A view of the 24 hectare complex of the Cara Mineo, a hosting centre for asylum seekers, where about 3,200 migrants from North Africa, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries are staying in Mineo in the the province of Catania in Sicily on April 21, 2015. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands flee Eritrea monthly to avoid endless life in army

There is no war in Eritrea, and little civil unrest. Yet refugees from this small country on the Horn of Africa make up the fourth-largest group — after Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis — crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

The main cause of the exodus is the huge number of young people fleeing indefinite national service. Despite claims by officials that conscription would be limited to 18 months, a report published Wednesday by Amnesty International found that national service continues to be indefinite, sometimes lasting for decades. Conscripts include boys and girls as young as 16 as well as the elderly, and the program often amounts to forced labour.

Full article published in the National Post on 4 December 2015.

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