Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The life awaiting Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia

(Mar 12, 2014, (Haaretz))--Deporting Eritrean refugees in Israel to Ethiopia would condemn them to a life of misery - harrowing insights from a camp in northern Ethiopia. Sixteen kilograms of wheat, a kilogram and a half of lentils, 950 grams of cooking oil, one handful of salt, one handful of sugar.

No, this is not a recipe for a cheap meal. It is the monthly nutritional allowance for an Eritrean family living in a refugee camp in northern Ethiopia. Add to their allotment one bar of soap per month for hygiene and to wash clothes, and two pairs of new underwear for each member of the family every six months. That’s all that they will receive while in the camp.

For these families – nearly 70,000 individuals, according to Ethiopian officials – every day is the same as the day before. There is no opportunity for work. There is no variety. Each meal consists mostly of injera, the spongy, mildly sour flatbread that is a local staple.

There is safety in the camps, yes, but little more than that. People cluster and sit, doing nothing, looking tired and bored. Children in torn clothing wander the dirt paths, picking up stones and sticks to play with and mingling with the free-roaming goats and donkeys. It is possible to survive in these conditions, unless one needs serious medical care, which is beyond reach.

They might live, but for them there is no real life. No freedom of movement. No ability to provide for their families. Living huddled together in tents or mud huts, they are totally dependent on handouts of aid from the government and relief organizations. How can a person live a life over which they have so little control?
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