Refugees from Eritrea: years of waiting and so certain ending

Refugees from Eritrea: years of waiting and so certain ending

1,200 recognized refugees from Eritrea are waiting to bring their families to Germany. They are stuck in Ethiopia, Libya and Sudan.

It is the first demonstration of his life. Yohannes E. traveled especially from a small town near Passau to Berlin. The recognized Eritrean refugee has lived here for six years and has completed training as a bakery salesperson. His family is stuck in Ethiopia and is waiting for family reunification.

Families of recognized refugees have a right to do so, but being right and being right are two different things. To get their rights, more than 1,000 Eritrean refugees from all over Germany went through the government district of Berlin on Monday. For many of them it is the first demonstration of their life. They strictly followed the hygiene rules. The expectations are high.

The flight from the Horn of Africa to Europe via the Sahara, the civil war state of Libya and the Mediterranean is so dangerous that often only the men set off. According to official statistics, well over 80 percent of refugees in Germany from the small country Eritrea are male. Most get asylum because of the catastrophic human rights situation. However, many of them are married.

According to the Eritrean Community from Berlin and the surrounding area, 1,200 refugees are currently waiting to be able to catch up with their families. The women and children persevere in Ethiopia, Sudan or Libya until they are allowed to enter Germany.

“They have been waiting there for years,” explains asylum adviser Daniel Mader. From Eritrea, no one can apply for family reunification. In the neighboring countries, people wait six months for registration with the UNHCR as a refugee and then around a year for an appointment with the German embassy. The federal government confirmed these times at the request of left-wing MPs Ulla Jelpke in May.

“Our family then has to submit documents to the German embassy that we don’t have,” complains one speaker at the demo. In Eritrea, births and marriages are mostly only registered in the church. The Federal Foreign Office, however, requires state authentication of church birth and marriage certificates. About three quarters of the applications for family reunification are rejected by the German embassies after a processing time of six to eight months because the stamp is missing.

However, the Eritrean authorities can only provide this under conditions that the demonstrators described as unreasonable. Because Eritrea, from which as many refugees come to Europe in relation to the population as from no other country , levies a so-called diaspora tax on citizens living abroad. It amounts to two percent of the income after the flight and is payable as soon as you use consular services. In addition, you have to declare in writing that you will regret fleeing Eritrea. Anyone who refuses to pay the dictatorship will not get a stamp. If Eritrean families complain about a rejection of the application for family reunification, the Federal Foreign Office often uses a judicial settlement to accept ecclesiastical documents as evidence of marriage and paternity, according to Caritas’ experience.

In response to the small question from Ulla Jelpke, the Federal Foreign Office argues that the officials in the German diplomatic missions abroad are often not qualified to check whether the various church documents are correct. It takes years for a court to decide. Many of the Eritreans who demonstrated through Berlin on Monday have been waiting for their families since 2014 or 2015. “I miss you – day and night,” says one of the many posters.

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