Saturday, August 30, 2014

President Isaias was excluded from the US-Africa Summit: What lessons for Eritrea?

Washington’s decision not to let President Isaias Afewerki join over forty other African heads of government for the US-Africa summit in D.C. early this month was a huge blow to the regime but a monumental victory for Eritreans fighting for freedom and democracy.
Like Isaias, Sudan’s Al-Bashir and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe were also uninvited for committing genocidal atrocities against their own people. The barely known interim leader of the war-torn Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza was also not invited. To be consistent, the US should also have excluded other repressive dictators, among them, Equatorial Guinea’s Nguema and Uganda’s Museveni.
Keeping aside its inconsistencies, the US saw no purpose in inviting Isaias who is widely seen as Africa’s worst violator of fundamental human and democratic rights. His government has not only been committing atrocities against Eritreans, but as the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group has concluded, it has also supported international terrorism by aiding and abetting the deadly Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab group which has slaughtered thousands of civilians in Somalia and beyond.
It would have been a terrible setback for the exiled pro-democracy Eritrean movement had Isaias been invited as a guest in Washington, where he would be lecturing on his impractical “self-reliance” philosophy and where he would be denying that thousands have been sent  to jail for their political or religious convictions as reported by human rights agencies.
Then to add salt to injury, there are the misinformed worshipers of the president who would be welcoming and cheering him. Ironically, most of these misguided followers fled the homeland because they themselves were unsafe and impoverished under Isaias or Mengistu Hailemariam before him.
Lack of Democratic Institutions
Obama says no person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and corruption. Visiting Africa in 2009, he emphasized that “Africa did not need strong men, but strong institutions.”
He was referring to democratic institutions where there is no trace of them in Eritrea. By excluding the Eritrean leader from the august Washington summit, the US President was sending the message that there is no peace or prosperity without political participation of the people.
Eritrea has come a long way since Isaias staged a disturbing “coup” against the people on September 18, 2001 when the press and dissenting voices were buried alive. He ordered the imprisonment of almost all of government ministers including the vice president as well as almost all journalists with privately owned newspapers. They have been languishing in unknown prisons since.
For several years following this fateful event, it was hard for exiled Eritrean journalists and activists to get the attention and support from the West let alone from a US President who now tells the Eritrean leader that he is not qualified to take part in talks pertaining to Africa’s future unless he first respects the will of his own people.
More Isolation
There was yet another embarrassing moment for the Isaias regime when in 2009 the 54-member African Union unanimously adopted a resolution to ask the UN Security Council to slap the Eritrean government with sanctions for posing a threat to the peace and security of the East and Horn of Africa Region. Two years later, the Security Council imposed yet more stringent economic and military sanctions on the Asmara government for failing to abide by the 2009 sanction resolutions.
In mid-December last year, Isaias was in Nairobi along with most of East and Horn of African leaders who had in the past condemned his siding with the Islamist radicals in Somalia, who have been threatening the stability of the region. He was among 20 heads of state attending Kenya’s 50th independence anniversary. President Uhuru Kenyatta is an ICC suspect for crimes against humanity and he needs any UN member state on his side. Apart from the fact that both leaders are in trouble, Uhuru and Isaias have nothing in common.
Eritrea's president Isaias Afewerki  (L) sits next to Kenya former president Mwai Kibaki (R) at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on December 12, 2013 during celebrations marking half a century of independence from Britain. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

Eritrea’s president Isaias Afewerki (L) sits next to Kenya former president Mwai Kibaki (R) at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on December 12, 2013 during celebrations marking half a century of independence from Britain. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)
Although hyped by Eri-TV as an important three day Kenya trip, there were no reports of Uhuru-Isaias meetings in the State House or on the sidelines of the celebrations to discuss any investment or trade deals. During the festivities Isaias was many times seen next to former Kenya President Mwai Kibaki who is most unhappy with the Eritrean leader for his reported support of Al-Shabab. In 2011, the then-President Kibaki dispatched thousands of troops to Somalia after Al-Shabab attacked tourist sites and hotels in Kenya. Isaias could not have been thrilled with having Kibaki’s company in the anniversary programs given the huge rift between the two.
Isaias however found consolation and relief when he was warmly welcomed in an event organized by the Eritrean Community of refugees and immigrants in Nairobi many of whom were in need of visas and passports from the government in exchange for payment of the notorious 2% “diaspora income tax” banned under UN sanctions.
Squandering Public Trust
The Eritrean government lost almost all of its friends in Africa because of its alleged destabilizing role in the region and partly because of its poor foreign policy, thus leading to most damaging sanctions unprecedented in recent African history. At the UN, it could not garner the support of Russia or China when sanctions were debated in 2009 and again in 2011. In any case China or Russia could not do much to help unless regional blocs like IGAD-East Africa or the African Union were willing to cooperate.
Isaias and his advisors have repeatedly squandered the good-will and trust of African and western governments, and above all that of his own people claiming that the country was facing “unique” survival problems. For many years after the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia, many Eritreans, young and old, wanted to sacrifice individual interests for the sake of the nation.
Western establishments were ok with this even though Isaias was openly becoming a full-fledged authoritarian trampling on democratic and human rights and defying US and UN warnings against his government’s reported association with Al-Shabab.
Contrary to Washington’s strongly held position, former US Under-Secretary for African Affairs Herman Cohen says Eritrea has had no contacts with Al-Shabab since 2009 and stresses that “Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region”.
Moving Forward
Cohen and some International Crisis Group experts believe that ending the UN sanctions on Eritrea and resolving its border conflict with Ethiopia would automatically bring about change in domestic policy. Vital as such achievements would be in themselves, they cannot guarantee establishment of rule of law, and respect for rights and freedoms of the people. The government itself says it is ruling without a constitution, elections and enforcing endless national services because of external pressures.
The situation calls for change and neither the sanctions nor the “Ethiopia threat” can prevent the government to end repression and allow freedom of speech and start working with the people in building a democratic, prosperous country.
The next step would be to reestablish friendly relations with neighbors, beginning with Ethiopia. The president has reportedly said that Eritrea’s future is tied to that of Ethiopia. And Premier Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia says he is ready to go to Asmara if it meant normalizing relations with Eritrea.
Such a move is bound to encourage him to normalize relations with Ethiopia as the best strategy to get rid of the excruciating sanctions. The US will not vote to have these sanctions lifted without the agreement from Ethiopia and other concerned East African governments.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Switzerland Lets in Eritrean Asylum Seeker from Israel

by   / AUGUST 27, 2014


Switzerland lets in Eritrean asylum seeker from Israel

"Petitioner is in genuine danger of being imprisoned or held indefinitely in what is called an open facility,” judges say in ruling. | Aug. 28, 2014
A Swiss court recently permitted an Eritrean asylum seeker to enter Switzerland, in an effort to prevent the man from being held in an Israeli detention center.
A three-judge panel of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court accepted the man’s appeal against a Swiss government decision to keep him out of the country. He appealed after he was ordered to report to the Holot detention center in the south, for an indefinite period.
“The facts of the case lead to the conclusion that the petitioner is in genuine danger of being imprisoned or held indefinitely in what is called an open facility,” the judges ruled.
In his appeal, which he filed with the aid of his sister, who has gained refugee status in Switzerland, he said he feared Israel would deport him to Eritrea, since his Israeli visa was invalidated by the order to report to Holot.
The court said people should generally seek protection from their country of residence, but in exceptional cases when that country cannot provide adequate protection, Switzerland can permit asylum seekers to enter. The court ruled that the Swiss authorities must allow the man entry so as to complete the asylum-seeking process.
“We have to assume in this case that he would be held for an undefined period in Holot,” the ruling said.
“We must treat the petitioner’s detention in a facility that he can only leave with permission, that’s in the middle of the Negev desert, 65 kilometers from the next city and without any possibility of working, as a step of separation and deportation. Beyond that, there is a risk that he would be deported to a third country like Uganda, where it’s not clear what would happen to the petitioner. Under these circumstances, it is not reasonable to expect the petitioner to remain in Israel and seek protection there.”
The Israel Prison Service said yesterday that about 1,800 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea are being held at Holot, while an additional 900 are held in Saharonim Prison. Holot can hold up to 3,300 people, but it has not come close to that number since the facility was built about eight months ago. The peak was 2,400 people about two months ago.
There are two wings that are fully built but have yet to open. Hundreds of the people who have been told they must stay in Holot were taken into custody two months ago because they attempted to cross the border into Egypt. Since the facility was opened, about half of the asylum seekers ordered to do so by Israel’s population authority have done so.
Many have chosen to leave Israel and return to their homeland or go to a third country rather than stay in the detention center, and Israel has provided them with a grant of $3,500 each.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eritrean border guards shoot dead 10 civilians trying to flee - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

Eritrean border guards have allegedly shot dead 10 Eritreans citizens as they attempted to cross in to Ethiopia, a recent escapee told Sudan Tribuneon Friday.
GIF - 38.4 kb
The secretive regime in Asmara has led Eritrea to be dubbed the North Korea of Africa
Samuel Gedion said he was among a group of 18 Eritreans who were trying to flee to Ethiopia two weeks ago.
“Ten of them were killed, while three of us made it to Ethiopia. I am not sure on the fate of the remaining five,” he said.
He said border guards had opened fired on the group without any prior warning.
One of those reportedly killed was a young woman who had recently finished 18 months of military service.
Eritrea has a long-standing shoot-to-kill policy against those who attempt to flee the repressive nation, dubbed the North Korea of Africa.
Eritrean opposition groups in Addis Ababa toldSudan Tribune that hundreds of young Eritreans have been killed by border guards in the past two years alone.
The regime in Asmara considers citizens who attempt to flee as traitors. Those who are caught are often subject to indefinite prison terms and serious human rights abuses.
Many others are also punished by death, particularly if they are believed to have links to exiled Eritrean opposition groups.
Many young people, however, are still prepared to take the risk, fleeing to neighbouring countries in protest against indefinite military service, serious human rights abuses and bad governance.
Last week, the A report released last week by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled Eritrea: Ending the Exodus? calls on the Eritrean government to implement the long-delayed 1997 constitution
The group underscored the need to address the country’s growing internal crisis which is behind the ongoing exodus, as well as calling for greater engagement with Eritrea – potentially ending a decade of isolation that has been both self-imposed and externally generated.
It urged the leadership in Eritrea to work towards gradual demobilisation of the military and undertake a restructure of the country’s economy in order to create wider job opportunities.
“The youth exodus from Eritrea is symptomatic of social malaise and growing disaffection with the Asmara regime,” said Cedric Barnes, the think tank’s director for the Horn of Africa.
“The state’s demand for the sacrifice of individual ambition to the greater good of the Eritrean nation – resigning oneself to, in effect, indefinite national service – causes more and more Eritreans to leave the country, even if that means risking their lives,” adds Barnes.
He called on Eritrea’s government to end the policy of indefinite national service and to work with international partners to build an economy that will create jobs for its citizens.
The secretive Red Sea nation currently has up to ten thousand political prisoners languishing in the country’s secret detention facilities, including in underground prisons and shipping containers.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eritrea turned the Dream it fought for into night mare " Forced Militarization of the Youth"

Original title " Eritrea: Building or Destroying the Hope" Asmarino

Students in the Certificate program (from the 25th and 26th round) and those that did not get a passing mark from the 26th round arrived in Sawa for their further studies

Soon after their arrival they were told they will walk on foot to Nakfa, and this has created a distress not only to the students who expected a further study but it also broke the hopes of the new students (Round 27) who arrived in Sawa on July 20 2013, and many begun to quickly flee to the neighboring countries (Sudan & Ethiopia) and some also returned to their homes.

As they were told the 25th and 26th round of the certificate program and those which did not get a passing mark begun their walk to Nakfa on the beginning of the October and they traveled on foot to Nakfa for the whole two months (October and November) and reached Nakfa at the beginning of the month of December.

On their way to Nakfa, several students committed suicide and this has created a lot of distress in Eritrea and especially in Sawa.

On December they were given a job, doing a labor work for the ዉቃው እዝ Wikaw Iz which was to be celebrated on March 21-23, 2014.After working for the whole month of December, the students within the certificate program returned to Sawa on the middle of January and those which don’t get a passing mark were divided into two group: some of them stayed in Nakfa and the others were send to Afabet (and they are still there). And now the effect of this tragic process is - the number of students going to Sawa has been decreasing.
  • The 26th Round: 17,700
  • The 27th Round: 24,000 students
  • The 28th Round: 9,000 Students Many students (28th round) on the border area choose to flee while the others choose to stay on their homes.
For the 26th round their matriculation results were told in their home cities but now the students from the 27 round are being told to arrive at Sawa on the 5th of September of 2014, the colleges will start registration on the 2nd of September 2014. The government has threatened the students if they don’t arrive on that date it will use strong measures ( most students believe the government will use its usual round up in the cities ) to bring them to Sawa.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dreams of Eritrean refugees turn to ashes in Yemen | Yemen Times

After escaping hardships in Eritrea and arriving in Yemen‭, ‬many Eritreans are unable to find employment‭, ‬accommodation‭, ‬and security‭.‬

After escaping hardships in Eritrea and arriving in Yemen‭, ‬many Eritreans are unable to find employment‭, ‬accommodation‭, ‬and security‭.‬
Dozens of Eritrean refugees are scattered across the Al-Safeyah area of Sana’a, a densely populated neighborhood estimated to have the largest number of African refugees in the city. Women sit in groups on threadbare carpets, blankets, or mats in streets corners. They are surrounded by playing children, running, shouting, smiling, and laughing; easily distracting observers from the tragic experiences they went through on their way to and through Yemen.

A group of around 200 Eritrean refugees have been living on the streets of Sana’a for months, as they themselves explain. They were arrested and sent to jail upon their crossing of the red sea and the Yemeni coastal border.

According to Omar Abu Bakr, who acts as the group’s representative, he and the other refugees have spent between three and twenty months in the central prison of Hodeida governorate.

Not every Eritrean who arrives in Yemen gets imprisoned, explains Abdullah Ali Al-Zurka, the director of the Deportation Department in Sana’a.  It is only those who do not obtain official refugee status and count as “illegal immigrants” who face jail time. “As soon as they are officially acknowledged as refugees they are freed from prison.”

Surprisingly, refugees appear quite understanding of their imprisonment, explaining that the Yemeni government was rightfully concerned about Yemen’s security and had to preserve its country from “human trafficking.”

The refugees that are living in Sana’a’s streets and are represented by Abu Bakr have all undergone imprisonment before they were freed by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

According to Al-Zurka, the UNHCR office suggested the movement of all freed refugees to Sana'a, where it is easier to process their legal documents and officially ratify their refugee status.

The Eritrean group was housed in hotels located in the Al-Safeyah neighborhood for three months before receiving documents identifying them as refugees. Once their legal status was clarified, UNHCR provided little further assistance, simply recommending they integrate with local groups to build themselves a living in Sana’a.

Idris Ahmed, a fifty-year-old fisherman and a refugee within the group, came to Yemen expecting to receive shelter, lodging, or resettlement in a third country by the Yemeni government or the UNHCR.

“None of that happened… instead we were left abandoned on the streets,” said Ahmed.

Neither Ahmed nor any of the other refugees were prepared for what awaited them in Yemen.

Driven by harships in their  home country, not much thought was given to the future in Yemen, which was mainly chosen as a destination because of its proximity. Everything seemed better than home. “We decided to go to Yemen in order to seek humanitarian asylum there because it was the easiest way for us, via the sea, only a 72-hours trip,” Ahmed recalls.

“We never heard of a good or a bad situation in Yemen. All we did was flee,” explains another refugee, Helen Berhey.

Escaping the Eritrean military

Ahmed, who ran away from the tyranny of his government, explains that he had been forced to join the military regardless of his old age.

Fatima Mohammed, an Eritrean housewife, left her country with her husband, a soldier, for a similar reason, seeking a better life and future. “As a soldier my husband could not provide me and the kids with a life worth living. He sometimes stayed away from home for more than a year, or a year and a half,” she explains.

Holding one of her children in her arms, she adds, “once we arrived in Yemen we spent six months in jail. It was a very tough experience.”

The female refugees weren’t all housewives before they fled Eritrea—a couple of women were part of the Eritrean military as well.

“In Eritrea, military service is mandatory after the 11th grade for all citizens aged between sixteen and fifty. No one can apply for a job or proceed with their education unless they join the military first,” said Berhey, a female soldier who has been in the military for three years before she fled Eritrea with her two brothers, also soldiers.

Following military service, all Eritrean citizens, except for the elderly, must carry an official document with them at all times, stating that he or she completed military service.  “Sometimes the military forces arrest people who are walking on the street without these papers. They also search houses for those who did not join the military to arrest them and forcefully send them to the military training base,” said Maryam Qermay, another female soldier who fled her life in Eritrea after having served in the Eritrean military since 2008.

Speaking about her experiences, she says, “I wanted to continue my education and become a secretary. That is why I initially joined the military.”

According to Qermay, the treatment she experienced during her military service was harsh.

“Our training started at 3 AM and lasted until 6 PM every day. We were beaten with a baton by our supervisors whenever we failed to meet their commands or were late,” said Qermay.

“Some people died during their military service due to heart diseases due to insufficient medical care,” she added, describing the military service as “slavery.”

Thousands of Eritreans flee their country each year to avoid the country’s harsh military service.

Although Eritrea’s “national service” is officially limited to 18 months, in practice the government prolongs service indefinitely. According to a 2014 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, conscripts are poorly fed, receive inadequate medical care, and earn less than US$30 per month—a sum that is insufficient to provide sustenance for a family.

Children as young as 15 are conscripted into military service, where they are often poorly treated and sometimes face violence, the HRW report reads. Frequently, conscripts are exploited as cheap labor, being forced to work on reconstruction projects for example, such as road building, living in vast barracks in the desert, and not being allowed to leave the work site.

Lacking health services, freedom of expression and religion

Eritrea’s compulsory military service is not the only reason that prompts Eritreans to leave their country. A  lack of health services and the absence of freedom of expression and religion were also put forth by Eritrean refugees in Yemen as reasons driving escape.

A 2014 Human Rights Watch report claimed that since 2002, the Eritrean government has jailed and physically abused citizens for practicing religions other than Sunni Islam, Ethiopian Orthodox, Catholicism, and Lutheranism, which are the four government-controlled and officially recognized religions.

Accordingly, refugees like Qermay complain they have faced severe discrimination due to their religious identity.

Being a protestant and non-Lutheran Christian, Qermay explains that “those who are protestant Christians, like me, face difficulties and racism from the government.” Once police forces broke into the church of her Protestant community, interrupted their prayer and imprisoned the worshipers, including old people, women, and children.

“We were released later and asked in a threatening tone to never have our [Protestant] prayers again,” said Qermay.

Living under difficult conditions in Yemen

“We are facing really bad conditions and circumstances here,” said Abu Bakr, referring to his current life in Yemen. “Our life is now based on charities and people's mercy,” which is neither a permanent nor a sustainable source of income.

Feeding themselves and their family members, however, is not the only concern of Eritrean refugees living on the streets in Yemen; weather, security concerns, and health issues constitute serious challenges as well.

“Rainy days wet all our carpets and the pieces of cartoons we sit on. We try to hide from the rain with our children, fearing they will get sick. Once we were helped by this young man owning a toy shop, in which we could stay during the rain,” said Mohammed.

Refugees’ security concerns also matter, in a country which is widely acknowledged to find itself facing a very difficult security situation.

 8 According to Qermay, “there are days when we can't sleep out of fear, hearing very close gunfire.” Refugees, she says, find themselves in a very dangerous situation, lacking any protection. “All we can do is turn to human rights organizations and ask for their help.”

Several of the problems refugees are facing in Yemen could be solved by finding them a proper shelter. I fact, living in a safe place with food and adequate services constitutes a key demand among homeless Eritrean refugees in Sana’a.

Sanaa Mohammed, the chairwoman of the Eritrean community leaders, said that the refugees represented by Abu Bakr demanded to be moved to a camp during the meetings with the UNHCR.

“However, they never submitted the documents that are required to be moved to the camps,” she said.

In her opinion, refugees were not placed in camps because they did not know they had to submit a written request. Another possible reason, she assumes, might be that “camps are already fully packed.”

Mohammed’s presumption is contradicted by Jamal Al-Ju'bi, the protection official at the UNHCR. “Camps exist and they can file request to us, moving to those camps anytime,” says Al-Ju’bi, referring to UNHCR refugee camps in Lahj, Taiz, and Raima governorates. He problematizes the “camp solution”, however, saying, “we took them out of prison where they had to live under bad conditions. We don't want the camp to become another prison.”

Supporting his argument, Al-Ju'bi refers to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which was signed by Yemen, and requires each contracting state to accord the right to refugees “to choose their place of residence and to move freely within its territory.”

Instead of emphasizing the camp solution, the UNHCR is trying to integrate Eritrean refugees into Yemeni society. “We provided and linked them to community leaders who help them find housing and jobs, and who report their needs regarding education, health, legal matters...etc.,” said Al-Ju'bi.

So-called “community leaders” are selected by refugees and confirmed by the UNHCR to act as mediators between the two parties.

Al-Ju'bi explains that the UNHCR office can only assist Eritrean refugees in finding decent housing and providing them with essential services, including health services, psychological consultancy, legal help, or education in public schools. Using their Letter of Recognition for Refugee Status, Eritrean children can actually enroll in public school. While the government grants refugees access to education, it refuses to offer health services, denying them any access to public hospitals. Instead, Eritrean refugees must rely on health centers that operate in coordination with the UNHCR and provide them with free health services.

With very little government funding allocated to refugees, the UNHCR and other international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Organization of Migration, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), or Save the Children, constitute crucial players in the support of refugees in Yemen.

In May, Al-Ju'bi reported that around 40 refugees, who were released from prison, have been successfully integrated in society, and that a small number have managed to find jobs and housing.

More than two months later, Mohammed explained that “over 80% of the Eritrean group of refugees that had to live on the streets, found shelter. They got jobs, and others were enrolled in the vocational training that the UNHCR office provides.”

These figures are problematic, as 20 percent of all cases remain unresolved. With high unemployment rates in the country and over 250 thousands registered refugees, the full integration of Eritreans into Yemeni society is a difficult task.

In light of the dire situation Eritrean refugees are facing in Yemen, it seems little surprising that many of them wish to leave the country as soon as possible, trying their luck elsewhere.

Al-Zurka and Al-Ju'bi agree that most Eritrean refugees wish to resettle to a third country,” saying that “Yemen seems to be a first destination for them, a transit, before heading to their aimed final destination, Europe. They only came here to get resettled.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Minister looking into Eritrean asylum spike - News - The Copenhagen Post

Norway, Germany and the Netherlands have had similar experiences

In July, Denmark experienced 510 asylum seekers from Eritrea, compared to an average of ten per month during the first quarter of this year (Photo: Scanpix)

The justice minister Karen Hækkerup has announced that she wants to look into the increasing number of asylum-seekers hailing from the east African country of Eritrea.
Last month Denmark experienced 510 asylum seekers from Eritrea, compared to an average of about ten per month during the first quarter of this year.
“We need to look into who the asylum-seekers from Eritrea are, why they are coming to Denmark, and whether they have legitimate protection needs,” Hækkerup said in a press release.
“If they don’t, they need to be sent back. I’ve noted that Udlændingestyrelsen [immigration services] intends to send a mission to the area to evaluate the situation.”
Neighbourly advice
The minister went on to explain that the many Eritrean asylum-seekers will not be granted asylum until the evaluation has been completed.
Denmark isn’t the only nation to experience a spike in Eritrean asylum-seekers recently. Norway, the Netherlands and Germany have all experienced similar increases, and the Justice Ministry is in dialogue with the authorities in the three nations to glean their experiences.
Hækkerup has also established a work group tasked with looking into how border control areas and airports can be improved in terms of tackling human trafficking and illegal immigration.

Related stories

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eritrean News - Tigrinya - 11 August 2014 - Eritrea TV

Djibouti urges Eritrea to free 'captured' officer

By Mohamed Taha Tewekel, Wednesday, August 13, 2014
ADDIS ABABA – Djibouti on Wednesday called for the release of a military officer allegedly captured by the Eritrean army.
"Eritrea must release the military officer it captured on July 25," the Djiboutian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry accused the Eritrean army of detaining the officer, who, it said, had been accompanying a Qatari military delegation to the demilitarized zone on the border between the two countries.
The ministry went on to warn that Eritrea's failure to release the officer would endanger a Qatari-mediated peace process between the two states.
"The mediation process will be jeopardized if Eritrea fails to release the Djiboutian military officer, who was captured while accompanying a Qatari military delegation visiting the demilitarized zone," it stated.
Since 2010, Qatar has mediated between the two countries following a war between them in 2008.
Under Qatari mediation, Djibouti released hundreds of Eritrean prisoners and handed them over to the United Nations.
Eritrea, for its part, has yet to follow suit.
"Qatar is also responsible for the capture of the Djiboutian military officer, since he was with its delegation at the time of his capture," the ministry said, urging Qatar to pressure Eritrea to release the officer.
"It should also pressure Eritrea to live up to its international commitments on such matters," the ministry added.
Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Italy's Abandoned Grandchildren Of African Colonization

Italy's Abandoned Grandchildren Of African Colonization

Article illustrative imagePartner logo Immigrants demand their rights in Rome.
ROME — These lives appear like ships at the mercy of a storm, where something that appeared as a cruel joke may actually be the salvation. These are the stories of Eritreans with Italian roots trying, sometimes with the most desperate means, to arrive from Africa in Italy.
Italy took colonial authority over Eritrea in 1890, and, according to the Italian census of 1939, the capital city of Asmara had a population of 98,000, of whom 53,000 were Italians. Among the colonizing troops and administers, some Italian men took the local women as their servants, and no small number of children were born out of wedlock. Typically, when such unintended "accidents" occurred, the women were unceremoniously abandoned. Nobody has been able to quantify how many children were born under these circumstances.
But what we know now is that Eritrea is a poor country ruled by a military dictatorship — and ever more people are trying to emigrate. This includes a group with a particular connection to Italy, such as brothers Emanuele and Angelo, who were born to a mother whose Italian father had disavowed her.
Their grandmother gave their mother to an orphanage because she would never be able to live openly in the capital with the child who was born under such circumstances.
Their mother grew up, got married and had four children, including Emanuele and Angelo, today 29 and 26 years old, respectively.
After years of mandatory service in the Eritrean military, the brothers managed to get the go-ahead to request their Italian citizenships, even though their mother's own application had been repeatedly denied. But after their new Italian passports arrived, it was followed by an ultimatum from the Eritrean government: Because they had chosen to leave the army, they also had to go within 45 days.
One sister left behind
It wasn't easy to start new lives in a completely different country, where they knew no one and nothing — not even a few words of the language. Since then it has been three long years of humiliation in public offices as they try to explain that they are, in fact, Italian, with full rights to health care, to a social security number and permanent residence. 
Eritrea 1936 (photo — Fiore Barbato )
They are also fighting for refugee status because they were forced to flee their country, much like other Eritreans who have landed on Italian shores after making dangerous crossings of the desert and the Mediterranean, often landing on the small island of Lampedusa.
Today, though living safely and legally in Italy, Emanuele and Angelo are still in the middle of their journey. They're no longer Eritrean, but they're not quite Italian either — as is written on their identity cards. They don't have access to public housing, or to the grants that would allow them attend university. They get by however they can, living in one of Rome's many abandoned tenements, unable to find steady work. A year ago, one of their sisters joined them, and all three worry about their last sister left in Eritrea, the only one who still hasn't managed to obtain Italian citizenship, though she too is legally entitled to it.
Emanuele and Angelo also worry about all the other children abandoned by Italy who remain in Eritrea. Nobody has officially counted them, but there are thousands of people forced to suffer violence and injustice or, in the best-case scenario, spend their lives in the army. Emanuele and Angelo are asking Italy not to look the other way.
"We don't want anything from the state, we’re somehow getting by and are surviving," says Emanuele. "But we only ask that you wake up and help all those who are of Italian descent to get the citizenship they are entitled to and get them here."
Community of Sant’Egidio, the Rome-based Catholic aid and human rights organization, has called for a revision of the norms of family reunification that, under current law, is only possible between parents and children. "The degree of kinship and possibility of private sponsorship offered by family members, relatives and non-profit organizations, associations and agencies active in the fields of migration and asylum should be extended and facilitated," says Daniela Pompei, head of Immigration Services at Sant’Egidio. "In this way, we would allow those who are sponsored to be authorized to enter the country."
Their second proposal could be even more far-reaching: the opening of European offices for asylum and immigration in the countries from which many immigrants flock. "This follows the U.S. model," continues Pompei, "and would open a channel through which refugees don’t have to put their lives at the hands of traffickers and dangerous boats. It would also allow them to seek protection in the European embassies already in their countries."

Read the full article: Italy's Abandoned Grandchildren Of African Colonization 
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Eritrea: Ending the Exodus? - International Crisis Group

Nairobi/Brussels  |   8 Aug 2014

Eritrea’s youth exodus has significantly reduced the young nation’s human capital. While this has had advantages for the government – allowing the departure of those most dissatisfied and most likely to press for political change – the growing social and political impact of mass migration at home and abroad demands concerted domestic and international action.
African asylum seekers gather for a morning meeting during an overnight protest after leaving Holot open detention centre in southern Israel's Negev desert, June 28, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
“The state’s demand for the sacrifice of individual ambition to the greater good of the Eritrean nation... causes more and more Eritreans to leave the country, even if that means risking their lives”.
Cedric Barnes, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director
Authoritarian rule, social malaise and open-ended national service drive thousands of young people to flee Eritrea every month, exposing the shortcomings of a leadership that has lost the confidence of the next generation. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Eritrea: Ending the Exodus?, shows that while the government turned this flight to its advantage for a time, the scale – and attendant criminality – of the exodus are now pressing problems.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • As in the past, Eritreans are fleeing for political and economic reasons, including to sustain the communities they leave behind. But through their remittances, as well as a tax that many in the diaspora pay the state, they help prop up the very system they escaped.
  • Regional and wider international policies to further isolate Eritrea’s uncompromising leadership are counterproductive. Together with the border conflict with Ethiopia, they provide the regime with justification to maintain Eritrea’s “state of exception”, including an unending national service, a closed political system and the continued deferment of constitutional rights, especially individual social and economic freedoms.
  • The Eritrean government, with help from international partners, especially the EU and UN, should work toward gradual demobilisation and restructure the country’s economy to enhance job prospects for the young.
“The exodus is symptomatic of social malaise and growing disaffection with the regime” says Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa Project Director. “The state’s demand for the sacrifice of individual ambition to the greater good of the Eritrean nation – resigning oneself to indefinite national service – causes more and more Eritreans to leave the country, even if that means risking their lives”.
“The impact of the exodus on final-destination countries demands a new approach to the current Eritrean government. In a Europe where immigration policies are increasingly in question, the Eritrean problem cannot be ignored”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “For all sides, finding ways to end the exodus could replace continuing sterile confrontation with fertile ground for cooperation”.