The Eritrean Refugee Crisis by Adam Foster

by PriyankaK
Oct 06

This summer, I have had the pleasure of working alongside three other Tufts students for Vanessa Tsehaye and the One Day Seyoum team, a youth-led organization campaigning to end human rights abuses committed against the Eritrean people by the Eritrean Government and supporting the Eritrean diaspora. My principle role this summer was running the Lobbying and Strategy team for the Evacuate Refugees from Libya Campaign and the Free Ciham Ali-Abdu Campaign, as well as assisting with research.

Each campaign in of itself has opened my eyes to the problems inherent in the international system and how the world of human rights organizations and NGOs work in order to fix it. Ciham’s story of imprisonment in particular resonated with me, having been trapped by the Eritrean government through no fault of her own for almost a decade. Libya was also fascinating as it is constantly changing as new reports from human rights organizations are revealing financial complicity and as the EU publishes new plans for reallocations of refugees, which are further complicated by COVID-19 and emergency powers of national governments.

One Day Seyoum has three separate focuses: advocacy and campaigns to raise awareness, providing assistance to refugees through the refugee clinic, and the One Day Seyoum Media Channel, all of which work together to champion human rights and educate. I was initially drawn to One Day Seyoum because I had never heard of the atrocities in Libya that refugees were facing nor of the human rights abuse in Eritrea, a subject that prior to this experience I had little to no knowledge of. Over time, however, I have recognized the peril that Eritreans and other refugees have to bear in North Africa is a result of the unstable political climate.

I am thrilled to work on a campaign that will have a direct impact on refugees’ lives and has the possibility to free an American citizen. Over the course of this internship, the most valuable and interesting aspects have been the connections I have made through advocacy and lobbying. My letter writing on behalf of the organization have been my favorite experience thus far, addressed to esteemed leaders and members of the community including, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commissioner of Migration and Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, and Oprah Winfrey. On top of this, for our Libya campaign, I was able to meet with experts from Amnesty International to discuss their reports and have them give advice on our campaign and how to best reach officials in the EU. Their advice, along with Vanessa’s, has been invaluable and will guide my career for many years to come.

I am so grateful to Vanessa and all the team at One Day Seyoum for providing me with the opportunity to do meaningful work in an area that I love. I will continue to stay on with them in the fall in a volunteer capacity on top of my Tufts school work and look forward to launching many more campaigns that will help refugees and those across the world neglected or forgotten.