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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eritrea: Root Causes of the Refugee Crisis

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 - 2:30pm
2255 Rayburn House Office Building


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) for a hearing on human rights in Eritrea.

Migrants from the small east African nation of Eritrea make-up a disproportionate number of those included in the global refugee crisis. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that roughly eight percent of the population, or 525,000 Eritreans globally, were refugees or asylum seekers at the end of 2016. Many of these asylum seekers are exploited by smugglers, and traffickers, or find themselves in Libyan slave markets enduring detention, torture, and forced labor. Some, after gaining their freedom, expressed they would rather endure the experience of slavery over again than to be sent back to their native country. What are the human rights conditions in Eritrea that are causing so many people to leave their homes at the risk of slavery, trafficking, and death?

President Isais Afwerki has ruled Eritrea since 1993 by crushing civil society groups, religious communities, journalists, and opposition political parties. Jehovah’s Witnesses were stripped of their citizenship in 1993 and are not allowed to exercise basic rights. Military conscription is mandatory and indefinite beginning at the age of 18, amounting to a form of state-sanctioned slavery. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry in 2016 stated that the Eritrean government’s actions amount to crimes against humanity.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended Eritrea be designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) since 2004, and the United States has implemented strict sanctions against the country since 2002. What more can Congress do to support the universal rights of the Eritrean people?

The hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. The hearing will be livestreamed via the Commission website, and will also be available for viewing on the House Digital Channel service. For any questions, please contact Jamie Staley (for Mr. Hultgren) at 202-226-1516 or or Kimberly Stanton (for Mr. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or

Hosted by:

Randy Hultgren, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC

Opening Remarks


Panel I

  • Jana Mason, Senior Advisor, External Relations & Government Affairs, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
    Written testimony

Panel II

  • Father Thomas Reese, Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
    Written testimony

Panel III


Submitted for the Record




115th Congress