Safety and Security
Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war from 1998-2000. United Nations peacekeepers patrolled the border until March 2008, when Government of Eritrea diesel fuel restrictions resulted in the peacekeepers’ withdrawal. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia maintain large military presences along the border and all border crossings into Ethiopia from Eritrea remain closed. U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and to the Southern Red Sea region, including the port of Assab, as there have been military tensions in these areas.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance remain a serious problem throughout the country. There are reports of accidents and incidents where vehicles and people occasionally detonate mines. Many detonations occurred on relatively well-traveled roads in and near the Gash Barka region of western Eritrea; subsequent investigations indicated that several mines were recently laid. In September 2011, press reported that a vehicle in Senafe, 60 miles south of Asmara, ran over a landmine, killing five persons and injuring the 34 others. Vast areas of the country still have not been certified free of mines and unexploded ordnance left over from both the 30-year war for independence and the subsequent 1998-2000 conflict with Ethiopia. U.S. citizens should avoid walking alone and hiking in riverbeds or areas that local government officials have not certified as safe.
Although Eritrea and Sudan have diplomatic relations, the procedures for crossing their common border are variable and subject to change. Overland travel between the two countries is dangerous and ill-advised. Travelers crossing from Eritrea to Sudan north and west of the Keren-Barentu road risk becoming victims of banditry, kidnapping, or insurgent activity. Numerous incidents have been reported since 2008, apparently involving insurgents or criminals in this area. The U.S. Embassy also received reports of sporadic bombings of vehicles and government facilities in the Gash Barka region near Sudan in 2007 and 2008. If travel near the Eritrean-Sudanese border is essential, travelers should consult both the Eritrean authorities and the U.S. Embassy in advance. Foreign travelers who wish to visit any area outside of Asmara must apply at least ten days in advance for a travel permit from the Eritrean government.
U.S. citizens are urged to avoid sailing off the coast of Eritrea. In August 2011, three separate incidents of piracy were reported off the Eritrean coast near the port of Assab. Multiple high-speed skiffs with armed persons onboard continue to attack merchant vessels. If transit around the Horn of Africa is necessary, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, maintain good communications contact at all times, and follow the guidance provided by the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA). U.S. citizens should consult the Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.
U.S. citizens are also urged to avoid remote Eritrean islands, some which have Eritrean military facilities.