The Eritreans Fleeing to Ethiopia
Despite almost two decades long border dispute between the two countries, Eritreans who travel through the region’s hills, trying to keep out of sight of their own military, to escape into Ethiopia.
BADME, on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia – The disputed border town of Badme is where war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. It lasted for two years and devastated both countries. In 2002, a Hague boundary commission ruled that Badme was part of Eritrea. It was a ruling that both countries initially accepted. But Ethiopian troops continue to occupy the town.
Nowadays an uneasy standoff exists between the two country’s armies along the still-contested border a few kilometers north of Badme, at the tip of Ethiopia’s Yirga Triangle, which juts into Eritrea.
But now there are others moving along the border: Eritreans who travel through the region’s hills, trying to keep out of sight of their own military, to escape into Ethiopia.
“After crossing at night we tried to sleep but could hear the hyenas around us,” said 22-year-old mother-of-two Yordanos. “We started shouting and then Ethiopian soldiers came for us.”
Once picked up by the Ethiopian army, Eritrean refugees are deposited at Badme’s so-called “entry point”, a compound of simple buildings that marks the start of their journey to gain asylum in Ethiopia.
With Yordanos is another mother-of-two, as well as 15 boys and young men aged between 16 and 20 who crossed to avoid enforced and indefinite military service.
“After receiving a letter to join up I hid for five months in the rural areas,” said one 18-year-old. “But then I heard the government was looking for me, so I crossed.”