Eritrea: The land its citizens want to forget
Dec. 21 2009
"I realise there are political problems everywhere, but in Eritrea it is unique," says Habtu Zere Maram, one of a thickening flow of Eritrean refugees who have crossed the border into Sudan.
"It's like the Middle Ages. Now we are in the 21st Century, how can we live like this? You can't speak, there is no freedom, you cannot say whatever you want to say.
"I dreamt of leaving, because I want to live free. Most of the Eritrean people think the same thing."
Last week, a group of Eritrean footballers absconded in Kenya, where they had gone to play a football tournament.
Eritrea has a population of about 3.5 million, but more than 1,800 refugees, almost all Eritreans, cross the border into eastern Sudan every month, according to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Many of the refugees end up in tents in places like the Shagarab camp, where living conditions are difficult.
But the UNHCR says some refugees - usually political opponents of the Eritrean government - are too scared to live in the camps, as many people fear the Eritrean state has spies there.