Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eritrean tyranny fuels mass exit - Mail & Guardian Online

Eritrean tyranny fuels mass exit - Mail & Guardian Online:

'via Blog this'Draconian military conscription rules in Eritrea mean children as young as 12 can be forced into duty. Dan Connell reports.
Binyam Zaid (22) was an unwilling conscript in the Eritrean army when he was caught trying to flee the country and jailed for 18 months at the Halhal military prison. On May 24 he was released in an amnesty that marked Eritrea’s 21st birthday and sent back to his unit.
Three days later he walked into the bush to relieve himself and never turned back.
Tigiste Beyene (35) was pregnant with her second child when she was sent to a desert prison in northern Eritrea for attending a banned Pentecostal prayer meeting. Upon release she was given 10 months to renounce her faith and pressed to do so by the local Eritrean Orthodox priest who had turned her in and by her family, who had to guarantee the state 50 000 nakfa (R28 000) to get her out. Four months later, she paid a smuggler 30 000 nakfa [R17 000] to take her to Ethiopia.
“The dark side of my life was not the year in prison, but the time I spent at home with my family,” she said as she sat on the dirt floor of her cramped 3m-by-5m mud-brick house. “It was a torment.”
Said Ibrahim (21), orphaned and blind, made a living as a singer in Adi Quala bars when a member of the security police claimed one of his songs had “political” content and detained him at the Adi Abieto prison. After a month he was released but stripped of his monthly disability payments for two years when he declined to identify the lyricist.
“I went back to my village and reflected on it,” he said over tea at an open-air café in the Adi Harush camp, set up in 2010 when the Eritrean refugee camp Mai Aini reached capacity. It is already nearing its limit of 20 000, according to United Nations officials. “If the system could do this to a blind orphan, something was very wrong.”
After appealing to his neighbours for help, two boys, aged 10 and 11, helped him to sneak over the border to Ethiopia and asked for asylum with him.
Tense border
The newcomers join more than 65000 Eritreans in five camps along the tense border, whose disputed location was the spark that set off a fierce fight between the two countries from 1998 to 2000 and remains a source of heightened tension.
Most refugees tell similar stories of run-ins with the authorities in this once promising new nation, which has turned into one of the most efficient tyrannies on the continent over the past decade.
What distinguishes the influx here, as in Sudan on Eritrea’s western flank, is that most are young men who, like Binyam, are trying to break free of Eritrea’s national service, which they describe as a system of state-run indentured servitude that ties them up for 10 years or more, often as low-skilled workers in government departments or state- and party-owned businesses for which they are paid a pittance.
Launched in 1995, the programme initially demanded 18 months of military training and work on national reconstruction. Some grumbled at the time, but most saw this as a legitimate obligation of citizenship after a 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia that had left the territory devastated.
Even now, many escapees say they support the concept, just not the length of service, which has been extended further by requiring secondary school students to take their final year of school at a military base to prevent them from escaping. Students who drop out before that, or who fail to achieve passing grades, can be conscripted as young as 12.
Crisis seizing the country
The huge outflow of draft-age men it has triggered has become a major factor in the crisis seizing the country today. Its intensely secretive leadership shows signs of unravelling for the first time since a brutal crackdown on dissent in 2001 that followed Eritrea’s defeat in the last round of the border war.
Former soldiers say that most Eritrean Defence Force units are now operating at 25% of capacity or lower and the overall strength of the army, often estimated by outsiders at 250 000 to 300 000, may actually be less than 80 000.
Perhaps to compensate, Eritrea’s unelected president – former liberation front commander Isaias Afwerki – has ordered all able-bodied men not in the uniformed military to join village and neighbourhood militias and is issuing AK-47 assault rifles to them. He also ordered a shake-up in the defence force command structure, diminishing the authority of General Filipos Weldeyohannes, his favourite for the past five years, and elevating General Tekali “Manjus” Kiflai. It is  something he does periodically with top generals and political appointees to prevent anyone from accumulating a base of support.
Taken against the backdrop of recent Ethiopian incursions along the disputed border – none answered by the Eritreans – these moves could signal the possibility of renewed head-to-head conflict, a threat Afwerki frequently invokes to justify his continuing crackdown on public debate. However, they may also indicate that the embattled leader, who has steadfastly refused to implement a Constitution ratified more than a decade ago and has never permitted national elections, is circling the wagons to protect himself from internal challenges.
His abrupt disappearance from public view for most of April – an unprecedented absence for a man whose daily comings and goings are the centrepiece of coverage in the state-run media – set off a wave of speculation among exiles that he was either incapacitated or dead. Although he reappeared in May, reports that a cabal of second-tier officials is meeting to plot a transition continue to circulate.
Irritant
But, although Eritrea appears obsessed with Ethiopia, the reverse no longer seems to be the case. “Eritrea is an irritant, not a strategic enemy,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
“Our strategic enemies are poverty and backwardness,” he said in a two-hour interview on the subject of Ethiopia’s economic and social transformation. “We have seen poverty at its worst,” he said. “Nothing is more dehumanising.”
A former guerrilla commander himself, who came to power at the same time as Afwerki when the rebel armies they commanded routed the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, Zenawi insisted that he would step down at the end of his term in 2015. But he wants to wind down the conflict with Eritrea first, stabilising relations and reaching a service agreement to access Eritrea’s Red Sea ports similar to the pacts Ethiopia has with Djibouti, Somaliland, Kenya and Sudan.
 “I would like Eritrea to be at peace with itself so it can be at peace with us and we can all benefit from common prosperity,” he said. “But I am not choosy how it happens.”
The decade-long standoff between the two countries, which  played out in a web of proxy wars across the region, none of which reached the point of a direct confrontation, took a turn for the worse in 2010 when Ethiopia charged Eritrea with a bomb plot intended to disrupt an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
“They wanted to transform Addis into Baghdad,” said Zenawi. “This made it impossible for us to ignore what they were doing.”
Pressure
Since then, Ethiopia has sought to increase the pressure on the Afwerki regime, first lobbying for sanctions at the United Nations and then launching a series of attacks on “hard targets” close to the border inside Eritrea, while simultaneously waging a hearts-and-minds campaign aimed at the Eritrean public.
Ethiopian media have toned down their once vitriolic coverage of Eritrea – or simply ignored it – and Eritreans deported from Ethiopia during the border war have been urged to return to reclaim seized assets. But the most dramatic shift was the announcement of an “open camps” policy permitting refugees to live anywhere in Ethiopia so long as they prove that they have the means to support themselves. More than 1000 Eritreans now attend Ethiopian universities, refugee officials say.
Ethiopia also hosts about 34 Eritrean opposition parties, a number that has refugees here scratching their heads in frustration and leads many to dismiss them as little more than a talk shop. During a week of interviews in three camps, the Addis Ababa-based parties were rarely mentioned.
“The only time we see them is when they want to recruit us,” said one refugee, who denounced the government in Asmara, but saw the squabbling opposition parties as cut from the same cloth.
Many here think that change, when it comes, will arise from within the country and that it may take time to sort itself out. One scenario is for a junta to take over that would include key figures from the three main power centres: the military, the national security forces and the ruling party, the ironically named People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, over which the defence minister, General Sebhat Ephrem, presides.
Inherently unstable
Such a coalition would be inherently unstable because it would comprise bitter rivals, all of whom aspire to step into Afwerki’s shoes, even though none has his charisma or commands a similar following among the rank and file.
What makes Ephrem attractive as a front man is that Afwerki has long treated him as a largely ceremonial figure and given him little actual power, so he is not seen as a threat by his more ambitious colleagues.
Ephrem is also popular with Western governments and carries a degree of credibility with the public for his prominent role in the liberation of the country, first as the head of civilian mobilisation and then as the military chief of staff in the final years of the war.
How long such an arrangement would last, though, is an open question.
Dan Connell, a lecturer in journalism and African studies at Simmons College, Boston, has covered events in Eritrea for more than 35 years (danconnell.net)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Eritreans: US, save us from deportation - Israel News, Ynetnews

Hundreds protest outside US embassy in Tel Aviv, call on Washington to pressure Israel into granting them refugee status
Gilad Morag
Published: 06.29.12, 13:09 / Israel News

Some 500 Eritreans demonstrated outside the US Embassy in Tel Aviv on Friday in protest against the political persecution they claim they are experiencing in Israel. "We demand that the US pressure Israel and prevent it from violating our rights," they said.

They are also demanding that the US establish a mechanism to determine their eligibility for refugee status.

Related Stories:

The protesters carried signs which read "We want protection" "No to deportation" and "US, save us." They are claiming that Israel wants to send them back to Eritrea where there an oppressive regime rules the country.

"The Eritrean asylum seekers suffer from racism, hatred andincitement by Israeli politicians," says Sarah, an activist at the refugee advancement center.

"The US is aware that Eritrea is a country that commits systematic oppression and must make it clear to Israel that it cannot deport refugees there. Interior Minister Yishai's statements don't hold water."


ההפגנה. "מתייחסים אלינו בצורה גזענית" (צילום: מוטי קמחי)
Protesters turn to United States (Photo: Moti Kimhi)

Molgieta, one of the protesters, says that the purpose of the protest is to achieve refugee status. "We are demonstrating against acts of violence by Israelis and the general treatment towards the community," he says.

"The violence attributed to Eritreans amounts to 1% of the entire community, he claims. "We may get deported but you must realize that our president is a dictator. We are given refugee permits all across the world and we are asking to get them here too."


"לא באנו לשבת כאן סתם". ההפגנה (צילום: מוטי קמחי)
'Our president is a dictator' (Photo: Moti Kimhi)

Another protester added, "We didn't come here for a free meal, we are seeking asylum. We are being badly treated and are not being allowed to work but we cannot go back to Eritrea, because it is dangerous. You must understand that a dictatorship rules the country and whoever goes back is in immediate danger."

One of the organizers of the protest, Shai Gurski, said that the Eritreans believe that the US has influence over Israel and have submitted an open letter to one of the embassy staff.

"The latest events are getting the entire community nervous, the completion of the fence, the construction of holding facilities and the wild incitement against them."

Inner City Press: Investigative Reporting from the United Nations

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- Two days after Inner City Press noted, reported and asked the UN about the removal from the Internet of the "Report of the Secretary General on Eritrea," S/2012/412, Security Council sources told Inner City Press why it was taken down.
  Wednesday Inner City Press exclusively published the June 8 report which "the Secretariat" confirmed would not be put online again.
  On Thursday multiple Security Council sources quotedEthiopian UN official Taye-Brook Zerihoun as saying the report came down after consultations with Council members.
   This immediately gave rise to questions by Council members who had not been consulted. 
  They agreed in the abstract that the UN Secretariat has the ability to take down its own reports, even if it injures the UN's credibility. 
  But, they said, the Secretariat cannot do so after consulting with some but not all Council members.
   Given the role of the US and Ambassador Susan Rice in the passage of the Eritrea sanctions on December 2011 and the difficulty for that country's president Isaias Afwerki to address the Council before the sanctions resolution was finalized "in blue," Inner City Press waited to ask Ambassador Rice.
  When she left the Council's session on Sudan and South Sudan, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice about any US role in the taking down of the Eritrea report.
   Rice said without breaking stride, "What are you talking about Matt?"
   Then Inner City Press went to the day's noon briefing and asked about what Council members quoted Zerihoun as saying. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky repeated the answer he'd given the day previous, adding "I'm not privy" to what's said in Council consultations.
  Previously, the Spokesperson's office was allowed in, and present at, Council consultations. Under Ban they were thrown out, after what some Council members called a weak response from Ban's then chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. "Would Malcorra do better?" one mused.

 Again, we are publishing the June 8 report which "the Secretariat" has confirmed will not be put online again.

As circulated, Ban Ki-moon's report for example quoted Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki telling Ban in September 2011 that "the border issue with Ethiopia was a 'closed chapter' and that there was 'nothing to negotiate.'" See, Paragraph 17.

It recited Ban's July 24, 2011 meeting with "Eritrean Foreign Minister and Political Adviser to the Eritrean President" on Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur. (See Inner City Press video of Yemane Ghebreab at that time, here on Inner City Press' YouTube channel with 28,000 views and counting.)

The June 8, 2012 report recited Eritrea's objections to Security Council manuevers in late November and early December 2011, exclusively reported by Inner City Press, which even after protest would only have allowed Isaias Afwerki, President of a country facing unprecedented sanctions, to speak to the Council AFTER the resolution was put in blue and finalized for a vote.

  But now all of that has been taken off line, as if it never existed. A diplomat from one of Eritrea's neighbors explained to Inner City Press that the June 8 report just "wasn't right," that it was not like other sanctions reports and not what his country has in mind.

  This was the approach taken when Department of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous changed and watered down the most recent Western Sahara report. As many noted, but only Inner City Press explicitly emphasized, Ladsous is the fourth French chief of DPKO in a row, whose previous job was to serve discredited French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie including arranging her flights on planes of cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. 

  But who -- not which countries, which is obvious, but which UN official beyond Ban Ki-moon -- is responsible for taking off line the Eritrea report, and what will happen and be issued next?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

UN's Ban Confirms Taking Down His Own Eritrea Report, ICP Publishes It-Inner City

UN's Ban Confirms Taking Down His Own Eritrea Report, ICP Publishes It
By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, June 27 -- The day after Inner City Press noted, reported and asked the UN about the removal from the Internet of the "Report of the Secretary General on Eritrea," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed that Ban's Secretariat was responsible for taking the report down.

We are publishing the June 8 report which "the Secretariat" has confirmed will not be put online again.

Inner City Press asked who it was in the Secretariat that prepared the report, that "the Secretariat" took down, and asked for confirmation that countries such as Ethiopia and the United States complained about the report. Nesirky would not answer either question, except to say that when the report was looked at "again," it was concluded that it was "not an adequate response" to Resolution 2023.

As Inner City Press exclusively reported on June 15, there were rumblings that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would change his 44-paragraph Eritrea report, like
"the two versions of the last report on Western Sahara were watered down to drop allegations against Morocco of limiting freedom of movement of the peacekeepers.
"Inner City Press exclusively learned on Friday that a similar amateurish post-publication is taking place on the forthcoming report on Eritrea. The report already has a number (S/2012/412) and has been on the UN's ODS Official Document Service.
"But unlike the Western Sahara watering down, in this case it's a matter of watering UP -- Ethiopia and others are said to want the report to be more damning of Asmara. And so it goes at the UN."

On June 26 at the UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked about
Inner City Press: the report of the Secretary-General on Eritrea, that was actually, dated 8 June, that was put on the Security Council’s website. It was available there, on that, I heard, starting around 15 June, there were some concerns raised by other neighbours of Eritrea about the report. And this morning I learned and confirmed that the report’s gone from the website. Still listed there, but the link is now dead. And the document is not available. And I wondered, can you explain what happened to the report? And what’s, is it being changed? At whose behest? Why did they, why was it taken offline so unceremoniously?
Spokesperson Nesirky: Thanks for the question. But Matthew, I don’t have anything on that at the moment. But I’m hoping to have something a little bit later.
Twenty four hours later, Nesirky read out his statement that when looked at "again.. the Secretariat" decided the report was "not an adequate response" to Resolution 2023.

As circulated, Ban Ki-moon's report for example quoted Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki telling Ban in September 2011 that "the border issue with Ethiopia was a 'closed chapter' and that there was 'nothing to negotiate.'" See, Paragraph 17.

It recited Ban's July 24, 2011 meeting with "Eritrean Foreign Minister and Political Adviser to the Eritrean President" on Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur. (See Inner City Press video of Yemane Ghebreab at that time, here on Inner City Press' YouTube channel with 28,000 views and counting.)

The June 8, 2012 report recited Eritrea's objections to Security Council manuevers in late November and early December 2011, exclusively reported by Inner City Press, which even after protest would only have allowed Isaias Afwerki, President of a country facing unprecedented sanctions, to speak to the Council AFTER the resolution was put in blue and finalized for a vote.

  But now all of that has been taken off line, as if it never existed. A diplomat from one of Eritrea's neighbors explained to Inner City Press that the June 8 report just "wasn't right," that it was not like other sanctions reports and not what his country has in mind.

  This was the approach taken when Department of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous changed and watered down the most recent Western Sahara report. As many noted, but only Inner City Press explicitly emphasized, Ladsous is the fourth French chief of DPKO in a row, whose previous job was to serve discredited French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie including arranging her flights on planes of cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. 

  But who -- not which countries, which is obvious, but which UN official beyond Ban Ki-moon -- is responsible for taking off line the Eritrea report, and what will happen and be issued next?



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Monday, June 25, 2012

For exiled Eritreans in Sudan, fear greater than most - IFEX

With the launch of CPJ's most recent exile report, I will have worked exactly three years for our Journalist Assistance program. More than 500 cases later, I have helped journalists who have gone into hiding or exile to escape threats; those in need of medicine and other support while in prison, and journalists injured after violent attacks. The most harrowing accounts of all, however, come from those crossing from Eritrea into Sudan. And things seem to be getting worse, not better. 

Heavily patrolled borders, minefields, and a shoot-to-kill border policy make leaving Eritrea nearly impossible. If someone does get out, his or her family will pay a heavy price, including a 50,000 Nakfa fine (US$3,300), the equivalent of five years' average household income, or indefinite detention, according to exiled Eritrean journalists and Human Rights Watch

Yet thousands leave every year, among them journalists, fleeing one of the world's most closed and repressive states. An unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia led to the mass militarization of society and suspension of basic rights, including freedom of movement and expression. The mandatory 18 months of national service can extend indefinitely. Detentions are without charge, trial, or access to family, and may include torture and starvation rations. 

Of those who escape, more than half flee to the Sudan. As CPJ has documented, life in exile for any journalist generally is filled with fear and uncertainty, in addition to the struggle to find work and fulfill basic needs such as health care. In the Sudan, Eritrean journalist refugees risk kidnapping, physical and sexual assault, humiliation, looting, bribery, detention, and threat of return. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Call for Action on Eritrea at UN Human Rights Council | East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project


To: Members of the Human Rights Council
Excellency,
The undersigned non-governmental organisations are writing to express their utmost concern about the ongoing widespread and systematic human rights violations in Eritrea and to call on members of the Human Rights Council to take urgent action at its 20th regular session in response to this dire situation.
Since September 2001, eleven prominent government officials who called for the implementation of the country’s ratified Constitution and ten independent journalists have been held incommunicado.
Their fate is unconfirmed: while some are reported to have died in detention, the others remain in harsh detention centres without due legal process. Thousands of their fellow citizens face a similar fate: arbitrarily detained in inhumane and degrading conditions without trial. An Eritrean can be arrested and imprisoned without charge or trial for years upon end merely for being critical of the government, belonging to what the government defines as one of the ‘wrong’ religious groups, or refusing to comply with the indefinite national service imposed on all Eritreans over the age of 18 years. Some conscripts have served for a decade or more. It is estimated that there are currently between 5,000 and 10,000 prisoners whose “crime” is that they are suspected of not being fully loyal to the regime. Torture, arrests, killings and forced labour are common. No independent civil society organizations can operate inside Eritrea, and since 2001, there has been no independent
domestic media and journalists are arbitrarily arrested en masse.
We commend efforts by various entities of the United Nations to raise concern about the human rights situation in Eritrea, including most recently in the opening statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at this session of the Human Rights Council. In March 2012, 44
countries supported a cross-regional joint statement at the 19th session of the Human Rights Council which invited the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. A number of UN special procedures have equally sent communications and
requested country visits, requests which the government has so far ignored.
Members of Eritrean civil society in exile and their supporters have also sought redress at the regional level and submitted their complaints to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (communications 250/2002 and 275/2003). In two separate decisions the Commission found the government to be in violation of fundamental rights contained in the African Charter and also called for the release of the government officials held incommunicado since September 2001 and for access to legal counsel to be granted to at least eighteen journalists also held
incommunicado. To date, Eritrea has ignored both these decisions.
We believe that the dire human rights situation in Eritrea merits sustained engagement on the part of the Human Rights Council and therefore call on the HRC to adopt a resolution at its 20th session that would:
  •  Support the establishment and appointment of a Special Rapporteur to report to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Eritrea on a regular basis.
  •  Request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Eritrea at its 21st session.
Excellency, we thank you for your attention to these concerns and remain available to provide any further information as may be useful. Sincerely,
African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
African Democracy Forum
Amnesty International
ARTICLE 19
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Asian Legal Resource Centre
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Eritrean Refugee Initiative
Friends of Aster
Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (Burundi)
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea
Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights Watch
Open Society Foundations
Partnership for Justice
Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa
West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Thursday, June 21, 2012

U.N. rights chief accuses Eritrea of torture, killings - euronews

By Robert Evans
GENEVA (Reuters) – United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay accused on Monday gold-rich Eritrea, which holds a strategic stretch of the Red Sea coast, of carrying out torture and summary executions.
Pillay told the U.N. Human Rights Council there were between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners in the secretive African nation of some 6 million people which has been ruled by a single party and president since independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
“The human rights situation in Eritrea is a matter of deep concern,” said Pillay, a South African former senior judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, who has just had her four-year term extended for a further two years.
“Credible sources indicate that violations of human rights include arbitrary detention, torture, summary executions, forced labour, forced conscription, and restrictions to freedom of movement, expression, assembly and religion,” she said.
Eritrea, where former anti-Ethiopia guerrilla leader Isaias Afewerki has been head of state for nearly two decades, is rarely mentioned in the 47-nation council, where African and Asian countries often work to shield each other from criticism.
But responding to Pillay’s remarks on Monday, a European Union representative said the 27-nation grouping backed Pillay’s comments on the Red Sea state — whose population is mainly Christian but includes a large Muslim minority.
Thousands of people have fled Eritrea in recent years because of poverty and political repression, according to human rights groups. Many have settled in neighbouring Sudan, and some have reached Israel and Western Europe.
Independent human rights groups say the country has one of the world’s most repressive governments, an accusation Eritrean officials reject, arguing that the country is the target of a foreign smear campaign backed by the United States.
Eritrea fought a border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000 which killed 70,000 people on the two sides and occasional clashes have flared up since with both accusing each other of supporting armed rebel groups.
In April, Ethiopia’s President Meles Zenawi Afewerki accused Eritrea of abducting dozens of miners from his country’s north-western gold region which borders an area where Eritrea’ largely untapped reserves of the precious metal are located.
Pillay told the rights council that she had written to the Eritrean government in January this year with an offer to send a mission from her office by this month at the latest to help it address its “human rights challenges.”
But despite later talks with an Eritream delegation in Geneva, she said, there had so far been no reply.
(Reported by Robert Evans, editing by Diana Abdallah)


Eritrea suspected with her Fraudsters lure bedoons with ‘foreign’ passports | Kuwait Times

Fraudsters lure bedoons with ‘foreign’ passports

KUWAIT: Investigating on what is known as ‘Eritrean and Dominican bedoons’, informed security sources said that there are hundreds of former bedoons who have legalized their status by acquiring passports from these countries between 1998-2006. The sources added that some local commercial offices mediated between the diplomats from those countries and interested bedoons.
The sources added that recently, many bedoons have become victims of fraudsters-claiming to be acquiring passports from some African countries. One of these offices has online adverts describing it as ‘the official agent for Ghana’s economic normalization program’, offering passport issue services for $15,000. Seven people have been arrested in this regard.
One of the victims said he was swindled in 2011 by an Arab man in one of those offices. He added that he paid KD 2,400 for two Dominican passports -for him and his wife in addition to KD 600 for each of his three kids. He said that he paid half of the total sum in advance. “Two months later, I found out that the office had been closed down with no traces of any of its staff”, the man said.
Meanwhile, the embassy of Eritrea in Kuwait has stressed that all Eritrean passports held by former bedoons were authentic and had been legally issued.
Read by 422

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For exiled Eritreans in Sudan, fear greater than most - Blog - Committee to Protect Journalists

The border between Sudan and Eritrea is heavily patrolled. (AFP/Thomas Goisque)
The border between Sudan and Eritrea is heavily patrolled. (AFP/Thomas Goisque)
With the launch of CPJ's most recent exile report, I will have worked exactly three years for our Journalist Assistance program. More than 500 cases later, I have helped journalists who have gone into hiding or exile to escape threats; those in need of medicine and other support while in prison, and journalists injured after violent attacks. The most harrowing accounts of all, however, come from those crossing from Eritrea into Sudan. And things seem to be getting worse, not better.
Heavily patrolled borders, minefields, and a shoot-to-kill border policy make leaving Eritrea nearly impossible.  If someone does get out, his or her family will pay a heavy price, including a 50,000 Nakfa fine (US$3,300), the equivalent of five years' average household income, or indefinite detention, according to exiled Eritrean journalists andHuman Rights Watch.
Yet thousands leave every year, among them journalists, fleeing one of the world's most closed and repressive states. An unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia led to the mass militarization of society and suspension of basic rights, including freedom of movement and expression. The mandatory 18 months of national service can extend indefinitely. Detentions are without charge, trial, or access to family, and may include torture and starvation rations.
Of those who escape, more than half flee to the Sudan. As CPJ has documented, life in exile for any journalist generally is filled with fear and uncertainty, in addition to the struggle to find work and fulfill basic needs such as health care. In the Sudan, Eritrean journalist refugees risk kidnapping, physical and sexual assault, humiliation, looting, bribery, detention, and threat of return.
Aaron Berhane, an Eritrean journalist who fled in 2001, survived the Sudan before being granted asylum in Canada. Berhane is a lifeline for those who manage to escape and need advice on how to survive without detection in the Sudan. He advises journalists to stay away from areas heavily populated by Eritreans, "if you want to save your life." He goes on to say that, "The situation hasn't changed since I lived in the Sudan--in fact it is worse. With the normalization of relations between the Sudan and Eritrea since 2005, the situation is moving backward instead of forward."
"No one can tell where the Eritrean authority stops and that of the Sudan starts," said one Eritrean journalist who escaped into the Sudan in the fall 2011, adding that being sent back to Eritrea "would mean a death sentence for me."
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' 2012 country profile on the Sudan confirms that there has been a rise in trafficking of refugees and that they are vulnerable to, "kidnapping, extortion and physical, particularly sexual, violence. For many refugees and asylum-seekers, chiefly those residing in Khartoum, the absence of documentation creates a constant risk of arrest, deportation and refoulement (forced return)."
"When you escape from Eritrea, you come as you are. You can't carry documents, it's too risky," said an Eritrean journalist who fled in late 2011.
Eritrean journalist Jamal Osman Hamad was arrested in Khartoum on October 24, 2011, and held incommunicado for eight weeks. No charges were filed, and he was released on December 19. Hamad's detention took place less than a week after an official visit to Sudan by Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki.
On October 17, 2011, over 300 Eritreans were expelled from Sudan to their home country without their cases being referred to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) based in Cairo, Egypt.
According to Human Rights Watch, "under international refugee law, asylum seekers have a right to claim asylum, which applies regardless of how they enter a country or whether they have identity documents. International law forbids countries from deporting asylum seekers without first allowing them to apply for asylum and considering their case." According to Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UNHCR, Sudan's expulsion of the Eritreans violated an agreement between the U.N. agency and the Sudanese Commissioner for Refugees. Khartoum has not publicly responded to allegations of forced return and violations of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention as well as the 1974 Sudanese Asylum Act.
Yet there are limitations even to the trust placed in international institutions. "The only structure I trust is the UNHCR office," said a third exiled Eritrean journalist, who fled in December 2010. "However, I know there are limitations. Once I turned to one protection officer with my fears of persecution [in the Sudan] and was told that I could come to the office if anything happened to me. I doubt security agents would let me go to that office once they have their hands on me."
"There is even a fear of UNHCR's Tigrinya language translators that they may divulge the intimate details of who is seeking protection." Berhane said. "In the Sudan, it is very hard to trust anyone."