Since peace dawned in July, Eritrean refugees have flooded into Ethiopia. But the weight of new arrivals has left the region struggling to cope, raising fears the border could close again
Abraham and Binyam* had failed to escape before. The two Eritrean men, both in their early 20s and from the small town of Adi Keyh, are draft dodgers. Like hundreds of thousands of their compatriots over the past decade, they longed to cross the border into neighbouring Ethiopia to avoid a life of indefinite national service. Abraham attempted it in 2016, Binyam in February last year.
Both were arrested and imprisoned. Abraham was incarcerated for five months, during which he says he was beaten with batons and belts and fed only a few pieces of bread each day. Binyam was detained for a week, during which only one comfort break was allowed each day – out in a field, because the prison had no toilets. Both were then sent to the military, from which they absconded, returning to their hometown and a life in the shadows.