MIGRATIONEritrea Stoking Conflicts Between Its Migrants Abroad

By Mimi Mefo Takambou

Published 18 September 2023

The repressive regime of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has forced many Eritreans to seek refuge abroad. Some commentators believe Afwerki is stoking conflict between Eritrean migrants and their host nations.

Authorities in several countries are facing a moral, legal and diplomatic conundrum over migrants from Eritrea

Clashes between Eritreans broke out on Saturday in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart ahead of a cultural festival organized by supporters of the Eritrean government. 

Police deployed 300 officers to stop fighting between supporters and opponents of the East African country’s government. Six officers were hospitalized, while 228 Eritreans were arrested.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser led condemnations from politicians, saying that “foreign conflicts must not be carried out in our country.” 

Earlier in September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the deportation of Eritrean migrants who were involved in fighting in south Tel Aviv.

The clashes between rival groups of Eritreans left dozens of people injured, including several police officers.

Political Divisions Spread to the Diaspora
On the same day, Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen, witnessed clashes between supporters and opponents of the Eritrean government during a rally marking the country’s independence day. 

Meanwhile, authorities in the western German city of Giessen, which is not far from Frankfurt, are considering measures to prevent future clashes after at least 26 police officers were injured during riots at an Eritrean festival in July.

In early August, Swedish media reported that about 1,000 protesters stormed an Eritrean festival in Stockholm, setting booths and cars on fire and using rocks and sticks as weapons. The violence left at least 52 people injured and led to 100 people being detained.

The ‘Distant’ Catalyst
According to Nicole Hirt, a researcher at the GIGA Institute for African Affairs in Hamburg, the Eritrean independence day festival has a long and peaceful tradition in Germany going back decades but has morphed significantly in recent years.

We are in a moral conflict here. On the one hand, the festival has always been a propaganda tool for the regime in Eritrea, but on the other hand, we have freedom of assembly in Germany,” Hirt told DW.

While these governments are striving to resolve this dilemma, the Eritrean regime of Isaias Afwerki is allegedly stoking the flames from a distance.

Dr. Selam Kidane, a psychology lecturer at the School of Human and Social Sciences at West London University, expressed unease at the unfortunate events. She pointed to the Afwerki regime as the source of the problem.

The organizer of these events is the system that controls power in Eritrea,” Kidane told DW. “This system is doing many things out of law.”