Friends of Burma welcoming Eritrean to Cranbrook

February 22, 2011

Barry Coulter

The East Kootenay Friends of Burma are welcoming another young man from Eritrea to Cranbrook.

The local group, that sponsors and settles refugees from trouble spots around the world, helped coordinate the arrival of another young man, Amaren Solomon Dawit, to the East Kootenay last year. Adam Salim Idris, in his early 20s, will be the second refugee from Eritrea.

The small country, on the Horn of Africa, has long had a troubled relationship with neighbouring Ethiopia, which has resulted in the curtailment of basic human rights among its citizens.

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a two-year border war from 1998-2000, which was eventually arbitrated in Eritrea’s favour by the United Nations. However, this arbitration was never enforced. The authoritarian government of Eritrea compels its youth to perform military service, which can last for years. Religious freedoms are also heavily curtailed.

There are thousands of Eritreans fleeing the country, either into neighbouring Ethiopia or Sudan, where they can languish in refugee camps for years. Adam himself was living in a camp for a while, before relocating to Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

Kim Eaton and Barb Ryeburn and their family spent two years doing volunteer work in Eritrea, and are aware of the egregious situation. They still have many friends there – Adam is among them.

“He’s a very good friend of ours,” Eaton said. “Soon after we left, he skipped to Sudan, and we’ve been in contact with him ever since. It’s been more than three years.”

Adam arrives at the Cranbrook Airport on Monday, Feb. 28. He will be staying at the Eaton/Ryeburn household while he settles in to his new surroundings.

A good support group is already in place to help welcome Adam. But anyone who’s interested in helping out with donations of clothing or other amenities, or dropping around to say hello, or joining the East Kootenay Friends of Burma, is invited to call 250-426-6559.

Over the past 10 or so years, the EK Friends of Burma have helped settle almost 30 people from strife-ridden countries in the area.

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