Community in Exile – Eritrean Networks in Germany

After thirty years of war with its neighboring country Ethiopia, Eritrea is now an independent nation. In 1993 the North East African country was finally able to claim its long sought-after sovereignty, but the social and economic situation and the dominating position of the former liberators complicate any political stability. Among the consequences of the war, there are an additional million refugees. About 30.000 Eritreans living in Germany - they are the largest community of Eritrean exiles in Europe.

The Eritrean exile community is marked by a high degree of solidarity and loyality amongst themselves and towards their home country. Also, their degree of organization is higher than in other refugee communities. The research project explores the community-building processes of Eritrean migrants in Germany and in particular the influence of Eritrean associations and other institutions. The research will throw a light on their role in building a (trans)national network and on the different ways of propagating nationalistic ideologies to stabilize the unity of the group.

At this point, the research project focussed on the scope, strategies and goals of Eritrean self-organization in Germany and the influence of associations on the everyday life and attidudes of exiles.

The research results show that the conditions for community building among the Eritrean migrants have changed; partly because of the developments in their home country, partly because of the growing influence of the "second generation" that has grown up in Germany. The study will now focus on these changes among the exile community. In this context the direct and indirect impact of the migrants' country of origin will be examined.

The project contributes to the research on culture and organisation of African migrants in Germany and to the discussion of flight, diaspora and nationalism.