By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
(ADDIS ABABA) – The United States has warned US citizens against travelling to Eritrea, strongly advising that Americans on ships and sailing vessels to not attempt to dock in Eritrean ports, or to travel through Eritrean waters for security reasons.
The State Department advised Americans to defer all non-essential travel to the Horn of Africa nation, citing continued travel restrictions by the authorities of the country.
The latest warning issued this week replaces the travel warning dated September 24, last year, updates information on security incidents, and reminds US citizens of ongoing security concerns in Eritrea.
“The Eritrean government continues to restrict the travel of all foreign nationals. These restrictions require all visitors and residents, including U.S. diplomats, to apply in advance for permission to travel outside the Asmara city limits”, it said.
“Recently, the Eritrean government has started to refuse all new diplomatic travel permit requests; this situation may continue indefinitely. As a result, the U.S. Embassy cannot provide emergency consular assistance outside of Asmara.’’
According to the US state department, a number of Eritrean-U.S. dual citizens have been arrested without apparent cause. Once arrested, detainees may be held for extended periods without being told the purpose of their incarceration. Conditions are harsh – those incarcerated may be held in very small quarters without access to restrooms, bedding, food, or clean water.
“The Eritrean government does not inform the U.S. Embassy when U.S. citizens, including those who are not dual nationals, have been arrested or detained” it added, advising that American citizens choosing to travel to Eritrea should obtain an Eritrean visa before their arrival in Eritrea.
“Persons arriving by marine vessel likely will not be able to obtain an Eritrean visa. Additionally, fuel and provisions are often unavailable in Massawa and other parts of Eritrea and often scarce in Asmara” the statement added.
The statement noted an incident In December 2010, where a British ship attempting to refuel in Massawa was detained by Eritrean authorities, and its crew of four has not been released.
“There are reports of additional vessels with nationals from other countries being detained for up to several months. In nearly all cases, the Eritrean government has neither given a reason for detention, nor granted consular access. The port of Assab is closed to private marine vessels”
It has also warned against travel to near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the Southern Red Sea region, including the port of Assab, as there have been military tensions in these areas.
With the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea remaining still unsettled, there remains the possibility of a return to war between the two nations considering the acute political tensions and large numbers of troops deployed along the disputed common border.
Recently there are reports of clashes between the Eritrean and Ethiopian forces along the border.
The Red Sea nation gained full independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The two neighbors however fought a 1998-2000 border war which claimed the lives of an estimated 70,000 people.