- Meriam Mohamed Omar (R) stands with her daughter in the village of Hagaz, some 100 km (63 miles) from Asmara, in this May 7, 2007 file photograph. (Reuters/Jack Kimball)
Monday, April 29, 2013
Eritrean women face threat of abuse even after they leave: report - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan
April 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Eritrean women fleeing their country’s oppressive regime are increasingly finding themselves the repeat victim of abuse, exploitation and violence once outside their homeland, a new report by a women’s rights group has found.
The report titled ‘Letters from Eritrea: Refugee Women Tell Their Stories’ was compiled by the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) and released earlier this month. It seeks to provide a backdrop as to why the women left, as well as their experiences leaving Eritrea and while living as refugees in their host countries.
SIHA collected the testimonies of 15 women during its research currently living in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.
The deeply personal stories highlight the often traumatic circumstances surrounding women’s departure from their homeland, which is further compounded by economic hardship and ongoing rights abuses suffered in their host countries.
“Kedusan” told SIHA researchers that she fled to Sudan after her husband crossed to Ethiopia to avoid military conscription and she herself was imprisoned as punishment. After reaching the border she was handed over to a group of smugglers, one of whom raped her in front of her two-year-old daughter after they were left alone together.
She later fell pregnant as a result and although she says she reported the rape to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), she says she was offered little assistance.
She later managed to make her way to Khartoum where she found work, but when her husband came to find her he abandoned her after learning about the rape and pregnancy.
In March 2012, Kedusan gave birth to a baby boy and despite the traumatic circumstances of his conception, she says she loved him as any mother. Six months later he fell ill and died, leaving her devastated.
“I loved him very much; he had suffered so much with me and was completely innocent”, she said.
“I don’t want to stay in Sudan, but I haven’t found a way out. I’m so upset about my baby son, but now I must focus all of my energy on my daughter. I only want for her to be happy and healthy.”
NO SAFE HAVEN
According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), some 3,000 Eritreans leave their country every month fleeing the oppressive conditions imposed by the dictatorial regime in Asmara, including indefinite military service, religious and ethnic persecution, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention. For most, the first point of entry is Sudan, although it’s hardly a safe haven for new arrivals.
The local Rashaida tribe and other armed gangs operating in and around sprawling camps on the Sudan-Eritrea border are responsible for kidnapping scores of asylum-seekers and refugees.
According to Amnesty International, victims are then sold off to Bedouin criminal networks in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula for various purposes, including the extraction of their organs. In its latest briefing paper released earlier this month, the human rights group detailed the horrific violence inflicted on captives in order to extract large ransom payments from victims’ families.
A UN Security Council (UNSC) report found that Eritrean, Sudanese and Egyptian smuggling gangs and government officials collude in a sophisticated human trafficking industry estimated to generate $10 million annually.
In this context, SIHA says women are particularly vulnerable to gang rape, unwanted pregnancies, beatings, burns and other forms of torture.
SIHA says that a number of the women interviewed for the report were still too traumatised to speak openly about their experiences. However, the rights group says it hopes the testimonies contained in its report shed light on the hard realities faced by Eritrean women and provide personal insights into the struggles and abuses they endure.
“The stories of the women reflect the great risks they are exposed to while fleeing for their lives; dehumanisation and abuse by traffickers have become a norm in recent years through kidnapping, enslaving, sexual violence and organ harvesting”, the report said.
It calls on human rights advocates and the international community to do more to safeguard and protect the human rights of vulnerable Eritrean women fleeing harsh conditions in their own country.
“Despite the urgent need for a regional approach to refugees, most Eritreans who manage to make it out find nothing but uncertainty at the end of the line, with no authority looking out for their well-being in the long term”, the report said, adding that the testimonies contained in the report are reflective of the shared experiences of many female refugees once they leave Eritrea.
“Theirs are stories of abandonment – by the Eritrean government, by the smugglers who have promised to transfer them, as well as by the host governments and international agencies that have committed to supporting them at the end of their harrowing ordeals”, the report said.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS IGNORED
Despite being a signatory to a number of international treatises on human rights, SIHA says that in reality provisions to protect women’s rights inside Eritrea are almost non-existent, with early marriage, domestic violence and female genital mutilation remaining widespread in the Red Sea nation.
“Besides economic hardship and repression, the social and cultural hierarchy deprives Eritrean women of equal access to land, resources and more importantly women have limited control of their lives as human beings”, the report said.
However, one of the most insidious forms of violence experienced by women in Eritrea is sexual abuse and rape during compulsory military service.
The suffering of victims is further compounded, says SIHA, by the “culture of shame” around rape and sexual abuse, which renders victims impure and thus “unmarriageable”.
It is for this reason many women either leave school and marry early or flee across the border to Sudan in an effort to escape entering national service.
“Tsega” told SIHA researchers that she crossed into Sudan with the help of a neighbour’s son in 2011 after fearing she would be conscripted into the military. However, once arriving in Shagarab refugee camp he demanded money to cover his expenses.
“I explained that I had no money and nobody to pay for me, and that he hadn’t said before that I would need to pay … He just said ‘nothing in life comes for free’ and ‘gave’ me to a group of Eritreans boys; I don’t know if they paid him for me”, she said.
Throughout her ordeal Tsega was kept in shackles and drugged while being abused by her captors. She managed to escape about two months later and now works as a live-in housekeeper in Khartoum, earning 200 SDG a month.
Tsega has since learnt that her parents were arrested by authorities as punishment soon after her own escape and remain in detention as she is unable to pay the fine for their release.
“I do not want to stay in Sudan, but I have no other options”, she said.
SIHA, which has offices in Kampala and Khartoum, is a network of civil societies active across east Africa promoting women’s issues, particularly in post-conflict areas.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Allegations have surfaced this week against the government of Eritrea regarding their role in the in arming the rebels in the Central African Republic who recently overthrew Francois Bozize.
In an interview with ex-President Bozize recently ran in the media, the former CAR leader claimed that "the arms used by the Seleka rebels during their final assault on the presidential palace were purchased from Eritrea and transited through Chad with the permission of President Deby"
The Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week issued a strong denial.
The Ministry said "the author does not provide a shred of evidence for his outlandish statement," though it notes that the article cites "Le Journal de Brazza" which similarly claimed Eritrea had "a history of arming African rebel groups, including Somalia’s Al-Shabaab".
The Ministry statement said "Eritrea has neither the political will nor the material and logistical capabilities to sell/deliver arms to rebels in CAR and/or other African rebel groups". It stresses that Eritrea does not manufacture weapons or ammunition of any kind and has not been in any position to sell and transfer arms to CAR rebels or Chad with whom it does not share contiguous territory.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
Trafficked Eritrean refugees face “brutal violence” - Amnesty - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan
March 31, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - There are ongoing reports that asylum-seekers and refugees kidnapped from camps on the Sudan-Eritrea border are being subject to cruel and inhuman treatment at the hands of their captors, including rape, sexual abuse, beatings and burning.
In its latest briefing extended to Sudan Tribune, Amnesty International (AI) details the “brutal violence” inflicted on captives and used to extract large ransom payments from victims’ families.
According to reports, kidnappings are largely carried out by the local Rashaida tribe in coordination with other armed gangs operating in and around the Shagarab refugee camps in eastern Sudan, near the Eritrean border. Victims are then sold off to Bedouin criminal networks in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula for various purposes, including the extraction of their organs.
The vast majority of victims are Eritrean, fleeing political oppression and compulsory military service imposed by the dictatorial regime in Asmara.
Often described as the North Korea of Africa, Eritrea’s secretive and repressive state apparatus shows scant regard for human rights, imposing strict controls on personal freedom and a policy of mandatory military conscription often for indeterminate periods. The intolerable conditions in their homeland means many Eritreans continue to make the perilous crossing to neighbouring countries, despite the risk of kidnapping and death from the regime’s shoot to kill policy.
In testimonies gathered by AI, captives reported the horrific violence perpetrated by their captors, which included repeated rape, sexual abuse, beatings with chains, electric shocks, suspension from the ceiling by their feet or hands often for days at a time, burning with heated plastic and metal and being doused with gasoline and set on fire.
The captors reportedly telephone their victims’ relatives at the same while inflicting violence in order to extort money, often demanding ransoms of up to $40,000 for their release.
Refugees and asylum-seekers are often murdered if their families are unable to pay the ransom sum, while others die from their injuries or as a result of the extremely harsh conditions of captivity.
One Eritrean survivor described in harrowing detail to AI what happened to a fellow hostage who was “made an example of” because he said his family could not pay the ransom.
“He was bleeding all over. After more beatings, they poured petrol on him and set him on fire. After he died, they left his body in the room with us until it became rotten and worms started crawling. They forced all of us in turns to hold him”, he told AI.
Another survivor, a 17-year-old boy from Eritrea, who was seized by a group of armed Rashaida tribesmen on the outskirts of Kassala last January, told Amnesty he was tortured by his captors and witnessed the murder and violent treatment of other prisoners throughout his eight months of captivity in Sinai.
“Sometimes they would also put a wire on my fingers and give me electric shocks. During the torture, they make us call our families …They raped the women in front of us in the same room; it happened almost every day. Some of them [the captors] would tell us to look down, while they were doing it”, he said.
A recently published recording of an interview between Swedish-Eritrean radio journalist Meron Estefanos and an eight year old Eritrean girl, who is being held hostage in the Sinai with her family, further highlighted the chilling situation faced by abducted refugees.
During the phone call, which was recorded in February, the girl described being “beaten with sticks and fire” and being fed “one bread every two days.”
Her father says she has already witnessed the murder of two male hostages who died after being tied to the roof and electrocuted.
Her captors are demanding $40,000 for the release of her and her family and have threatened to on sell the girl to other criminal gangs, separating her from her parents, as well as force other hostages to publically gang rape her mother should the money not be paid.
KIDNAPPINGS ON THE RISE
Amnesty says it has continued to receive reports of kidnappings and of individuals who have gone missing from the Shagarab camps and surrounding area since early 2011, while the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says that its figures suggest kidnapping incidents in eastern Sudan have increased over the last two years.
In 2012, UNHCR said their eastern Sudan office in Kassala received reports of between 30 and 50 cases a month of people claiming to have been kidnapped at the border between Eritrea and Sudan.
Excluding unconfirmed cases, the UNHCR says it has documented the disappearance and kidnapping of 551 Eritrean refugees in 2012 alone - a more than five-fold increase from the previous year.
It says information remains difficult to independently verify and that the true number of kidnappings from eastern Sudan is likely to be considerably higher than official figures.
Rights groups have documented evidence that high-level officials from the Eritrean government, as well as members of Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) are often complicit in crimes carried out within the complex and well-organised trafficking networks.
AI has called on Egypt and Sudan to take “urgent and concerted” steps to end the kidnapping and trafficking of asylum-seekers and refugees from camps in Sudan, and bring those involved in the crimes to justice.
The organisation also urged Egyptian security forces to urgently investigate reports that refugees and asylum-seekers are being held captive in compounds in north-east Sinai.
“The Egyptian authorities have a duty to protect any individual on their soil, and must urgently take steps to free all people held captive and subjected to appalling abuses in Sinai, and provide them with immediate medical attention and access to asylum procedures and support,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Eritrea researcher.
AI says Sudan needed to do more to prevent kidnappings in and around the Shagarab camps, where safety and security provisions to protect its estimated 30,000 inhabitants remain grossly inadequate.
It also called on the Sudanese government to conduct prompt and impartial investigations into all allegations against members of the security forces and fast-track the passing of national anti-trafficking legislation, currently at draft stage, to establish trafficking as a criminal offence.
AI says countries along the trafficking route – extending from Eritrea through Ethiopia and Sudan into Egypt – must significantly improve national efforts to combat abuses against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, as well as increase their engagement with international agencies working to tackle the crimes.
FORCED TO LEAVE
The majority of victims who were freed in Sinai are now in Israel, while some are in Egypt and Ethiopia.
The Israeli government has recently taken a hard-line stance against immigrants from Africa, seen as an economic burden and threat to national security. There have been reports that Eritrean asylum seekers were threatened with lengthy detention unless they agreed to depart voluntarily.
In its report, AI called on destination countries, including Israel, to “put in place transparent systems to identify victims of trafficking and other abuses, and provide victims with access to medical, psycho-social and rehabilitation services and to fair asylum procedures”.
According to UNHCR figures, an estimated 60,000 Eritreans have arrived at the reception camp of Shagarab since January 2010.
Eritrean robbers get away with sixteen dollars
Chur, Switzerland – Two young Eritreans who robbed reportedly a 29 year-old victim at knifepoint in late January got away with only 15 Swiss francs US$16. The victim fell to the ground suffering from ankle ligament damage during impact.
In a separate matter arising from a two year old hit-and-run case, one of the two Eritreans had threatened his victim with a knife getting away with 20 Swiss francs only. He was sentenced to one year of probation by a district court and apparently did not learn his lesson from the sentencing he got two years ago.
The fact that the two Eritreans are of young age shows the increasing problems young immigrants have to adapt to their host societies due to unemployment and missing prospects on the horizon. Although, everyone is responsible for his own deeds, the Eritrean community needs to help young refugees from drifting into crime, otherwise our image will suffer, says Simon Woldeab, an Eritrean social worker.
Both Eritreans are awaiting their court case with one of them to stand trial twice in a short period of time since his last appearance in court. Swiss authorities say that repatriation is currently impossible under Swiss law, but it could be an option once the legal framework would allow to return criminal immigrants to their homeland.