An estimated 305,000 Eritreans, or five per cent of the population, have left the country, making them one of the largest groups of migrants into Europe.
Pictured as she was rescued from a stricken boat off the Greek island of Rhodes, the terrified face of Wegasi Nebiat last week became the symbol of Europe’s migration crisis.
The 24-year-old was among more than 100 migrants on a rickety craft that capsized en route from Turkey, drowning three of its occupants. But images of her being plucked to safety by a burly Greek rescuer have also put the spotlight on her homeland ofEritrea - a harsh, brutal dictatorship dubbed “Africa’s North Korea”.
The tiny Horn of Africa nation, which won independence in 1993 after a 30-year civil war with Ethiopia, is run as a one-party state by former guerrilla leader Isaias Afwerki and his cronies. Thousands of political prisoners languish in jail, no elections have been held in 20 years, and like Kim Jong-un’s hermit regime in Pyongyang,the country is off limits to foreign media and human rights groups.
However, one thing that Eritrea’s closed, secretive government cannot hide is how its population of just six million is now among the biggest customers of the people traffickers of the Mediterranean. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that of the 200,000 migrants who made the crossing last year, some 18 per cent, or nearly one in five, were Eritreans like Ms Nebiat. Only refugees from Syria, with its brutal civil war, made up more at 31 per cent.
An estimated 305,000 Eritreans, or five per cent of the population, havenow left the country, fleeing torture, a stagnant economy, and conscription into a vast standing army that often amounts to little more than slavery.
(Photo above: Adikeih March 2015 – innocent child sitting on the remains of her destroyed home)
In the southern city of Eritrea in the town of Adikeih, the regime’s troops confronted by angry men and women to stop them from destroying their homes. When the armed forces headed to the area (mainly populated by Saho speaking people) to demolish their homes. Hundreds of residents came out to streets in solidarity of the victims. Many innocent civilians were seriously injured and were taken into makeshift prisons outside the town denying them basic medical attention. It has been reported that a number of casualties were died of their wounds, hours after the vicious attack. This resistance and civil disobedience by brave Adikeih residents have halted the regime’s plans from demolishing more houses in Adikeih and elsewhere.
(Photo above: Adikeih March 2015 – The regimes destroying civilian home)
(Adikeih March 2015 – There is no honour in attacking unarmed civilians)
Threatening citizens either to pay unimaginable sums of money or face the risk of their homes being destroyed is now increasingly a common practice to feed the beast and generate money. It’s hopes this civil disobedience by heroic Adikeih residents would make the regime think twice before acting to destroy homes.
Thousands of peoplep are living in makeshift camps in Calais hoping that one day they will make it to the UK. Many once had good jobs – but fleeing from war and persecution most now have no money, and little dignity, in a town that is fed up with them.
The recent collapse of state authority in Libya has turned that country into a massive human trafficking staging post for people desperate to escape the extreme violence in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan and to flee lives of long military service and repression in Eritrea.
In the late 1990s, a Red Cross camp for about 900 refugees was opened at the nearby village of Sangatte, on a site that once housed the enormous drilling machines used to dig the channel tunnel.
But it was closed three years later after the migrant population soared to more than 2,000. It had become both a magnet for new arrivals and a criminalised trafficking centre for onward movement to the UK.
Wary of building any new facilities that might be seen to “encourage” more migrants, the British and French authorities have adopted what charities describe as a policy of “deliberate neglect”.
Currently neither state provides shelter, accommodation, food or medical care – apparently in the vain hope that word of the deprivation and primitive conditions will somehow filter back to the world’s war zones and refugees will decide to go somewhere else instead.
If that is the plan, it’s not working, and it has fallen to local humanitarian charities to offer a modicum of welfare and assistance.
Every day at 18:00 local time, hundreds of migrants gather in long, snaking queues in a car park in central Calais for a free meal.
It’s a bizarre, almost Biblical scene, with legions of ragged men – and they are nearly all young men – shuffling quietly forwards across the dusty ground to receive what for many of them will be the only thing they eat all day.
And when they sit down on the ground to eat, the place becomes a Babel of the world’s tongues – Tajik, Pashto, Arabic, Dari, Tigrigna
Reported Release on Bail of Six Journalists in Eritrea
Jen Psaki Department Spokesperson
January 27, 2015
The United States welcomes reports of six journalists released on bail in Eritrea. We note with deep concern that the government continues to detain other journalists, reportedly as many as 17. We encourage the government to take immediate steps to release these additional detainees, all persons detained on the basis of their religious beliefs, members of the G-15, and all other political prisoners. The United States continues to urge that the Government of the State of Eritrea take comprehensive steps to respect human rights and avail its citizens of their fundamental freedoms.
Three Eritrean refugees have filed a lawsuit against a Canadian mining firm over claims that it conspired with the Eritrean government to force them and other conscripted workers to work at a copper mine for long hours while receiving little pay and living in squalid conditions.
The men, who now live in an Ethiopian refugee camp, say they were conscripted into the Eritrean army before being made to work “unfairly long hours without enough salary, proper medical services, good shelter [or] enough food”. They worked for the Bisha Mining Share Company (BMSC), which is operated jointly by Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources and Segen Construction, an Eritrean state-owned contractor.
One of the refugees involved in the lawsuit, Gize Yebeyo Araya, said through hislawyers that he worked at Bisha until March 2011. He said Segen paid him less than 500 nakfa (£20) a month to dispose of dangerous chemicals, including sulphur, that were generated during the mining process. “[My] work consisted of laying a large plastic sheet on the ground to hold the toxic chemical waste,” he said. “The heat was extreme when working. I got serious burns from the sun. I still have the scars from some of these burns on my face. Because of these conditions, and because of how little we were fed, I was always weak and exhausted.”
Foreign mining firms eyeing Eritrea’s mineral reserves are in danger of “walking into a minefield of human rights problems”, the HRW report said. Nearly the entire workforce is enrolled in the country’s national service programme.
At Bisha, Gize said workers were separated from foreign staff at the mine. “We were constantly being watched by security personnel and were strictly ordered by our commanders not to tell anyone that we were conscripts.”
In response to HRW’s report, Nevsun commissioned an independent report(pdf) into working conditions at Bisha. “Since 2009, BMSC has implemented screening procedures and dialogue with the management of its main suppliers, contractors and subcontractors to implement the prohibition against using national service programme workers at the Bisha mine,” the report said.
Nevsun’s CEO, Cliff Davis, said: “We are confident that the allegations [in the lawsuit] are unfounded. Based on various company-led and third party audits, the Bisha mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety. We are committed to ensuring that the Bisha mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner that respects the interests of the local communities, workers, national governance, stakeholders, and the natural environment.”
Despite the denials that conscripted labour is used at Bisha, Gize said it was “openly known” that Eritrean staff at the mine were soldiers. The Canadian company should have insisted on better working conditions for local workers, Gize said. “Nevsun … could have given us protection from such exploitation, but it never did. It is due to this reason that I felt I needed to sue Nevsun.”
Canada-based lawyer Joe Fiorante, who is representing the Eritreans, said: “We assert that Nevsun should be held accountable for the tremendous harm suffered not just by the plaintiffs but all those coerced by its local contractor into working at the Bisha mine site.”
Nevsun’s refusal to acknowledge the use of conscripted labour at Bisha casts doubts on the legitimacy of its efforts to have a positive impact on the country, said Chris Albin-Lackey, author of HRW’s report. “Nevsun claims to have put new systems in place that will prevent any future use of forced labour at its mine site. It will be hard to take any of that very seriously if the company reacts to this lawsuit by insisting that the problem never existed to begin with.”
In the first case of its kind, another Canadian mining firm, Hudbay Minerals, is facing legal action in an Ontario court (pdf) over claims that widespread human rights abuses were carried out at its mine in Guatemala. Hudbay responded to the allegations saying they were without merit and detailing its former operations in the Central American country. Yet the case could set a legal precedent that holds Canadian companies accountable for human rights abuses carried out at their overseas mines, according to Renu Mandhane, director of the University of Toronto’s international human rights programme.
“That is a very significant finding and bodes well for the plaintiffs in this action [against Nevsun],” said Mandhane. “I do think that Canadian courts are going to see more and more of these types of cases if the government does not begin to regulate our companies more closely.”
For years, major Canadian cities have hosted Eritrean military bands that raised funds for a regime hundreds of thousands have fled.
This summer, they’re not coming, after human rights advocates in Winnipeg complained to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
“We can’t be sure if this is because the government responded to our request, but it’s a good sign if they’re not coming this year,” said Daniel Awshek with the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba.
“We’ve consistently been asking the federal government — Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Canada Border Services Agency — not to let these people come here,” said Awshek. “Their only purpose is to do military fundraising and they divide the community,” he said. There are an estimated 3,000 Eritrean-Canadians in Winnipeg. Many are refugees.
On May 16, Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas and members of the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba met with Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. They asked him not to grant visitor visas to those raising funds for the regime that’s been called the North Korea of Africa.
They said the Eritrean government’s supporters are inadmissible because of human rights abuses and international sanctions. Canada has endorsed UN sanctions against the Eritrean regime for its arming of Somali terrorists. Members of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front are barred from entering Canada.
Foreign Affairs has warned Eritrean expatriates in Canada against giving money to the regime for military purposes and last year kicked out the Eritrean consul for collecting a two per cent tax from Canadians to fund it.
To circumvent those sanctions, the Eritrean government has held fundraisers across North America that are billed as cultural events, a UN monitoring group report said.
The Walta Cultural Group, a military band from Eritrea, has visited Winnipeg in previous summers with a member of the banned Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. When Awshek’s group complained at the time to Canada’s Border Services Agency about their presence, nothing happened.
At the meeting with the federal minister in May, the Manitoba human rights group’s representatives provided the names of 67 Eritreans who shouldn’t be allowed into Canada, including three who’ve been allowed visitors visas in the past.
This summer, no visiting performers from Eritrea are scheduled to play at Festival Eritrea Toronto today or at the Eritrean festival in Winnipeg on Aug. 16.
“That is at least some progress,” said Matas. “Sometimes no news is news.”
Eritrean festival organizers in Winnipeg — the Eritrean Community of Manitoba Inc. — did not respond to a request for comment.
GENEVA – Sudan is forcing Eritrean refugees to return to their home country, the UN said Friday, warning that their lives and liberty were at risk.
Some 74 Eritreans were forcibly sent back on Monday to Eritrea through the eastern Laffa border crossing point, according to information provided by Sudanese authorities to the UN refugee agency.
“UNHCR is deeply concerned over recent forced returns, or refoulement, of Eritrean and other asylum seekers and refugees from Sudan,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
“We are concerned that their lives and freedom are at risk,” she warned.
While Sudan has sent Eritreans back in the past, the size of the group and the fact that they were forced to return right after crossing into Sudan marked a new trend, she said.
UNHCR believes that the forced returns, as well as recent mass arrests of foreigners, was linked to a new act by the government requiring foreign nationals to legalise their residency.
Fleming underlined that under international refugee law, “no individual … can be involuntarily returned to a country where he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution,” she said.
Doing so amounts to “a serious violation” of international law, she said.
According to UN figures, some 4,000 Eritreans flee the country every month to escape brutal government repression.
Last week, the UN Human Rights Council launched an investigation into wide-ranging abuses reported in the country, including extrajudicial executions, torture and forced military conscription that can last decades.
Sudan counts some 160,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and South Sudan, according to UNHCR figures.
دخول قرار حظر العشب المخدر حيز التنفيذ، وتعليمات ‘تعجيزية’ لرجال الشرطة قبل التعرض للمشتبه بهم احتراما للعادات الاجتماعية
لندن – أصدرت رابطة كبار ضباط الشرطة في بريطانيا تعليمات إلى ضباطها باللجوء إلى “تقديراتهم الشخصية” بشأن تطبيق القانون على نبات القات، الذي دخل حظره حيز التنفيذ في المملكة المتحدة ابتداء من الثلاثاء.
والقات هو منشط عشبي خفيف يستخدم على نطاق واسع من قبل الجاليات اليمنية والصومالية والاثيوبية في بريطانيا.
ويمضغ المستخدمون أوراق النبات المرة لما فيها من تحفيز طبيعي. ومن المفترض أن تجعلهم أكثر انتباها، وأن تزيد من معدلات الطاقة، وهي الحجة التي يستخدمها مؤيدو القات، إذ يقولون إنه غير ضار كالقهوة والشاي.
وقالت الرابطة، ضمن سلسلة التعليمات الصادرة التي نشرتها صحيفة “الغارديان” البريطانية، أن على الضباط، اثناء تطبيق سياسة انفاذ حظر القات المعروفة باسم “الضربات الثلاث”، الأخذ في الاعتبار ان عشب القات “لم يكن ممنوعا من قبل عبر تاريخ الدول التي تتصل بها تلك الجاليات في اليمن والقرن الافريقي”.
أكبر مناطق زراعة القات في العالم تقع في شرق أفريقيا وشبه الجزيرة العربية ويستهلك أوراق القات عن طريق المضغه والتخزين في الفم، أو تدخينها أو غليها وشربها مثل الشاي للحصول على تأثير يماثل تأثير مخدر آمفيتامين.
ورغم التأثير السلبي للقات على المنظومة العصبية للدماغ ظلت بريطانيا تبيح استيراده واستهلاكه حتى الوقت الحاضر وتصنفه كأحد الخضروات رغم منعه في باقي بلدان القارة. وقد منعت السويد القات منذ عام 1989.
وأصرت وزيرة الداخلية البريطانية تريزا ماي على قرار الحظر رغم معارضة حزب الديمقراطيين الاحرار، وضد التوصية التي تقدمت بها لجنة مستشاري وزارة الداخلية لمكافحة المخدرات التي لم تحبذ في تقاريرها حظر القات.
لكن وزيرة الداخلية أصرت على موقفها من قرار الحظر، وعزت ذلك إلى مخاوف من تحول بريطانيا إلى مركزا عالميا لتجارة العشب المخدر، بعد صدور قرارات مماثلة بحظره في معظم دول الاتحاد الاوروبي الاخرى.
وتوفر تجارة القات 15 مليون يورو في العام للاقتصادات الأفريقية التي تصدر النبات للمملكة المتحدة، وهو أحد الأسباب التي دفعت نواب البرلمان في لجنة الشؤون الخارجية إلى معارضة المنع.
وتفرض سياسة “الضربات الثلاث” الجديدة عقوبات على متعاطي القات تبدأ باصدار تحذير لمن يضبط معه العشب المخدر لأول مرة، ودفع غرامة فورية قدرها 60 جنيها استرليني في حالة ضبطه مع الشخص نفسه للمرة الثانية، ثم الاعتقال والإحالة للقضاء في المرة الثالثة.
ويرى نشطاء حقوقيون ان رجال الشرطة البريطانيين سيجدون صعوبة بالغة في تطبيق السياسات الجديدة لحظر نبات القات، خصوصا وأن التعليمات الصادرة لهم من رابطة كبار ضباط الشرطة تفرض على ضابط الوردية ان يكون “خبيرا” في تحديد نوع النبات المستخدم او ان يستدعي ضابطا اخر يستطيع تمييز القات عن الاعشاب الاخرى غير المحظورة قبل اصدار التحذير او الغرامة بحق المشتبه به.
كما أن الضباط لن يكونوا قادرين على توقيع الغرامة او اعتقال المشتبه به في حال قرر الأخير مضغ القات الذي بحوزته قبل اعتقاله، لان الدليل على الواقعة (العشب) في هذه الحالة سيتم تدميره ومن ثم سيصعب على المحققين اعتباره دليلا.
أمر طبيعي ان يوجد على الدوام أشخاص يدمنون بشكل ما، وإن لم يحصلوا على القات ربما سيتجهون الى مواد أخرى قد تكون مخدرات أو كحول، لكن قسما كبيرا من متعاطي القات سيتوقفون عن تعاطيه، وسيحصلون على فائدة كبيرة من منع بريطانيا للقات.
وتشير بيانات الهيئة الوطنية للخدمات الصحية في انجلترا عن عام 2010/2011، إلى أن 112 شخص ممن يخضعوه للعلاج من تعاطي المخدرات بدؤوا التعاطي بالقات.
ويعتبر القات المحفز الرئيس في الجلسات الخاصة التي تجمع أبناء الجاليات الصومالية واليمنية والإثيوبية في بريطانيا، ويمتد تأثير منعه اجتماعيا، اذ ان ابناء تلك الجاليات ينظرون إلى القرار على انه منع لتجمعاتهم الخاصة.
لندن تؤكد توافر معلومات ذات صدقية تفيد ان ‘حركة الشباب’ تنوي ولديها القدرة على مهاجمة اهداف عديدة ومنها مصالح غربية
حذرت وزارة الخارجية البريطانية الخميس من ان متمردي حركة الشباب المتشددة المرتبطين بتنظيم القاعدة، يعدون لهجمات اخرى في جيبوتي حيث اعلنوا مسؤوليتهم عن اعتداء انتحاري اواخر ايار/مايو.
وقالت الخارجية البريطانية على موقعها في شبكة الانترنت “تتوافر معلومات ذات صدقية تفيد ان حركة الشباب تنوي ولديها القدرة على مهاجمة اهداف في جيبوتي ومنها مصالح غربية”.
وتشارك كتيبة جيبوتية من الف رجل في قوة الاتحاد الافريقي المنتشرة منذ 2007 في الصومال لقتال حركة الشباب الاسلامية، والتي ألحقت بها في السنتين الماضيتين سلسلة هزائم عسكرية. وارتفع عدد عناصر القوة اخيرا الى 22 الفا.
وجيبوتي، المستعمرة الفرنسية السابقة التي حصلت على استقلالها منذ 1977، والواقعة على مدخل البحر الاحمر، تضم ايضا قاعدة عسكرية اميركية كبيرة، هي الوحيدة في افريقيا التي تنطلق منها العمليات ضد المجموعات الاسلامية في اليمن والصومال وبقية انحاء القارة الافريقية.
وتنشر فرنسا ايضا فرقة عسكرية في جيبوتي التي يستخدم مرفأها بالتالي قاعدة لعمليات بحرية دولية ضد القراصنة الصوماليين في المحيط الهندي.
واضافت الخارجية البريطانية ان “جيبوتي والمصالح الغربية في جيبوتي هدف شرعي على ما يبدو لحركة الشباب بسبب دعمها الحكومة الصومالية ومشاركتها في مهمة السلام التي يقوم بها الاتحاد الافريقي”.
وقتل شخص واحد على الاقل اواخر ايار/مايو بالإضافة الى الانتحاريين الاثنين واصيب عدد كبير في اعتداء انتحاري على مطعم في وسط مدينة جيبوتي يؤمه الاجانب، وهو اول هجوم في جيبوتي منذ انضمت الى قوة الاتحاد الافريقي في 2011.
واعلنت حركة الشباب الاسلامية مسؤوليتها عن الاعتداء، مؤكدة انها استهدفت “التحالف الصليبي الغربي المتمركز في جيبوتي”، ولا سيما “الصليبيين الفرنسيين” وللانتقام من جيبوتي التي “وقعت ميثاقا مع الشيطان” بقبولها ان تقيم واشنطن قاعدة على اراضيها.
وحذرت لندن ايضا هذا الاسبوع مواطنيها من مخاطر وقوع اعتداءات تستهدف الاماكن العامة التي تبث مباريات كأس العالم في كرة القدم في عدد من بلدان شرق افريقيا، وخصوصا جيبوتي واثيوبيا وكينيا واوغندا التي تشارك في القوة الافريقية.
وقتل 76 شخصا على الاقل في 2010 في كمبالا في عملية انتحارية مزدوجة اعلنت مسؤوليتها عنها حركة الشباب الاسلامية واستهدفت مركزين كانا يبثان مباريات كأس العالم في كرة القدم.
Many footballers probably wish they could vanish from public sight after a bad mistake or a heavy defeat – but few sportsmen went as far as a team from Eritrea, who all disappeared en-masse and have now resurfaced on a different continent.
Many footballers probably wish they could vanish from public sight after a bad mistake or a heavy defeat – but few sportsmen went as far as a team from Eritrea, who all disappeared en-masse and have now resurfaced on a different continent.
The 17 footballers from the horn of Africa have turned up in the Netherlands, nearly a year and a half after they suddenly vanished during a tournament in Uganda.
They however did not make the dangerous voyage from Africa to Europe to flee from the ire of critics or fans – but because they were desperate for a better life, away from their home in the north-east of the continent.
Having arrived in the Netherlands via Romania, many of the squad are currently eking out a living in the Dutch town of Gorinchem and are familiar to the local food bank – which hands out parcels to people in need.
The life the players are living in their new home could not be further removed from the wealth and riches lavished upon the game’s most famous performers. According to the head of the food bank, they lack even the basics for accommodation.
Arie van Hoven said: “They arrived with nothing. We’ve been looking for furniture and mattresses for them.”
“They wanted to stay together as a group and that was possible here,” he said.
“They are going to integrate and need an education. Then they will be able to build a new life.”
Life in Eritrea obviously did not hold much attraction for the players, who were reportedly reluctant to reveal too much about their identities for fear of government reprisals back home.
Lilving standards in the country bordering the Red Sea are low, with 7% of people unable to feed themselves on their earnings, according to a 2011 UN report.
Eritrea is also blighted by recent wars with neighbouring Ethiopia, though a burgeoning industry in gold mining offers hope that wealth and living standards can rise.
GENEVA (6 May 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, today called on to the Government of Eritrea to put an immediate end to the widespread practices of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and persecution.
“I urge the Eritrean authorities to immediately release, or charge and bring before a court of law, all detainees, including the members of the ‘G-15’, the journalists arrested in 2001, as well as those arrested for their opinions or religious beliefs,” Ms. Keetharuth said.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed the reported release of eight detainees in Eritrea, which took place in April 2014, but which has not been publicly acknowledged by the Eritrean authorities. “Their release is a positive development, which I hope will be followed by more systematic releases,” she said, expressing the hope that “Eritrea will abide by its obligations under international human rights law more consistently.”
Reportedly, most of those men released had been arrested in 2005/2006 in Keren, 90 km North West of the capital Asmara. Among them were several government officials and two medical doctors. It is unclear whether reasons have been provided for their arrest in the first place, or for their release. None of them has ever been brought before a court of law to review the legality of their detention.
The human rights expert expressed concern about the unknown number of Eritreans who continue to be held in Eritrea’s secret detention centres. Thousands are believed to be detained incommunicado at unknown locations, without charge or trial.
“Those detained incommunicado and in undisclosed locations are at high risk of being tortured or submitted to other forms of ill-treatment, “Ms. Keetharuth said. “I call on the authorities to disclose the whereabouts of all detainees held incommunicado and provide immediate access to their families, medical doctors and legal representatives.”
Eritrea’s human rights record was reviewed in February 2014 by numerous UN member States, recommending that the Eritrean authorities stop the prevalent practices of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and persecution in the country. (Check Eritrea’s Universal Periodic Review: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Highlights3February2014pm.aspx)
Special Rapporteur Keetharuth will submit her second report on the human rights situation in Eritrea to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.
Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea during the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012. She took her functions on 1 November 2012. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. A lawyer from Mauritius, she has extensive experience in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, advocacy, training and litigation in human rights in Africa. Learn more, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/ER/Pages/SREritrea.aspx