A United Nations commission of inquiry says Eritrea's government is responsible for systematic and widespread human rights violations and keeps its people in a state of fear through a "pervasive control system."

The authoritarian northeast African country is one of the major origins of refugees who have been trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The commission of inquiry was set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council a year ago.

Its report, released Monday in Geneva, said that "information gathered through the pervasive control system is used in absolute arbitrariness to keep the population in a state of permanent anxiety."

It highlighted the plight of people fleeing a "seemingly hopeless situation they feel powerless to change" and said that Eritrean refugees need international protection.