Saturday, September 29, 2012

Human Trafficking Devastating the Sinai | IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

By Mirjam van Reisen* 
IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
BRUSSELS (IDN) - A new report titled 'Human Trafficking in the Sinai. Refugees between Life and Death' sheds new light on the devastation caused by the trafficking in the Sinai. Hostages are killed unless they collect exorbitant ransoms from relatives, which can go up to USD 35,000 or even more. These ransoms are collected from family members in home countries and from relatives in the diaspora.
A network of financial laundering supports the ransom collection. The report is authored by this writer, Meron Estefanos and Dr Conny Rijken, from Tilburg University and European External Policy Advisors (EEPA).
The victims endure unspeakable torture, and increasingly women and children are included, tortured and raped. Hostages are repeatedly electrocuted, hanged upside down, beaten with iron rods and burnt with dripping plastic. Pregnant women are tortured and the interviews even identify beating of a one year old baby. Family members held in captivity are made to choose who will live, if not sufficient ransom can be collected to release both. Many hostages die in captivity due to the cruelty endured.
Arms Trade Treaty As Urgent As Ever Despite Failure
ICRC Video

Once ransoms have been paid, there is no certainty that victims are released. They are often sold on to other traffickers. If they are released they are often too weak to make it to a safe place, being undernourished and weakened by the torture endured. Once released there is the danger of being shot by Egyptian police.
The places where hostages are held are in walking distance from the Israeli border, which has recently been fenced and the Israeli military have orders to not allow the released hostages through. Without food and water many collapse. NGOs are not permitted to visit.
Deported back
Those hostages that make it to safety either in Israel or in Cairo are detained in detention centres from where they are deported back to their country of origin. For most hostages this is Eritrea. In this country the hostages are in danger of being imprisoned. Most refugees escape the national service which is in place for adults and therefore cannot safely return.
Speaking against the Eritrean regime is dangerous and even those who are outside of the country endanger family members if they do not speak openly in support of the regime. There are strong indications that officials themselves are involved in selection for trafficking and Eritreans are involved in the organisation of the human trafficking and the collection of the ransoms.
During a hearing in the European Parliament on September 26, 2012 in Brussels activists and humanitarian workers expressed solidarity with the hostages and called on authorities to fulfil obligations to prevent the trafficking and protect the victims. For Eritreans push-back to their country of origin must be stopped given the political repression in this country. This push-back should be stopped from involved countries such as Egypt, Italy, Libya and Israel, they said.
The European Commission was called upon to start infringement procedures against Italy to stop push-back of Eritreans. More humanitarian and medical facilities were urged, especially also urgent access to gynaecological services for the women. Europol was asked to begin a phenomenon report.
The report asks the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR to organise the protection of the refugees it takes responsibility for, so that they are secure in the camps and do not risk kidnapping. The new Government of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was called upon to take control over the lawless Sinai and make sure that police are targeting the traffickers instead of shooting the victims from the trafficking.
In a recent documentary CNN suggests that trafficking in the Sinai is decreasing but the new report disputes this. The figures do not show a decrease in numbers. However the number of women and children in captivity seems to be increasing. Also the number of people that have disappeared is increasing.
The report is based on 104 recorded interviews with people in captivity. The hostages have mobile phones with pay and go carts to phone relatives to collect the ransom. Through these direct interviews, the report voices the devastation of the hostages and their plea to make an end the torture houses in the Sinai.
*Mirjam van Reisen is professor International Social Responsibility at the Tilburg University, founding director of the Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA) in Brussels and member of the International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER). IDN Viewpoints reflect opinions of respective writers, which are not necessarily shared by the InDepthNews editorial board. [IDN-InDepthNews – September 28, 2012]

Friday, September 28, 2012

80 Eritrea-Bound Lorries With Contraband Intercepted By Sudanese Officials | Awate.com

Sudanese law-enforcement officials in Kassala State bordering Eritrea foiled a smuggling operation that involved around 80 vehicles, including lorries and pickups, according to Sudan’s alrakoba.net.
The smuggling convoy that was heading to Eritrea was intercepted in West Kassala. When the convoy refused to stop, Sudanese officers fired bullets, punctured the tires of some of the vehicles forcing them to stop.
In the ensuing chaos, 10 vehicles were seized; nearly 30 re-directed back to Sudan, while 40 crossed the Eritrean border.
The operation yielded 142 thousand liters of fuel (mainly Kerosene); 140 sacks of flour; and 12 sacks of wheat.
Eleven individuals were arrested.
A source informed alrakoba.net that while the distance between Girba and Kassala is only forty kilometers, there are nearly 40 gas stations. There is no justification for that large number of stations which are encouraging smuggling due to their proximity to the Eritrean border, the source argued.
The contraband traders charge as high as 7 million Sudanese pounds (apx. 1600.00 USD) for a convoy to travel the distance to the Eritrean village of Mukeserat, which is a distance of half an hour from the loading zone near Kassala.
The Eritrean government has severe shortage of hard currency, which is currently prioritized and approved only by the President’s Office. Consequently, anything that requires hard currency–including importing spare parts for machinery and equipment and fuel–is being neglected.
The UN’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported earlier this year that Eritrea’s Air Force has been grounded due to lack of spare parts.
More recently, Eritrea has been experiencing frequent power shortages because the relatively-new power plant in Hirgigo is in a state of disrepair due to lack of maintenance and replacement of spare parts.
The shortage of fuel has also impacted all the services the government is supposed to provide residents. For example, in Asmara, the once-a-week trash-pickup round has been changed to bi-weekly schedule.
In desperation, the Eritrean government has been intensifying its contraband trade and human smuggling campaigns.
Alrakoba titled its news, “A Series of Crimes To Destroy the Sudanese Economy In Eastern Sudan Continues.”  These are the sort of accusations that were being voiced by the Ethiopian media shortly before the Eritrea-Ethiopia “border war” of 1998.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Eritrean graduate Refugee Population Has Untapped Potential though they left without deploma


TWIN FALLS • Before resettling in Twin Falls, Mulu Ghebrekidan worked as a physics and math teacher for six years in an Ethiopian refugee camp.
Instead, in Twin Falls he worked the eight-hour graveyard shift at Lamb Weston — a physically demanding job that took a lot of adjustment for him.
Ghebrekidan is one of hundreds of refugees who arrived in Twin Falls in the last decade. Though he went to college and has teaching experience, his degree and credentials aren’t valid in Idaho.
Ghebrekidan isn’t alone. Most refugees who come with higher education and established careers don’t have credentials required for putting their experience to work.
The result: Untapped potential for skilled employees in the Magic Valley.
Starting Over
The hundreds of refugees who arrived in TwinFalls have come with a wide range of education, said Michelle Pospichal, former match grant coordinator for the College of SouthernIdaho Refugee Center.
Some, like Ghebrekidan, have degrees, or have decades of career experience. Others had no access to primary education and are illiterate in their own languages.
While the educated are more likely to speak English, they’re still only qualified for low-paying jobs for the first several years they’re in the United States.
Ghebrekidan earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Asmara in Eritrea, right before fleeing the country to avoid obligatory military service in a conflict he didn’t support.
But universities in Eritrea don’t give graduates official copies of their diplomas unless they’ve completed five years of forced government service. The only proof Ghebrekidan has of his work in college is a “Temporary Certificate of Graduation,”a print-out composed with WordArt in Microsoft Word.
When he left Eritrea, he brought along his certificate, but that doesn’t count as proof of his degree.
He now works the night shift at SL Start, a program for children and adults with developmental disabilities, and takes classes at College of SouthernIdaho during the day. Eventually, he hopes to enter the college’s nursing program, then transfer to a medical school where he can study to become a general practitioner.
Catch 22
Even though Ghebrekidan’s diploma is useless in theUnited States, it prevents him from receiving certain types of federal financial aid available only to students who don’t have degrees.
So Ghebrekidan is stuck with a useless diploma, no proof of the credits he earned and an inability to receive PellGrants.
“It’s almost you’re better off if you had some college, but not a degree, because then you at least qualify for a Pell Grant,”said Edit Szanto, vice president of Student Services at College of SouthernIdaho.
Refugees didn’t voluntarily leave their countries to seek a new life, Pospichal pointed out. Though they’re grateful for the safety and new life the United States provides, some still struggle with homesickness and grief over the lives they left behind.
For those with higher educations, that frustration and identity crisis is often amplified.
No Short Cuts
Other states offer bridges between trained refugees and careers.
Illinois, California and New York participate in a program called Careers forNew Americans, which matches up highly skilled refugees, asylees and permanent residents with information on how to receive an occupational license.
The nonprofit program Welcome Back Initiative provides similar information and counseling services for immigrants and refugees who are trained in medical fields. Currently, the services aren’t available inIdaho.
Dawn Hall of theBureau of Occupational Licenses said there aren’t short-cuts for refugees.
“Immigrants from other counties would have to meet the same set of minimum standards as any other person applying for licensure,”she wrote in an email to theTimes-News. “Similar to a person who has been licensed in a profession in another state, the immigrant would have to show proof of the education and training they had in their native country.
“If that education and training doesn’t meet the minimum standards, they may need to have additional training, experience or an examination, based upon the requirements of the Board they are applying under,”she said.
Some careers transfer more easily than others. Math and physics are the same no matter what country you’re in.
But refugees who were lawyers in their home countries aren’t able to transfer any of their education to the United States, as each country’s legal code is different. For them, being uprooted usually means the end of their career.
A Familiar Story
Here, individual college advisors can help new arrivals navigate the maze of paperwork and training required to regain their careers.
Szanto works with prospective students at the College ofSouthernIdaho, including refugees who hope to enroll in credit courses.
Those students face a number of potential hurdles. Some, like Ghebrekidan, come without official documents to prove their background. Others come with no documents at all, or had their education interrupted by conflict or resettlement.
It’s a familiar story for Szanto.
“Ican completely relate when the new refugees come in,”she said. She and her husband, Zsigmond, came to the United States as refugees from Romania in the 1990s. Like most refugees, they started working manual labor.
“My whole family worked in the potato factory,”she said. Szanto’s mother, a dentist, couldn’t practice in the United States.
Her husband is now a veterinarian, and her mother became a dental assistant. But it took years, Szanto said.
A Shortage of Doctors
For those who do choose to pursue higher education, Twin Falls offers options through the college, though those courses don’t serve everyone.
Pospichal recalled one couple who arrived in TwinFalls years ago. Both were practicing physicians in Iraq. While the wife decided not to pursue a medical career in the United States, the husband wanted to continue his career.
That required tests and more medical courses, Pospichal said, which he couldn’t take in Idaho.The family eventually moved to California so he could complete his education — for the second time.
Their move from Idaho comes at a critical period, as the state has a shortage of doctors.
According to a 2011 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Idaho ranks second to last in the number of doctors per capita. In August, State Impact Idaho reported that there are only 2,873 physicians in the state.
Had the Iraqi physician couple stayed here, that number may have gone up.
“Who knows? They may come back in the future, they may not,”Pospichal said.
Ghebrekidan hopes to someday return to Eritrea — after he receives his medical license, and, more importantly, after the violence dies down. Eritrea has a critical shortage of doctors, he said, and he’d like to help.
Does he think the region will stabilize soon?
“No, Idon’t,”he answers softly.
If he can’t return to his country, he wants to set up a practice in Twin Falls, giving back to the community that has given him shelter.
“Ilike Idaho,”he said. “It’s so peaceful.”

Sweden vows to push for Journalist Dawit Isaak's release like that of Ethiopia - The Local

Sweden vows to push for Dawit Isaak's release

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has said that the government is working to free the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, who was imprisoned without trial in Eritrea 11 years ago today.

Following the release of Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye from an Ethiopian jail earlier this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) said it is prioritizing Isaak's case.

However, the Ministry said it cannot reveal details of its diplomatic efforts.

Carl Bildt said that Persson's and Schibbye's case was one of the toughest that the government has handled. The case of Dawit Isaak is even harder, he said, adding that it requires "perseverance and diplomacy on many levels."

Isaak's case is also a priority within the EU, where several statements have been made calling for his release.

Isaak, a married father of three, came to Sweden from Eritrea in 1978 as a refugee. He worked as a cleaner to support himself and gained Swedish citizenship in 1992.

He retained his Eritrean citizenship and returned to his home country at the end of the civil war there, joining Eritrea's first independent publication, Setit.

After writing articles that were critical of the Eritrean regime, Isaak was arrested and imprisoned without access to a lawyer and without a trial.

Isaak's brother, Esayas Isaak, told Sveriges Radio (SR) that Dawit Isaak had returned to Eritrea to work for democracy, knowing that the risks were high.

"Dawit is constantly in our minds, day and night," he said. "We wonder how he is doing and when he will get out. The uncertainty is terribly difficult."

Johan Persson, Martin Schibbye and Esayas Isaak will join a manifestation for imprisoned journalists on Thursday 27th of September. It will take place at theGothenburg Book Fair and is organized by the Swedish Union of Journalists andReporters Without Borders.

There are an estimated 150 journalists imprisoned around the world today.

The Local/nr Follow The Local on Twitter

Israelis arrested in kidnapping Eritreans for Hamas in Sinai


4 Jewish Israelis, 1 east J'lem man arrested for transferring money to Hamas; part of plot to kidnap, extort Eritrean migrants.

Suspect: Nassar Adin Louai PHOTO: COURTESY JERUSALEM POLICE
Four Israelis were arrested for their involvement in an operation in Sinai that involved abducting African migrants and extorting up to $20,000 in ransom payments from their families in Israel, police revealed on Sunday.
Four Jews from Netanya and Kfar Yona, one of whom is a minor, were arrested for serving as contacts between the Eritrean migrants in Israel and an east Jerusalem man and suspected Hamas operative named Louai Nasser al- Din.
Din allegedly transferred the money to Hamas in Ramallah.
According to police, the month-long undercover investigation began as a straightforward investigation into money transferred by Din to Hamas. Upon further questioning, police discovered the money Din was allegedly transferring was the ransom money from at least one kidnapping.
Police are investigating whether the abductions are part of a larger operation.
On August 25 a man in Sinai calling himself Salam made contact with an Eritrean migrant living in Tel Aviv saying he had kidnapped the man’s nephew. Salam told the migrant he would have to pay $20,000 within two days or his relative would be killed.
When the migrant and further family members arrived at the scene of the exchange they refused to pay the ransom until they were able to speak to their nephew. They then agreed to hand over the money, but had only been able to come up with $13,000.
The money was handed over to two of the Jewish suspects, Yaakov Grad and Eliran Mahfoud Moshe, during a clandestine meeting at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.
The suspects then took the money to Din – who owns a cellphone store on Salah a-Din Street – on August 28. Din was supposed to transfer the money to Hamas in Ramallah.
Police arrested Din just after his meeting with the two men, with the ransom money still in his store. They arrested a third man, Victor Savioni, also of Netanya, who police believe was the main contact point for Salam, whose real name is Amad Abu Arar.
Din’s lawyer, Lea Tsemel, denied on Sunday that the money was ransom money and that it was destined for Ramallah. Police have investigated Din in the past for involvement in Hamas activities, but according to Tsemel he was released without charge.
Police believe the suspects were involved with six money transfers to Hamas of between NIS 10,000 and NIS 15,000, although only one of them appears to be involved in the kidnapping.
Police said Savioni met Hamas activists while working at a construction site in Netanya and became involved with money transfers between Israel and Gaza for Hamas.
During the investigation the men told police that they did not know the money was destined for Hamas.
On Sunday, indictments for Grad of Kfar Yonah and Moshe of Netanya on counts of kidnapping for the purposes of extortion and murder were filed in the Jerusalem District Court.
An indictment against Savioni of Netanya was filed in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on counts of assisting the commission of a felony and illegal border infiltration Din was remanded for an additional five days on suspicion of membership in an illegal organization and kidnapping, at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. The Jewish minor was released to house arrest.
Earlier this year, an indictment charged Yusuf el-Qarinawi – a resident of the Negev Beduin city of Rahat – with membership in a crime ring that abducted Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in Sinai. The gang in Sinai allegedly took hostages in order to extort tens of thousands of dollars in ransom from family members in Israel.
Investigators believe Qarinawi was a kingpin, connecting gang members in Gaza, Hebron, Tel Aviv and Sinai.
He was charged with concealment of an abducted person; blackmail with use of force; blackmail with threats; and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Also last year, the Hotline for Migrant Workers released a report that detailed the horrifying ordeals reportedly suffered by African migrants to Israel held captive by Beduin smugglers in Sinai.
The report, entitled “The Dead of the Wilderness,” depicts incidents of rape, torture, murder, extortion and near starvation that were described during interviews with 60 African migrants mainly from Eritrea, 24 of them women and 36 men, who reported suffering severe brutality on their way to Israel.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this repor

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Canada To Eritrea Tyrant: DON'T TEST OUR RESOLVE!

Canada To Eritrea Tyrant: DON'T TEST OUR RESOLVE!
22 September 2012

Toronto, Canada --  Our persistent argument that you cannot stop Eritrea tyrant from pursuing his criminal activities without depriving the tyrant of the bastion, seat, source and headquarters of his criminal activeities,i.e, consulates, embassies, has been proven right beyond any reasonable doubt by no one else but the tyrant's own diplomatic emissary in Canada who told reporter Stewart Bell of the National Post that he agrred not to use the consulate to levy extortion money under the the guies of '2%exile tax' any more; instead now he will use his office to redirect people to another venue (banks) to accomplish the same criminal activity:
“I am not going to collect the tax in my office. That’s all. That’s what the Canadian government was asking and they got the response,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we stop collecting.… Now instead of paying to my office they will pay it through the bank.” Eritrea tyrant's in Canada told Bell!

It is time for Canada to put an all out end to the hide and seek game Eritrea tyran is playing by shutting down the tyrant's seat and source of his criminal activities and sending the perpetrators of those crimes on behalf of the tyrant, the consular officers, home.

There is one more thing Eritrea tyrant's emissary in Canada told Bell:
“We have to tax our people, it is our right,” Semere O. Micael, the Eritrean consul in Toronto, said after the National Post reported that Ottawa had sent a diplomatic note to his government making it clear he would be sent home if he continued to run the tax scheme.

what right? What gives Eritrea tyrant to even reign over our country let alone collect any money from Eritreans but the barrel of gun? 
Read here.
In response to all of that, Canada told Eritrea tyrant in no uncertain terms not to test its resolve! For details read bellow:


‘It is our right’: Eritrea vows to continue taxing citizens in Canada despite warning from Ottawa
Stewart Bell | Sep 21, 2012 6:15 PM ET
Nationalpost.com

TORONTO — The diplomat who represents one of Africa’s most authoritarian regimes said Friday his government would continue collecting what some call an “extortion tax” in Canada even though the Department of Foreign Affairs has demanded that it stop.

“We have to tax our people, it is our right,” Semere O. Micael, the Eritrean consul in Toronto, said after the National Post reported that Ottawa had sent a diplomatic note to his government making it clear he would be sent home if he continued to run the tax scheme.

Asked to respond to the consul’s comments, 
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s press secretary Rick Roth said: “We have made our position on this matter to the Eritreans clear, and we expect that to be respected. The government of Eritrea should not test our resolve on this matter.”
The one-party state, which lacks a formal economy, has been demanding that Eritreans living in Canada hand over 2% of their incomes and pay a national defence levy. The RCMP and United Nations have reported that those who refuse to pay suffer threats and harassment.

Thousands of Eritreans have sought refuge in Canada. But even in cities like Winnipeg and Toronto, they complain, the cash-strapped government they fled has tried to tap them for money. Refusal can mean reprisals against family members still in Eritrea and stonewalling by the consulate.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution last year condemning Eritrea for resorting to “extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea” and for using the “diaspora tax” to procure arms for rebel groups.

Canada took action last week, sending a diplomatic note to Eritrea advising that Mr. O. Micael’s accreditation would only be renewed once Ottawa had received written assurance he had stopped the tax scheme.

Eritrea responded in a letter on Tuesday that it would comply, but Mr. O. Micael said in a telephone interview that while he would no longer take in taxes at the consulate, Eritreans in Canada would still have to pay up.

“I am not going to collect the tax in my office. That’s all. That’s what the Canadian government was asking and they got the response,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we stop collecting.… Now instead of paying to my office they will pay it through the bank.”

David Matas, an international human rights lawyer who has been assisting Eritrean refugees in Winnipeg, said the consulate was not complying with the substance of Canada’s request.

“To me, that’s making light of the government request. It’s not treating it seriously. It’s trying to play fast and loose. It’s basically trying to pull a fast one on the government of Canada,” he said.

He said Eritrea had also failed to address the other concern about the tax, which is that it has allegedly been used to aid armed groups such as the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab in Somalia. “The problem isn’t just the tax but the way they use the money, which historically has been to fund terrorist groups.”

The consul said the taxes were longstanding Eritrean law and payment was mandatory.

“If they are going to get a service, they have to pay but I am not the one. I just won’t collect it. But they have to pay. Every Eritrean is paying it, so if they are Eritrean they have to pay it on their own way, you know. Instead of paying to the consulate they will send it to Eritrea.”

He also denied the money was for military purposes, even though the payment forms specify it is for national defence. “National defence doesn’t mean for military,” he said. “If you build schools, roads, so many things, it’s a defence, to defend the country, develop it.”

Aaron Berhane, a journalist who fled Eritrea after the government shut down his newspaper in 2001, said the consul was dodging. “What he is saying is, ‘I will not intimidate them to pay inside my office, but it is okay with Canada if I intimidate them to pay outside of my office.’ Of course, it can’t be okay and the Canadian government has to watch his activities closely.”

National Post
sbell@nationalpost.com 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ottawa forces Eritrea to nix ‘2% extortion tax’ on citizens in Canada | Canadian Politics | Canada | News | National Post

Aaron Lynett / National Post files
Aaron Lynett / National Post files“I don’t think the Canadian government realizes how crooked the Eritrean regime is,” said Aaron Berhane, who fled Eritrea after the state shut down his newspaper in 2001. “So the only way to stop the 2% extortion tax is by shutting up the Eritrean consulate for good.”
The government of Eritrea has agreed to stop collecting a controversial “diaspora tax” at its consulate in Toronto after the Department of Foreign Affairs threatened to send home the repressive African regime’s only diplomat in Canada.
The consulate had been soliciting a 2% income tax and mandatory “donations” for its military from Eritreans living in Canada. The RCMP and United Nations have reported that those who refused to pay were subjected to threats, intimidation and coercion.
But last week, Foreign Affairs officials sent off a strongly worded diplomatic note making it clear Canada would not renew the accreditation of Consul Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael unless Eritrea agreed in writing to stop the scheme.
“Canada will consider the embassy’s request for renewal of his accreditation once it has received written confirmation that Eritrea has complied in full with the department’s expectations … and therefore the consulate has effectively ceased to collect the 2% ‘recovery and rehabilitation’ tax and the donation for national defence,” read the note, a copy of which the National Post obtained.
The only way for Canada to protect its citizens and its national interests … is to expel the diplomat Mr. Semere Ghebremariam and close the consulate in Toronto
“If Mr. O. Micael continues to carry out tax solicitation and tax collection activities in spite of Canada’s express disapproval and view that such activities are incompatible with the normal performance of consular functions, it will expect a notification from the Ministry stating that such person has been recalled from Canada.”
Mr. O. Micael’s diplomatic accreditation was set to expire on Thursday. On Tuesday, the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded in a “note verbale” that it had “complied in full” with Canada’s demands, and that the head of the Toronto consulate “has been accordingly instructed.”
The letter is a reversal for Eritrea, which had previously defended its collection of diaspora taxes. With no measurable domestic economy, the country is largely dependent on Eritreans living abroad. But an Eritrean-Canadian journalist said he suspects the government will still find ways to fundraise in Canada.
“I don’t think the Canadian government realizes how crooked the Eritrean regime is,” said Aaron Berhane, who fled Eritrea after the state shut down his newspaper in 2001. “So the only way to stop the 2% extortion tax is by shutting up the Eritrean consulate for good.”
Ghezae Hagos, spokesman for the Eritrean-Canadians Human Rights Group of Manitoba, also doubted Eritrea would change its behaviour. He said as long as the consulate remained in business it would squeeze Eritreans in Canada.
“Therefore, the only way for Canada to protect its citizens and its national interests … is to expel the diplomat Mr. Semere Ghebremariam and close the consulate in Toronto,” said Mr. Hagos, also a journalist who fled Eritrea. He now lives in Winnipeg.
I don’t think the Canadian government realizes how crooked the Eritrean regime is
A one-party state of six million, Eritrea is one of the world’s most authoritarian and least developed countries. Nonetheless, it has managed to arm, train and finance armed groups throughout the region, including the al-Qaeda-affiliate Al-Shabab. As a result, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea in 2009. Canada took action in 2010, making it illegal to finance the Eritrean military.
But the National Post revealed last November the Toronto consulate was collecting taxes for military purposes. At the time, Eritrean-Canadians complained they had been pressured into paying levies to the consulate. They showed forms on consulate letterhead that indicated some of the money was designated for “national defence.”
A UN team that monitors compliance with the arms embargo subsequently sent investigators to Canada who confirmed the Toronto consulate was collecting taxes for military purposes and that refusal to pay resulted in threats and harassment.
The Canadian government warned Eritrean in January that such conduct was a violation of diplomatic protocols and “could be criminal.” Ottawa repeated its concerns in a July 27 letter, after the UN Monitoring Group released its report documenting the activities of the Toronto consulate.
Eritrea responded with a letter that said the UN investigators were biased and politically motivated, the allegations of extortion were a “malicious lie” and the diaspora taxes were collected to help the country rebuild after a long war with Ethiopia and protect the nation from “imminent military threats.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eritrean newspaper man in Israel tells it like it is | Radio Netherlands Worldwide


Earlier this month, 21 refugees from Eritrea made international headlines when stranded at the Israeli-Egyptian border. Last month, three migrants from the east African country were stabbed at a Tel Aviv internet café. Critics say the Israeli government blacklists these refugees as infiltrators, even considering them an existential threat. Our correspondent reports on one individual who, despite the discord around him, focuses on making existence easier for his fellow Eritreans in Israel.
By Vanessa O’Brien, Tel Aviv
Eritrean asylum seeker Kebedom Menghistu runs a community newspaper in Tel Aviv

Eritrean newspaper man in Israel tells it like it is

Published on : 19 September 2012 - 3:25pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: Vanessa O’Brien)
More about:
Kebedom Menghistu doesn’t dress like most of the refugees here. He walks around the run-down, densely populated African migrant area of south Tel Aviv looking likes he’s come fresh from a church service. As though he were an elder in the refugee community, the 34-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker receives hearty handshakes and pats on the back.
To pay for the poorly maintained apartment he shares with seven other men, Menghistu works for minimum wage as a cleaner. But every other waking minute is spent on New Century, the newspaper that he publishes for the 35,000-strong Eritrean community in Israel.
An image of New Century, Menghistu's newspaper for the Eritrean community

An image of New Century, Menghistu's newspaper for the Eritrean community
“There are a lot of guys who were tortured, or imprisoned or killed or raped in Sinai...on the way to Israel. I want to tell the truth of what we faced in Sinai and on the way through the deserts,” Menghistu says, referring to the Egyptian territory. Through his newspaper, he says he also wants to convey “the life inside Israel: the expectation and the reality”.
A journey he knows well
The former accountant fled Eritrea in 2008 for fear of persecution. Menghistu saw what happened to others who championed freedom of the press there. After a gruelling two-year journey through Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya and Egypt, he arrived at the Israeli border, where he was welcomed by Israeli soldiers.
After 20 days at the Beersheba detention centre, he was given a one-way ticket to Tel Aviv. He spent the next three freezing winter months sleeping rough in Levinsky Park. Then, he found work and eventually a place to stay. Without a legal refugee status, and armed with his only two possessions – laptop and camera – he saved every penny for his newspaper.
In April 2011, Menghistu launched its first edition in Tigrinyan, one of Eritrea’s two main languages. The 3,000-copy print run was half-funded by Amnesty International, the rest from his own pocket.
The newspaper’s raison d'être was to inform Israeli-bound asylum seekers of the dangers they could expect and the reality of life inside the country. But attempts to have UNHCR distribute the publication in Ethiopia and Sudan were unsuccessful. Menghistu subsequently refocused its contents to focus on community-building: sharing asylum seekers’ stories, advising struggling couples and families and giving advice on the practicalities of everyday life in Israel, such as keeping a quiet Shabbat.
Keeping afloat
Lately, New Century has struggled to keep afloat. It is printed sporadically, whenever money is available; so far, there have been eight editions.
Eritreans in Tel Aviv protesting Israeli deportation regulations in June 2012

Eritreans in Tel Aviv protesting Israeli deportation regulations in June 2012
But this month things are different. Lily Galili, a 29-year veteran of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, secured financing from the New Israel Fund to support New Century's publication for six more months.
Speaking about her own country’s leaders, Galili says: “If I can change the mindset of 10 people, or 100 people over time and make some of the politicians feel bad, I will say that’s a great achievement. I want them to feel bad.”
For Menghistu’s newspaper, she writes a column in Hebrew that endeavours to help Israeli society understand the Eritrean asylum seekers. Her column scheduled to appear at month’s end addresses Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai’s comments about making migrants’ lives so miserable they want to leave. As most of the Eritrean community doesn’t speak Hebrew, the statement largely fell on deaf ears. According to Galili, it didn’t matter.
“They don’t care about statements, they went through hell coming here, and they’re living in hell as refugees,” she says. “I met a guy with seven bullets in his body, accumulated through his trip through the desert. So what does he care what a minister says?”
Holding on
The next edition of New Century will discuss how to hold onto one’s culture. The topic seems pertinent since there’s a high incidence of family breakdown and violence within the Eritrean community. Traditional gender roles are frequently challenged: women adopt more liberal, Western dress standards and men struggle to find work.

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“This is not our culture,” says Menghistu, referring to Israel. “We are here for a while. We will go back to our country, so don’t lose your culture, because if we are going back to our country, it may create a huge difficulty there.”
Menghistu is capable of more than just cleaning, he says. But with the constant threat of deportation, he lives for the moment. Long-term thinking is reserved for his next publication. “I hope to continue this newspaper,” he says. “I want to be a journalist. To tell them the reality as I can and as I know it.”