refugees’ individual situations, their personal migration projects and thus, their knowledge construction and practice during migration itself. 

Feeling marginalized and excluded from more privileged forms of migration, Eritrean refugees often overdo their stories in interviews by the UNHCR or immigration authorities. Few of my informants felt self-confident enough to stick to their own experiences.[18] These five stories illustrate my point: Biniam insisted he belonged to an Orthodox youth group in Asmara that rebelled against the deposition of the patriarch Abune Antonios in 2007. The religious youth rebellion was silenced—but Biniam had never been part of it. Zeberga narrated what a friend of his experienced during his stay in prison as his own story. Yohannes claimed to have co-organized the Asmara students’ protests in 2001. In fact, he has seen neither Asmara University nor an Eritrean prison from inside. Kiflu claimed he feared persecution from Eritrean security agents in Khartoum, but he had no credible stories to support it, and Selamawit relied from the beginning on a faked marriage in Sweden in order to avoid formal procedures as a refugee at all (Treiber 2013b, 2016a). 

Although applicants in the formal immigration processes had not been directly involved in the stories they told, the reported repression nevertheless happened to others. Obliged to sit and wait, being formally rendered inactive, it seemed worthwhile to attempt to push one’s case and speed up one’s process by implying a heightened risk (cf. Turner 2004a/b, Honwana 2012). From a privileged perspective, this was rather unnecessary; “I deserted Eritrea’s national service” would have been a sufficient statement. Story fragments from various sources inside the refugee milieu, however, provided new—and more striking—individual narrations of life in Eritrea and respective reasons to flee. The best story is the most efficient one: the story that fits best into anticipated administrative categories and leads towards the visible success of formal onward migration and resettlement. Refugees find themselves thrown into rivalry and competition, whereas official categories and formal administrative procedures remain widely opaque and hard to apprehend. In such a situation, there is no base for strategic planning, which needs cool and analytical reflection. Here, people act under stress and duress. Their reference knowledge is not the UNHCR’s resettlement handbook,[19] but the communication of rumors and experiences within the broader refugee milieu (cf. Horst 2006, 161–200; Özkan and Hüther 2012). However, can these be trusted, when refugees have become competitors for their own individual onward migration? Such knowledge is necessarily vague and unreliable, most often it cannot be properly evaluated. Prototypical elements of knowledge construction in the refugee camp refer back to Eritrea itself (Bozzini 2011). While mistrust inherently characterizes social bonds and relationships, conspiracy has become a valid social explanation of the world, a meta-theory that explicitly explains the lack of insight and uneven distribution of power and resources. Eritrean leaders blame the CIA and CNN for launching mass media campaigns aimed at encouraging Eritrean youth to migrate en masse. On the other hand, during my own fieldwork in Ethiopia and Sudan I have come to notice that some Eritrean refugees suspected the UNHCR to be a barely disguised CIA institution. 

Practice under such circumstances is not restricted to cheating in a UNHCR interview. It includes concealment of information, mistrust towards co-migrants, refused solidarity within the social milieu, evasion from and avoidance of formal institutions and administrative rules and procedures, attempted manipulation of staff, and finally, the willingness to pay for forged documents and illegal cross-border transportation—or even to get personally involved in the overall illegal migration business (cf. Horst 2006, 161–200). In my previous work, I have labeled these illegal acts as “informal practice” of illegality among refugees in their transition from fleeing Eritrea to reaching a supposedly better world (Treiber 2016a). In this context, informality opens up ways into hard criminality and individual criminal careers, but certainly also towards broad social fragmentation. In migration from Eritrea, informality has developed into a cultural trait that links up with political history in Eritrea, but also with the hierarchical segregation of our world—and its inherent contradictions. Migration becomes a school that does not prepare for a life after arrival. What Eritreans experience and learn during migration beyond their home countries—in Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, or Israel—leads to mutual misunderstanding and fragmentary, if not refused, communication in the new host countries, on both sides. How, for example, can social workers and civil servants expect trust and cooperation from clients and applicants—if the applicants lack a safe status (Griessmeier 2015; Özkan and Hüther 2012)? After all, Eritreans—as well as most other refugee groups—had enough time and opportunity during their years-long, and always uncertain, migrations to mistrust all kinds of formal institutions.

Uneasy Communication

As the Swiss example has shown, migration’s encounters may create mistrust and even fear on both sides. Feeling safe and secure depends on one’s ability to read and interpret the surrounding social world—in personal experiences and social learning processes (“shared reasoning,” Hervik 1994). This is certainly true for the relation between citizens and new-arriving refugees and migrants. After all, Switzerland’s political debate on Eritrea emerged from domestic politics and its ongoing discourse on immigration. It resulted from recent refugee figures and the ranking of their countries of origin. Different numbers would have highlighted another country, maybe Syria or Afghanistan. On the other hand, migration from one of the poorest countries on Earth to one of the wealthiest is certainly not an accident, but shows the phenomenon’s global dimension. For a long time, Eritrea was a forgotten place in the periphery, irrelevant to world politics. Now it has become one of the world’s most prominent refugee-producing countries and made it back into European politics, media, and public opinion. The country, however, has never been simply an isolated island at the margins, but always also the product of an asymmetrically interconnected and brutally neoliberal world (Hepner and O’Kane 2009; Quehl 2013; Poole 2013; Woldemikael 2013)—which drastically renders refugees into desperate competitors and to appear as “severely damaged” social beings. The need for communication and mutual exchange across today’s world will continue to be a pressing issue, even long after Switzerland’s 2015 elections.


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  1. Drobinski, Matthias. 2015. Flüchtlingskrise - Eine Woche, die Europa verändern wird. Süddeutsche, August 28. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/fluechtlingskrise-eine-woche-die-europa-veraendern-wird-1.2625525.
  2. Pop, Valentina. 2016. End of Schengen Would Destroy Euro, Warns EU’s Juncker. The Wall Street Journal, January 15. http://www.wsj.com/articles/end-of-schengen-would-destroy-euro-warns-eus-juncker-1452870027.
  3. The term “refugee” is used here as it is a formal and legal term, which refers more or less explicitly to 1951’s Geneva Convention—the base for UNHCR’s mission and work. In other contexts, I prefer the term “migrant,” which is more general.
  4. Europe’s Schengen agreement dates back to 1985 and initiated freedom of travel as well as cooperation in security matters across borders. See The Schengen acquis. June 14, 1985, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:42000A0922%2801%29. The Dublin agreements assign asylum cases to the respective entry states. See Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council. June 26, 2013, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013R0604&rid=1.
  5. Meier, Peter. 2015. Berns geheimer Eritrea-Bericht. Tagesanzeiger, September 8. http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/berns-geheimer-eritreabericht/story/23369985; Wasik, Roman. 2015. ZüriSerie—Brennpunkt Eritrea. TeleZüri, parts 1-4, October 31. http://www.telezueri.ch/104-show-zueriserie/6977-episode-brennpunkt-eritrea/14484-segment-brennpunkt-eritrea-teil-1#brennpunkt-eritrea-teil-4; Staatssekretariat für Migration. 2016. Asylstatistik 2015. Bern: SEM, January 06. https://www.sem.admin.ch/dam/data/sem/publiservice/statistik/asylstatistik/2015/stat-jahr-2015-kommentar-d.pdf.
  6. Tagesanzeiger. 2014. FDP will Eritreer zurücksenden. Tagesanzeiger, October 26. http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/FDP-will-Eritreer-zuruecksenden/story/24302969; Tagesanzeiger. 2015. Dicke Post für Simonetta Sommaruga aus Luzern. Tagesanzeiger, August 05. http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/schweiz-soll-eritreer-nicht-mehr-als-fluechtlinge-anerkennen/story/27373517.
  7. Geiger, Urs. 2015. Parliament shifts to the Right. Swissinfo, October 19. http://www.swissinfo.ch/directdemocracy/political-right-eyes-gains-in-sunday-polls/41714084.
  8. Tagesanzeiger. 2016. Politiker streiten um Eritrea-Reise Tagesanzeiger, February 07. http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/Politiker-streiten-um-EritreaReise/story/29358138.
  9. See Locher’s own website: www.honorarkonsul-eritrea.ch/zur-person/.
  10. European Asylum Support Office. 2015. Country of Origin Information Report. Eritrea Country Focus. Luxembourg: EASO, May. https://www.sem.admin.ch/dam/data/sem/internationales/herkunftslaender/afrika/eri/ERI-ber-easo-e.pdf.
  11. The 2014 Danish COI Report relies on narrow and biased sources and ideologically prepares deportation to Eritrea. See Eritrea. Drivers and Root Causes of Emigration, National Service and the Possibility of Return Country of Origin Information for Use in the Asylum Determination Process (Copenhagen: Danish Immigration Service, November 2014), https://www.nyidanmark.dk/NR/rdonlyres/B28905F5-5C3F-409B-8A22-0DF0DACBDAEF/0/EritreareportEndeligversion.pdf; for discussion see “Denmark: Eritrea Immigration Report Deeply Flawed. European Governments Should Rely on UN Reports, Support UN Inquiry,” Human Rights Watch, December 17, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/17/denmark-eritrea-immigration-report-deeply-flawed.
  12. Arb, Urs. 2015. Sondierungsreise nach Eritrea. 20.01.-24.01.2015. Bern: Staatssekretariat für Migration SEM, February 09. files.newsnetz.ch/upload//8/1/81022.pdf.
  13. EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative. 2014. Declaration of the Ministerial Conference of the Khartoum Process. Rome: EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative, November 28. http://italia2014.eu/media/3785/declaration-of-the-ministerial-conference-of-the-khartoum-process.pdf. In addition, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development showed up in Eritrea in December 2015; the ministry’s press release inevitably stressed that human rights issues were discussed with President Isaias Afewerki. See “Die Zukunft Eritreas liegt im eigenen Land. Bundesminister Müller beendet Reise nach Eritrea,” German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), December 15, 2015, http://www.bmz.de/20151215-1; also “Statement von Außenminister Steinmeier bei der Konferenz zum Khartum-Prozess,” German Federal Foreign Office, November 28, 2014, http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/Infoservice/Presse/Reden/2014/141128_BM_Rom.html.
  14. Delegation of the European Union to the State of Eritrea. 2016. Eritrea and EU sign landmark agreement on future development cooperation, promoting renewable energy and sound governance. European Union External Action, January 29. http://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/eritrea/press_corner/all_news/news/2016/20160129_en.htm.
  15. n-tv.de. 2016. Kooperation mit Sudan und Eritrea. Deutschland plant brisantes Grenzprojekt. n-tv.de, May 14. http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Deutschland-plant-brisantes-Grenzprojekt-article17696351.html; GIZ stands for “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit” and is a private company, owned by the Federal Republic of Germany.
  16. Staatssekretariat für Migration. 2016. Asylstatistik 2015. Bern: SEM, January 06. https://www.sem.admin.ch/dam/data/sem/publiservice/statistik/asylstatistik/2015/stat-jahr-2015-kommentar-d.pdf. Since June 2016, Swiss immigration authority SEM ceased to generally grant asylum due to illegal emigration from Eritrea. In January 2017, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court confirmed this decision. See Bundesverwaltungsgericht. 2017. Urteil vom 30.January 2017. D-7898/2015. St. Gallen: Bundesverwaltungsgericht. January 30. http://www.bvger.ch/recht/00783/00792/00793/index.html?lang=en and Schweizerische Flüchtlingshilfe. 2017. Fahrlässiges Urteil wider besseres Wissen. SFH zum Urteil des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts (BVGer) vom 30. Januar betreffend Illegale Ausreise aus Eritrea. Bern: Schweizerische Flüchtlingshilfe Medienmitteilung. February https://www.03.luechtlingshilfe.ch/assets/medien/2017/170203-bvger-urteil-eritrea-2017-dt.pdf.
  17. Ethnographic fieldwork has mainly been done in in Khartoum, Sudan and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2009–2012) within the research project “Dynamic Worlds of Imagination—Learning Processes, Knowledge, and Communication among Young Urban Migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia” (together with Kurt Beck and Délia Nicoué, Bayreuth University, Bavarian Research Network ‘Migration and Knowledge’ ForMig, 2009–2013), following earlier research in Asmara (2001–2005), Shimelba Refugee Camp (2007), Washington DC and Minneapolis, Cairo and Jerusalem (2007–2009).
  18. UNHCR. 2014. UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters. Geneva: UNHCR, November 04. https://www.unhcr.org/46f7c0ee2.pdf.
  19. Other case stories from these workshops indicated religious radicalization and social seclusion—less among Muslims, more among Orthodox and Evangelical Christians (cf. Treiber 2016b).


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