Searching for a better life, many eritrean migrants get tattooed to help them on their journey into the unknown.
You would not be only one who has never heard of Eritrea. The small country is in the Horn of Africa and bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti; and is a nation that keeps to itself, therefore, westerners do not travel there. However the country has played apart in the recent events of migrants travelling to Europe and gained some wider attention because of it.
The Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) are the ruling government party and the only one. No other political organization is allowed to exist and president Isaias Afwerki has been in power since 1993, unopposed the entire time. Back in April Eritrea was named the most censored country in the world and its military and media are arms of the government. With such a controlled society it is no surprise many flee the country in hopes for a better life elsewhere.
Of the Eritrean migrants the vast majority are males who are fleeing forced military service. Officially national service in Eritrea lasts 18 months but many are forced to continue serving for a number of years. Photographer Ricci Shryock encountered a number of Eritrean migrants in Milan, Italy and noticed something they all had; tattoos!!
The Eritrean migrants tattoos are very simple but very evoking. They are a good luck charm for their travels and reminders of what they left. They carry them forward and give them a connection to the home which they have been forced to flee.
Forced to leave a country where democracy is virtually non-existent these Eritrean migrants traveled across the globe not knowing where they were going or what they would do when they got here. All they have is the clothes they wear and the ink under their skin.