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An Eritrean refugee told Human Rights Watch he fled in 2015 after 18 years of service because there was no end in sight.

Another said he fled after 10 years because “my family couldn’t survive.” A third said he fled after serving for 12 years because “I couldn’t see any future for my children.” When Eritrea was discussing a large grant from the European Union in 2015, senior Eritrean officials told diplomats and foreign visitors that the 18-month limit would be applied to new conscripts, though not to those already serving far longer.

His finance minister said pay for conscripts working in the civil service would almost triple; he made no mention of increases for others.

At time of writing, there is no evidence that pay had increased for most conscripts.

There is no redress mechanism for conscripts facing sexual and other abuses. On April 3, new conscripts trying to escape from a convoy in Asmara were shot at by guards, killing several.

Conscript pay is insufficient to support the conscript, let alone a family.

Eritreans are one of the largest groups crossing the Mediterranean.

After 25 years of rule by unelected President Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea’s citizens remain subjects of one of the world’s most oppressive governments.

Fifty-four Witnesses, arrested in 2014 for “unlawful assembly,” admitted guilt in March 2016 and were released with a fine of 500 nakfa (US); a lone holdout was sentenced to six months and fined 7,000 nakfa (0).

President Isaias rules without institutional restraint. No national elections have been held since self-rule in 1991. The judiciary is subject to executive control and interference.

A constitution adopted in 1997 remains unimplemented.

In February, the government abandoned that proposal.

Instead, President Isaias announced that conscript pay would be raised.