This article is a reflection on Mr. Ibrahim Haj’s recent interview on VoE & articles on various websites. Mr. Beshir Nur, 1st secretary & Consul General also conducted an interview on VoE regarding the same subject “situation of Eritrean migrants in Australia”. While I admire both men as persons and brothers, I can’t hide my repeated disappointment in Ibrahim’s style and responses. From my observation, Mr. Beshir has been more reasonable in his responses, leaving aside the typical spin that you’d expect from any official representative of any side be it opposition or government.


Did you know that the DEVIL is still marching on & that we should follow the Devil?

Did you know that WOMEN are to blame for the existence of useless & lousy politicians?

Did you know that if you say, “it is raining in Keren” you will be considered a “spy”?

If you did not know then you must have missed the, if not informative, at least semi provocative series of articles posted recently by Melbourne’s own expert on Eritrean migrants in Australia. Oh, don’t tell me you missed the Internet radio interview too? You’ll find it posted with a bold plug-in, “A very important interview about the conditions of Eritrean migrants in Australia” and of course a nice smiley picture of … 

THE EXPERT – On number of Eritrean migrants in Australia (& New Zealand)

If you invite an expert to provide information on a subject you’d expect not only data that is reasonably accurate and based on some scientific study, but extra information too. In the absence of scientific data, then the expert should elaborate on how s/he came up with the information, but we are left to figure it out ourselves. Mr. Ibrahim says that there are 3000 Eritreans in Australia (Mr. Beshir puts the figures at 7000 in both countries). But thanks to the advanced information world let us see how the expert may have got the figure.

To this day, there is unfortunately no accurate figure on the number of Eritrean migrants in Australia. Two possible sources could be the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2001 Census & the 1997 Population Census by the Eritrean government first published by as a leaked document. Some may doubt the authenticity of the database at Awate; however in this article I will be referring to that database since it is the only one available and the GoE have not provided any alternative data. People should also go to the ABS website and interpret the info as they wish, but please allow me to briefly share my thought on both sources. I will not talk about New Zealand in this article, but “Statistics New Zealand” website puts the number of Eritreans in that country at 78.

* The 2001 Australian Census, with all its complex detail, has some problems. One critical part of the census form was the question of ancestry, introduced first in the 1986 Australian population census. A follow up evaluation highlighted shortcomings and it was not used in the 1991 or 1996 censuses, after being refined it was re-introduced in the form in 2001 census.

It is common knowledge that many Eritreans have migrated to Australia as Ethiopians, Sudanese, Somalians, Yemenis and some even as Egyptians, but many also have been born in those countries. The non-response rate for the ancestry question in 2001 for migrants from the Horn of Africa region was reasonably high. Many have answered the question of country of birth but left the ancestry question blank. We can safely say that there are more Eritreans born in Sudan or Ethiopia than there are Ethiopians or Sudanese born in Eritrea, thus some of those who left the ancestry question could very likely be Eritreans.

Having volunteered in several Census collection duties as an interpreter and assisting people from non English speaking backgrounds, I have encountered many Eritreans, and Africans for that matter, who were not comfortable answering questions of ancestry and nationality. This could be as a result of the political circumstances they have faced prior to their arrival to Australia, it is therefore very important that African and Eritrean social workers and leaders educate their members about the importance of the census, accuracy of information and the confidentiality. Latest estimate, as far as I know, puts the number people with Eritrean ancestry in Australia at 2029. You tell this to most of Eritreans in Melbourne and they will tell you, “NO WAY”. The other source is …
* The 1997 Eritrean Population Census, on the other hand states that in 1997 there were an estimated 4000 Eritreans in Australia. You tell any Eritrean in Melbourne this and they will say, “THAT SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT”. You can still disagree with that too since we don’t have enough information on how the survey was conducted and what statistical methods were used, but I think it is likely that the Eritrean government has the details of the number of those who have acquired the Eritrean ID, thus the figures sounds more right than that of the Australian Census.

It is up to the reader to choose 2029, 3000, 7000 or 4000. But generally you would think the numbers to go up not down since 1997 or 2001. Having said that, I can’t help but ask if the purpose of the interview with the expert was intended for what it claimed to be, providing information about “the condition of Eritrean migrants in Australia”, we would have expected some detailed and educational information, but instead we had a discussion about what happens if you say that “it is raining in Keren”.

The next Australian Census will be conducted in 2006, may be our expert can assist in a few census information classes for the Eritrean community prior to the date.

What does this has to do with the Price of fish you ask … or the Devil that marches on and the women who are to blame for lousy politicians? Actually, I am talking about all that in the next part … to be continued … J

Peace & love

Ahmed A. Abdelrehim

Melbourne, Australia

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Posted by on Jul 25 2005 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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