Eritrea Becoming a Prison, Says Rights Group

Eritrea is becoming a giant prison thanks to excessive enlistment and the arbitrary arrest of its people, says Human Rights Watch.

HRW reports that Eritreans who are forcibly returned from countries like Libya, Malta and Egypt are often arrested and tortured on their return.

Christians belonging to any non-recognized denomination are routinely arrested. They are often set to forced labor or are locked inside metal shipping containers in the blistering sun.

In its report, HRW says that countries with asylum-seekers from Eritrea should not send them back to their home country.

Currently Eritrea drafts its citizens for national service for an indefinite period of time. Those drafted previously had to serve for only 18 months.

According to HRW, most of Eritrea's population has now been enlisted. The rights group says that the government is using an unresolved border dispute to keep the country in permanent war-readiness.

People under 50 years old are usually prevented from getting visas to leave Eritrea, and those who try to leave unofficially can be imprisoned, tortured or even shot at the border.

All independent media outlets have also been closed down by the government, says HRW.

Eritrea was re-designated as a Country of Particular Concern for religious freedom violations by the U.S. State Department in January.