The war in Ethiopia increases the danger for Eritrean refugees there. Pro Asyl calls for an end to the German “inhumane visa practice”.
BERLIN taz | “Visa instead of boats. Life instead of death ”is written on a poster that Eritrean refugees hold up in front of the Foreign Office. For two days and two cold nights, around 40 Eritrean refugees hold a permanent vigil in front of the Federal Foreign Office in the middle of the corona pandemic. They demand the entry of their relatives.
Mostly it is men who made it to Germany, were granted asylum here and then applied for family reunification. Their wives and children remain in neighboring countries in Africa, mostly in Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.
You do have a legal right to family reunification, but the German diplomatic missions abroad keep putting it off. You have to wait a year for an appointment to apply for family reunification. Then there are always bureaucratic hurdles. Most of the time, the German diplomats are not satisfied with the documents proving the family ties that Eritreans have. This is due to the fact that in Eritrea marriages and births are usually only officially certified and, according to the Federal Government’s response to a request from the left, German diplomats are not qualified to check these church documents for authenticity.
The situation is exacerbated by the civil war in Eritrea’s neighboring country, Ethiopia. Because for the vast majority of Eritrean women and children, the civil war province of Tigray, which borders on Eritrea, is a place of refuge. They are now particularly at risk, and that is why their men are putting pressure on the Foreign Office.
Conscripts as cannon fodder
Martina Mauer from the Berlin Refugee Council reports from MK, an affected person from Burscheid in North Rhine-Westphalia, who cannot attend the vigil for health reasons: “He has lived here since 2017 and received asylum three months after entering the country. While he was waiting for his wife and daughters to join them at the age of six and twelve, his wife fell ill and died in 2019. “Since then, the daughters have lived alone in the refugee camp in Tigray.
“Occasionally an uncle comes to camp. At the moment, Mr. MK cannot call his daughters because there is no connection. ”According to Martina Mauer, after several worried weeks, a telephone contact with another camp resident who had to walk into the mountains to have a telephone network would finally have been established. “The man was able to find out that his daughters are still living in the camp and are unharmed.” The date for the family reunification was actually October 2020, said Mauer. But that did not take place because of Corona.
The organization Pro Asyl and the national refugee councils support the demands of the Eritreans. “We call for the inhumane visa practice in the German diplomatic missions to be changed immediately and to ensure that the relatives of Eritrean refugees waiting for family reunification can enter the country quickly,” said a statement. “To do this, the procedures have to be made less bureaucratic and accelerated, and alternative evidence of identity and family ties must be recognized. This is particularly true, but not only for the people affected by the civil war in Ethiopia. “
In the meantime, the federal government replied to a question from MP Ulla Jelpke (Left) that it did not want to change the requirements for family reunification from Eritrea.
Around 40,000 Eritrean citizens live in Germany. Around 1,100 of them have come together in the “Eritrea family reunification” initiative. But many others are also concerned about their parents and siblings, for whom there is no right to family reunification, because of the Ethiopian civil war. The dictatorship in Eritrea supports the Ethiopian central government against the independence movements of the Tigray province.
Eritrean Berliners like Freweney Habtemariam from the Berlin-based association Eridac e. V. report that Eritrean conscripts had to support the Ethiopian central government as cannon fodder when they marched into the province of Tigray and that Eritrean refugees from Tigray were kidnapped back to Eritrea. That is not confirmed. However, several cannon impacts in Eritrea have been confirmed.