Nationality in Eritrea is governed by the 1997 Constitution, which provides that anybody born of an Eritrean father or mother is granted Eritrean nationality. Statutory law in effect, however, is still the 1992 Eritrean Nationality Proclamation, adopted in anticipation of Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

The question of state secession in relation to nationality is always complex and in the case of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the war between the two in 1998-2000 further exacerbated the situation. During the war, Eritrea received a large number of ethnic Eritreans from Ethiopia who were registered as refugees. Although some have now integrated into Eritrean society, others continue to live as refugees. Ethiopians residing in Eritrea at the time of the war also faced difficulties. Some were denied permission to leave the country through the refusal to grant exit visas and others faced popular harassment. The ICRC and the UN estimate that 71,000 Ethiopians were either deported or repatriated during the war (for more information see Struggles for Citizenship in Africa p.98-105 and The Horn of Africa War: Mass Expulsions and the Nationality Issue).

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern about the low levels of birth registration in Eritrea, especially lack of registration at birth or any later time among minority groups within the country.