By Bereket Kidane,
With the international soccer stars coming back to their ancestral land to play for the Red Sea Camels, we may have just witnessed the beginning of reverse migration that we are sure going to see more of in the future. But don’t tell that to Mike Smith or Sheila Keetharuth. They will have you believe that the Government of Eritrea’s hands are long, and can reach the diaspora in Europe, North America, Middle East, Australia or wherever they may be.
Well, that’s partly true. I’m sure those players were asked by the Government of Eritrea or the Ministry of Sports rather but they could have said NO! Instead, they voluntarily honored the Government of Eritea’s request. But if Mike Smith and Sheila Keetharuth have it their way, they will tell you that they have information from “anonymous sources” that the families of those soccer players were threatened with reprisals if their sons didn’t play for the national team. If you fall off your chair laughing at this point, well that’s how ridiculous their report is. They make a mockery of human rights.
We have always known that Eritrean youth in the diaspora have never stopped seeing Eritrea as their true home. We see the excitement in their faces when they return for the summer holidays, the Sawa Youth Festival and the Zura Hagerka Summer Camps. I have no doubt that Eritrea will be a country that experiences reverse migration. I have no doubt about that. These short-term obstacles put in Eritrea’s way (and they are all short-term in nature) have been met with defeat. The tide is about to turn. The time will come when some of the diaspora will return voluntarily and see Eritrea as their future home.
We have all seen firsthand how diaspora Eritreans born and raised in the West react when they visit Eritrea. Eritrea not only meets but exceeds their expectation! I have said this before, and I will say it again: I am absolutely convinced from the conversations I have had with diaspora youths during my summer vacations there, particularly Euro-Eritreans and young Eritreans from the Middle East, that they have bonded with the Eritrean State in a more visceral way. They don’t just see Eritrea as a place to run to when they get in trouble but as part of who they are and a center of their identity. To that end, many parents who are raising kids in the West are to be commended for continuing to find ways to make Eritrea relevant to their kids’ lives.
The reverse migration will be gradual and will be led by economic opportunity. As the economy improves, the attractiveness of Eritrea and the patriotic nature of Eritreans will be the dominant factor in our consciousness. There are many parents in the West who wish to live in an Eritrean society in which they can feel that their children would grow up as Eritreans and remain in the Eritrean fold. That era will come sooner than we think as Eritrea has defeated all attempts on its young life and is entering a stage of young adulthood. Economic opportunities abound in Eritrea from tourism to mining to fisheries and port facilities. You name it. Education will be the driver. The industrious nature of the Eritrean people will lead the way.