Socialist International condemns military coup and the interruption of the process to democracy in Burkina FasoFriday, 18 September 2015 09:34 Written by Secretariat of SI
| 17 SEPTEMBER 2015
The Socialist International vigorously condemns the military coup in Burkina Faso and the capture of interim President Michel Kafando, along with Prime Minister Isaac Zida and other members of the government, by the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), an elite force set up by the former President Blaise Campoaré.
Our International calls for the immediate release of all those unlawfully detained, the restoration of the legitimate interim government, and the full resumption of the process towards the holding of free and fair elections scheduled for October 11.
Amid reports of heavy shooting overnight in the capital, Ouagadougou, and the presence in the streets of people protesting the military interruption of the transitional process to democracy, we remind the military forces behind this coup that international public opinion and institutions will hold them responsible for resulting casualties.
Burkina Faso must be allowed to join the community of democratic nations and put an end once and for all to the interference by the military in the political affairs of the country. The Socialist International extends its solidarity and full support to all the people of Burkina Faso mobilised for democracy and all the political democratic forces there working to this end.
The Progressive Alliance and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) to the European Leaders on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council on 14 September 2015 in Brussels:
Refugees are Welcome – Towards a Progressive Refugee Policy
According to the UNCHR- United Nations Refugee Agency around 60 million people are displaced involuntarily because of war, conflict and oppression. Half of them are children. The present crisis of frightening proportions is said to be the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Most of them are local refugees and a sizeable number end up in the neighbouring countries. Some of them try to continue to Europe, and few manage to reach their dream for peace and freedom.
In view of the current situation, with people who are forced to flee from their home countries via the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey and the Western Balkans into the European Union, Europe is facing an urgent political challenge. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of people from the Middle East and Africa have left their homelands, often with huge risks involved. Those who arrive in Europe have big hopes for a better future there. They are looking for freedom and security, hoping to be able to live in a better society where justice and solidarity are principled norms. The refugees count on our fundamental values. However, European politics have until now failed to show that Europe complies with these core values and fulfils the high expectations of upholding human dignity and shouldering the reception of persecuted human beings. It is time for actions that guarantee all people safety and respect for the fundamental human rights.
When voices calling for sealing off the borders and deterrence are becoming louder and louder, Socialists and Social Democrats must remember the very fundamental values in which so many people in need trust when they look at Europe. These values are also the fundamental values of international social democracy: Freedom, justice and solidarity. People who come to Europe are looking for freedom, because they are being persecuted and fear for their life; in order to find a decent life they put their lives at great risk. We need more global justice, because the aim of globalization is not the wealth of a few, but justice for all. The developed countries will also only be able to maintain their prosperity if all of us learn again to share globally and help the people in their countries of origin to promote peace, prosperity and security. And in many countries the people show solidarity and are engaged in initiatives to help refugees by, among other things, making generous donations.
The commitments for meaningful actions by our political family, our expressed sympathy for the refugees, the solidarity we demonstrate show that we are all one people ready to consolidate the strong foundations of Social Democracy. This is the opposite model to sealing off the borders and deterrence and to the ideas of the political right-wing forces in Europe and worldwide.
For progressive, social democratic and socialist forces it is clear: It is our duty to help people who flee from war and civil war, calamity and persecution, seeking protection for themselves and their children, and we want that a new homeland is offered to them that provides them with freedom and security. This is a demand for decency, humanitarianism and compassion, but also translates concretely political values.
At the present stage Europe is receiving a high number of refugees, but we can do more. The more so as countries that are by far poorer, such as Turkey, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, are taking the far bigger responsibility to offer the refugees shelter and security. Lebanon, for example, which has a population of five million, has already taken in 1,3 million refugees.
Moreover, in view of the catastrophic situation in many countries in the Middle East and Africa this development is not likely to improve in the near future. We reaffirm that the whole of Europe together must receive refugees not based on volumes, but based on a human rights approach that puts the need of the refugees in the centre. A human right approach to the refugee issue includes a fundamental change of the reception and integration policy.
▪ Possibilities to offer freedom and security for people who flee require safer and legal ways to enter Europe. Freedom of movement is a human right. It is not acceptable that some European countries refuse to assume their responsibility to live up to international conventions to help people in need of freedom and security. In times of crises it is important that all together stand up firmly for human rights. It is a shame that only few of the European countries are taking the biggest responsibility. If all countries together took equal responsibility, Europe would have been able to help even more and achieve more than it is doing today and people in need wouldn’t have needed to lose their life while struggling to find a passage to freedom and security.
▪ Possibilities of integration for people who flee and seek to find a new homeland in Europe for themselves and their children do not only have to find their way around, but they must also be given a decent chance to become a part of the new society. The more openly, and in a friendly and welcoming manner they are received and adequate shelter and help is provided to them as well as the right to work is given, the quicker and easier it will be for them to settle down and build a new life in their new homelands.
▪ A society for all: Successful migration policies also require a welfare state that provides opportunities for all its people, regardless of if they are new or old inhabitants. The earlier the authorities start to support municipalities in order to create sufficient places at day nurseries, schools and build enough affordable housing, the earlier equality will be a reality.
▪ A Europe for all: The migration movement towards Europe and the reasons for the flight from the countries in Middle East and Africa puts the values of the European Union at test. If Europe does not manage to achieve a common and humanitarian refugee policy there is a risk of it suffering a huge loss; it is the loss of the humane orientation and of the common values in Europe. And it is not only that: among others, Italy, Greece and currently Macedonia are struggling with dramatic problems. While the rich continent of Europe apparently seems to be on holidays, the United Nations have to carry out support actions in these countries, which would have better served much poorer regions. Europe’s foundation is based on the values of enlightenment and humanitarianism. The European idea is based on practical and tangible solidarity- which can’t be practiced within the framework of the Dublin regulation. This is the time to think of better and more solidarity policy. This is what the European Union has to prove now. Europe also must stop seeing refugees as a burden and instead see the advantage of new people contributing to the European societies. When people are being given possibility to become a part of societies they become an important economic, but also cultural and social contributors.
▪ And finally: Europe needs a new impetus in fighting the causes for the flight. Europe should take a lead in this regard, with new foreign and security policy initiatives. This starts with the countries of Europe itself. It is simply not acceptable that people from Member states of the European Union have the feeling of being discriminated against and excluded and that the only possible solution for them is to leave their country. The EU cannot remain impassive and indeed inactive where discrimination occurs, e.g., against the Roma community, in countries that are candidates for EU membership; neither must the EU tolerate corruption, bad governance and miserable education and deplorable advancement opportunities. European politics must overcome its unilateral orientation towards the single market and become again a society that strives for better livelihood opportunities for all, underscored by social security and justice as the guiding objectives of its practical policies. Moreover, criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers of human beings who exploit the misery of those seeking protection to enrich themselves unscrupulously, need to be dismantled and the perpetrators brought to justice.
War and civil war, poverty and repressive systems are the main causes for the current huge flight movement as the citizens of those afflicted countries see no improved perspectives to enjoy a fair life. Only together can we contribute to combating the causes of this flight, by empowering, promoting regional cooperation, collaboration, investments in the infrastructure and the economic development of those countries with good governance as the underlying principle.
The refugee crisis is not only a challenge for Europe. We call for all states globally to share the responsibility. If anyone can solve it, it is the Progressives and Social Democrats, who can address these tasks for open societies and possibility for integration: decent and human rights approach to the reception of refugees, social cohesion and a policy of solidarity for the protection of people who flee and combating the causes for the flight. Freedom, justice, peace and solidarity have always been universal and international goals for us. It is therefore time to for us to start acting upon our values and beliefs. Let us walk the talk!
Solidarity with refugees march: Tens of thousands take to the streets along with new Labour leader Jeremy CorbynSunday, 13 September 2015 08:59 Written by Alexandra Sims , Jamie Merrill
The Solidarity with Refugees march is thought to be the biggest national show of support for refugees in living memory, with a number of refugees leading the march to Parliament Square.
A "conservative" for numbers attending the demonstration was 50,000 Almost 90,000 people have registered online to say they are attending in London and thousands more are expected in similar events across the country.
Bronze commander Chief Inspector Graham Price of Met Police said a "conservative" for numbers attending the demonstration as it arrived at Trafalgar Square was 50,000 but that number could rise.
He said: "So far the march has gone off smoothly. There have been no arrests and the atmosphere has been cheerful."
Since the photograph of the drowned Syrian toddler Aylan al-Kurdi was shared around the world last week, support for refugees has reached new prominence, while many feel David Cameron’s pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 falls short of the appropriate action needed.
The Independent has encouraged readers to sign our Change.org petition urging the Government to accept Britain's fair share of refugees seeking safety in Europe. To date, more than 380,000 people have signed up in support.
The new Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the march in the wake of his landslide victory in the Labour leadership election.
Speaking at the march, Mr Corbyn said that there is a “popular uprising” across Europe “in favour of decency and humanity”.
He said that the nation must “spend our resources on helping and not hindering people and to bring about that world of human rights and justice.”
“We are all human beings on the same planet,” he added.
The speech ended to huge cheers from the teaming crowd, with Mr Corbyn joining musician Billy Bragg to sing The Red Flag - a socialist song and the semi-official anthem of the Labour party.
Beginning at Park Lane the march proceeded to Downing Street with speeches in Parliament Square, from a number of speakers including Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Billy Bragg and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats speaking at the march Mr Farron said David Cameron should be "ashamed" and that Britain's response had "not been good enough".
Ms Bennett said the refugee crisis was "yet another example of the Prime Minister acting along" and "ignoring a possible European solution".
Marching from Hyde Park Corner on to Parliament the chant from the crowd was “say it clear, say it proud, refugees are welcome here”.
Leading the chant on Piccadilly was nine-year-old Maya, the daughter of a Chilean refugee. She led the call and response as her mother Isabelle Cortes, 43, looked on proudly, wrapped in Chilean flag.
“I came here in 1978 as a child," said Ms Cortes. "My daughter is a daughter of a refugee. Britain opened its doors to my mother. She studied English and worked hard to raise me."
"Cameron's 20,000 is a joke. We must do more. I hope Corbyn is the start of that.”
The rally comes two days ahead of a summit of European leaders in Brussels to deal with the crisis, which is escalating across Europe.
The protest is backed by organisations including Amnesty International. London News Pictures The number of refugees and migrants that have crossed the Mediterranean so far has already doubled the total for last year, with around 432,761 estimated to have made the journey.
The protest is backed by organisations including Amnesty International, the Syria Solidarity Movement, Stand Up To Racism and Refugee Action.
Almost 90,000 people registered online to say that they would attend Solidarity with Refugees march in London on 12 September Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action said: “Today's message could not be clearer. Britain welcomes refugees. In a hundred ways in a hundred towns and cities, people are stepping up to help. Today they are asking all our political leaders to do the same."
"David Cameron has made a clear initial commitment to welcome Syrian refugees. But this is not just about Syria. The government must work with many other countries to deliver support and fair treatment to all those caught up in the global refugee crisis.”
Read more: Refugee solidarity march in London set to attract some unlikely protesters
Humanity on the march: Join the protests across Britain and say 'refugees welcome'
The Solidarity with Refugees Facebook page states: “This event has been called in response to various reports of refugees fleeing war, persecution, torture and poverty losing their lives or struggling to find a safe haven.”
“The government response to this has been disgraceful. Unlike Germany, Italy and Greece, Britain has not offered a safe haven for these people.”
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International, said: “This is a critical moment ahead of the EU leaders meeting on Monday to make our voices heard loud and clear."
"We should remember the proud moments in the UK's history when we have opened our doors to people when they are most in need, and we should not be turning our backs now on those caught up in what has become the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.“
Today, Thursday September 10th 2015, Dan Connell has arrived in Sweden and has held a seminar at Uppsala University with students in the evening from 7,15 PM up to 9,20 PM
He presented his lecture by a brief historical analysis about the Eritrean political and liberation struggle before the independence and the current situation after the post independence Eritrea.
His main focus was on the Eritrean refugee crisis. His lecture was both in slides and analysis showing the desperate routs of the Eritrean refugees escaping from the suffocation of the brutal dictatorship in Eritrea. His presentation draws on the field research in Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Israel, South and Central America. The aim of the presentation was to draw international attention to the human rights situation in Eritrea and find out ways to deal with it.
Dan Connell is invited by the Swedish - Eritrean Partnership for Democracy and Development/ SESADU. On Saturday, 12th September 2015 he will be conducting seminar with Eritreans in Tensta Hall at 18.30Pm.
Refugees arrive on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing from Turkey in a dinghy. Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images
Syrians account for 50% of the 380,000 refugees who had arrived in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean by early September, but several other nationalities are turning up in large numbers. According to UN figures, 75% of the total refugees hail from countries in the midst of armed conflict or humanitarian crises. So apart from Syria, where are they coming from, why did they leave, and how are they reaching Europe?
Afghans – 13%
Why are they leaving?
According to the Afghan government, 80% of the country is not safe. That is because extremist groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State’s local affiliate are waging insurgencies in many provinces. Civilians are at risk from frequent bomb attacks, while many individuals are fleeing because they have received specific threats from extremists.
Yama Nayab, who travelled with his two small children through the Balkans earlier this summer, left because he was attacked by extremists angry with him for working as a surgeon with the Afghan army. “Why are you working for the government?” one assailant allegedly told him, before stabbing him four times near his heart. “Here in Afghanistan, the Americans and the pagans made a government – and you are working for that government,” he was told.
The route taken
Some are going via Pakistan, but most are walking over the border into Iran, a trek that takes up to two days. Then they drive to Iran’s border with Turkey, where they cross again on foot, in another laborious hike. If spotted by border guards, the walkers face trouble. “The Iranians fired on us near the border and killed two people,” said Rahman Niazi, 18, a computer science student who reached Europe this year.
Once in Turkey, Afghans take a day’s bus journey to the same Aegean ports many Syrians are using to reach Greece. Some pay €10,000 (£7,250) to smugglers to organise each stage of their journey. Others move on a more ad-hoc basis.
It's not at war, but up to 3% of its people have fled. What is going on in Eritrea?
Eritreans – 8%
Why are they leaving?
Eritrea is Africa’s version of North Korea, a country with no constitution, court system, elections or free press. Outside of the metropolitan elite, most Eritreans must submit to a form of forced labour – lifelong military conscripts who have no choice about where they live or work. Any dissenters are sent to prison without any judicial recourse.
“Eritrea has become an earthly hell, an earthly inferno for its people, and that’s why they are taking such huge risks to their personal lives to escape the situation,” said Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, the former head of Eritrea’s central bank and ex-ambassador to the EU. “It’s become unliveable.”
The route taken
Most walk over the border into Ethiopia or Sudan, a dangerous first step that sees some shot by border guards or kidnapped for ransom by smugglers. If they make it to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, they then being a brutal journey through the Sahara to Libya. To cross the desert, smugglers cram about 30 people into the back of pick-up trucks. Many refugees die of dehydration en route and trucks often go missing during sandstorms.
The trauma does not end in Libya. Most people carry no cash, in case it is stolen, and do not pay upfront in case the smuggler leaves without them. So on arrival in the town of Ajdabiya, in north-east Libya, they are held in smugglers’ compounds and usually tortured until their families send the $2,000 (£1,300) required for payment. This process is often repeated at least once – for a similar ransom – at a location further along the Libyan coast, before the refugees are permitted to board a ramshackle boat to Italy from one of the country’s western ports.
Eritrean refugees at the Shire refugee camp in Ethiopia
Eritrean refugees at the Shire refugee camp in Ethiopia. Photograph: Vincent Defait/AFP/Getty Images
Nigerians – 4%
Why are they leaving?
Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, continues to fight an insurgency in northern Nigeria, killing and kidnapping locals and forcing many to flee. “Boko Haram is everywhere, killing innocent people every day,” said Vincent Collins, 24, who described himself asa victim of the conflict. “Bombing, fighting, every day. It’s so terrible.”
Other Nigerians are escaping from poverty. Many have a story like that of Paul Ohioyah, a plumber and part-time pastor who tried to reach Europe earlier this summer. He said life was untenable in Nigeria because he would only get two plumbing jobs each month. “So before you’ve got another customer, you’ve had to spend what you earned the last time,” said Ohioyah, who is still on the coast of north Africa after unsuccessfully attempting to reach Europe by boat. “It’s better that I die here than go back to Nigeria.”
The route taken
Most head over the northern border to Niger and take public buses to the city of Agadez, a smuggling hub on the cusp of the Sahara. From here, they join the smuggling trail to Libya, experiencing similar horrors to Eritreans crossing the desert from Sudan – kidnap, torture and death by dehydration. Smugglers take them to Sabha, in south-west Libya, for about £150. From there, for a similar fee, different smugglers transport them to ports on Libya’s western coast.
Somalians – 3%
Why are they leaving?
As in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islamist insurgents, including al-Shabaab, are fighting an insurgency, with civilians caught in the middle. Eissa Abdirahman, 18, a footballer with one of the country’s second-tier teams, said he left because he was attacked by al-Shabaab militants and told to stop playing football. “They put a gun to my head and kicked me,” said Abdirahman, shortly after being rescued from the Mediterranean earlier this month. “They said: ‘If you don’t stop playing football, we will kill you.’”
The route taken
One popular route is through Kenya, Uganda and south Sudan. Then people head north to Khartoum, where most follow the same route and adversities as the Eritreans. But a smattering of refugees now follow the Balkan route – into Kenya, fly to Iran, then cross the Iranian-Turkish border, before heading by boat to Greek islands.
Refugees from Pakistan sitting on the grass at a reception centre for asylum seekers in Eisenhüttenstadt, eastern Germany. Photograph: Patrick Pleul/dpa/Corbis
Pakistanis – 3%
Why are they leaving?
More than 1.2 million Pakistanis have been displaced by insurgencies in north-west Pakistan, according to the UN, and by some estimates, more than 20,000 civilians have been killed. The well-documented attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai and the December 2014 massacre of 100 schoolchildren in Peshawar are prominent examples of the threats ordinary people face from extremists.
The route taken
Like Afghans, Pakistanis walk into Iran, then take a bus to the border with Turkey, where they cross again on foot. They then pick up the Balkan route that begins on the Turkish coast.
Iraqis – 3%
Why are they leaving?
Vast swaths of Iraq, including its second city, Mosul, have recently been conquered by Isis, worsening a nightmare that began with the west’s invasion of the country in 2003. “They force people to pray by force, they use us as their human shields,” said Ahmad, a civil servant who fled Mosul a month ago, and recently reached central Europe. “They’ve also murdered many people, and detained many others before killing them.”
The route taken
Iraq borders Turkey, so most reach Turkey by land and then take boats to Greek islands.
Sudanese – 2%
Why are they leaving?
Civil wars in the country’s Darfur and Kordofan regions continue to displace civilians. Mohamed Abdallah, 21, from Darfur, said he was forced to flee aged 12, when government militias destroyed his village, killed many of the local people, and raped his sisters. “There is a war in my country, there’s no security, no equality, no freedom,” he said. He tried to reach Europe earlier this summer, after the war spread into south Sudan, where he had first fled to.
From Syria to Sudan: how do you count the dead?
Darfur is still unsafe – a Human Rights Watch report recently alleged that the Sudanese government had carried out many killings and mass-rapes of civilians in dozens of towns.
The route taken
Sudanese refugees can easily reach their capital, Khartoum, from where they are smuggled to Libya, and then across the Mediterranean to Italy. Like Eritreans and Somalians, many die of thirst in the desert and fall victim to extortion and torture by smugglers in Libya.
Statistical source: the UN refugee agency.
Those elderly veteran fighters who gave everything they can to their people and nation should be admired and appreciated. According to our culture people say "Nzigeberlka Giberelu wey Ngerelu" which means shorty those who did good deserves at least appreciation for what they did. Bologna Forum always values and appreciates the sacrifice of our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who paid and who are paying the ultimate price in bringing Justice and Democracy to Eritrea. In the upcoming Oakland Bologna Forum, Prof. Bereket Habteselassie will receive his Award of Excellence from the organizers. Bringing our culture of mutual respect to where it was is one means of struggle to defeat the disrespectful one man led regime in Eritrea. Please come and join us in this historic day, were the father of the Eritrean Constitution 1997 receives his Award.
Thank you Prof. Bereket Habteselassie for your service as a Freedom fighter, Chairman of Constitutional Commission of Eritrea and now as a father and adviser for the democratic struggle at hand.
A network of spies and informers has been carefully nurtured by the Eritrean regime to spy on their own citizens abroad.
The Eritrean diaspora is under constant surveillance – and they know it.
Go to almost any Eritrean opposition gathering and you will see them: young men and women who gather information and intelligence on anyone who steps out of line.
A meeting I held with the renowned Eritrean scholar, Dan Connell, was subjected to harrassment and was filmed by government supporters.
The image above is an example of their work.
Sometimes they go further.
Meetings are broken up and anyone who speaks out against the repression of President Isaias Afwerki is heckled and shouted down.
The youth wing of the ruling party – the YPFDJ – are among the most actively involved in these attempts at intimidation.
I have experienced this myself at first hand on several occasions, but Eritreans are treated much more harshly.
In a previous article I have dealt with the violence that is sometimes meted out against anyone who attempts to protest against Eritrean government events.
During last year’s Bologna festival two members of the official security staff allegedly attacked demonstrators, injuring two of them.
One needed stitches in his head, the other to his head and back.
The Festival security staff were identified by the distinctive T-shirts they wear, with a read heart logo called “Eri blood” with a picture of a red heart.
During a demonstration outside the festival, Eritrean government supporters tried to provoke the opposition by driving their car into the demonstrators.
One person was injured.
Surveillance in Scandinavia
This is what Tewlede Ghirma told Radio Assena on 9 July this year.
He explained that an Eritrean he shared a house with in Norway – Michael – threatened him as a member of the opposition.
His computer was hacked and although Tewelde reported this to the police nothing was done. Meanwhile his family in Asmara was arrested and detained for three weeks until they managed to escape.
Tewdle says Michael travels to Eritrea frequently and is involved in smuggling. Twelde says he believes Michael is behind the hacking of his computer and the arrest of his family.
Tewelde is convinced that he is targeted because of his opposition to the regime. And his case is not an isolated one.
Eritreans in Norway and Sweden have complained that they hare systematically harassed, their computers and mobile phones hacked and pressure exerted on them because of their politics.
The UN Commission of Inquiry
Considerable international attention has been given to the UN Commission’s findings on the human rights abuses conducted by the regime which – they concluded – are so severe they might constitute ‘crimes against humanity.’
Little attention was paid to what the commissioners had to say about the Eritrean spy network around the world. Below I have incorporated what was said. It is worrying.
Clearly the regime has constructed a sophisticated system of keeping its disapora under surveillance.
This is something governments around the world need to halt.
From the Commission Report
(ii) Eritrean diaspora
- The spying web has its outposts outside Eritrea, used to control the Eritrean population in the various countries where they reside. Eritrean resentations in foreign countries recruit spies to conduct surveillance of Eritreans in the diaspora. Allegedly, Government operatives are active in almost every other place Eritreans live. Information obtained by the Commission indicates that, to conduct spying activities on their behalf, embassies often approach individuals from within the Eritrean communities abroad, in particular those who pay the 2 per cent Rehabilitation Tax as this is perceived as a form of support to the Government.
One witness who reported having been a spy for an Eritrean embassy told the Commission that “In 1997, Mr. [A], the consul in [a foreign country]… called me for a meeting joined by other spies. They told us we should continue our struggle in [a foreign country]. He introduced us to each other and started meeting us individually. There was an organisation … We were assigned to this organisation, not to work but to ensure the PFDJ was represented in every organisation. They wanted me to join the board. I refused, arguing I was too young and inexperienced. Later, Mr. A told me he had a job for me. He told me I should work for them as a security agent in [city Z]. He said this would only be between him and me. Later, he gave me appointments and said I would always be able to enter the consulate, without needing permission and without having to wait for an appointment. Even the people at the consulate were not allowed to ask us any questions. I received a schedule for the entire week. I was asked to go every day to different hotels or restaurants. There were three shifts per day. We were asked to chat with people who came to those places and report on what we heard. Every day, I had to report back to the consul in person. I believed this was the right thing to do … We had to observe every religious group. Those working in the religious groups are church members and PFDJ members at the same time … We did not know who was an agent and who was not. The work was organised by the consul alone, not with others. Now they have people who don’t trust each other. At the time, it was different … I decided to discontinue my work with them.”
- The Commission heard accounts of how spies track individuals who are considered to be political dissidents or engaging in religious activities that are not authorised in Eritrea.
A person told the Commission that: “My brother and my father cannot go back to Eritrea because they belong to the opposition party. There are spies in [a foreign country] who spy on what Eritreans do there.”
Another person told the Commission that: “People cannot speak freely. Even here in [a foreign country], Eritreans cannot speak freely because the Government of Eritrea sends people to spy on those who have fled Eritrea.”
- The focus of this espionage also includes political organizations and religious entities. However, more generally the purpose of the surveillance by embassy operatives is for the Government to detect any suspicious and undesirable conduct, namely conduct that is perceived to be against the policies or needs of the Government.
- Eritreans in the diaspora, for fear of reprisals, have felt the negative impact of the spying and surveillance on their lives. Many people spoke about the fear of returning to Eritrea to visit because they might have been backlisted due to their political and other activities. Other people told the Commission about how they felt constrained to join organisations in the diaspora or express free opinions regarding the situation in the country. Most importantly, the Commission found that there are legitimate fears among Eritreans in the diaspora that the Eritrean Government engages in phone tapping and email surveillance in Eritrea such that they cannot freely communicate with their relatives in the country.
(c) Other means to conduct spying and surveillance
(i) Intimidation and harassment
- The Commission gathered information indicating that the spy web of the Government of Eritrea uses intimidation – specifically in the form of threats and retaliation against family members – and harassment to collect information. This is done to put pressure on people within and outside Eritrea.
A witness told the Commission that: “When I left the country, the security forces kept on asking my wife if I was coming back or not. They made frequent visits to the house. They tried to make her their informant so that they could extract information about my activities. They thought that I was involved in political activities. In 2008, due to the visits and harassment, she packed and left the country with the children.”
In a submission received by the Commission, a man who was harassed by security agents reported: “The darkest night for me was actually after I was released from jail. Every morning and every evening the national security forces were coming to my family and asking, ‘What did you do? Did your daughter recant? What did you do?’ This happened almost every day. My family kept telling me, ‘If you do not recant, if you do not leave this religion, you are going to send us to prison’.”
Another person whose mother was detained for asking questions told the Commission that: “In Asmara, there were always people watching our family. I first began to notice it in 2009. They were always in the same cars, the same people. They just sat outside our apartment when we were home and followed us when we went out. They never said anything to us or touched us. However, on one occasion my mother was stopped on her way home from work. She was asked where she was coming from and she asked who they were. They told her that they were from the security agency. She asked to see their badges. She was not satisfied and told them that she would not respond. She was arrested and detained for a day.”
During the conduct of interviews with Eritreans in the diaspora, one witness told the Commission that “A colleague and I have received death threats for the past three weeks from someone in Asmara. My colleague … called back and recorded the conversation. We are told the number is an intelligence number.”
A son whose father was arrested and detained for the former’s alleged political activities in the diaspora told the Commission that: “My father was imprisoned for 20 months when he returned from [a foreign country]… We do not know why he was arrested and he was not told the reasons either. But when he returned to Eritrea, before he was arrested, intelligence people asked him about my political activities. He was told to ask me to leave the political organisation I was affiliated to.”
Another witness told the Commission that while he was living abroad, his mother was approached by national security officers: “One day when going to work she spoke to a woman in the intelligence unit who said to her ‘Your son is very active in the opposition, why don’t you tell him to just concentrate on his studies?’ to which my mother replied ‘You know today’s children, they don’t listen to their mothers’.”
Eritreans, Friends of Eritrea, Swiss associations and non-governmental organizations will hold information stands to inform the Swiss public opinion on problems of Eritrea and Eritreans.
From September to October 2015, information stands will be held in major Swiss cities including Geneva, Zurich, Berne, Basel, Lucerne, Lausanne and Fribourg. Our compatriots wish to establish a dialogue with the population on the issue of Eritrea in the context of the current electoral debates.
This electoral context requires parties to take a position on issues that affect our country, the reasons of our exile and the situation of Eritrean refugees in Switzerland. Unfortunately, these positions are very frequently based on insufficient information about the current situation in Eritrea and sometimes leading some to define the Eritrean refugees as economic migrants. Others brandish development aid to the State of Eritrea to stem the flow of migrants.
These debates surprise us much but they have the advantage of motivating us to inform more about the political and social situation of our country.
Therefore, the purpose of these information stands is to initiate a dialogue through direct and pragmatic exchange with the Swiss population and, at the same time, with political parties on the current situation of Eritrea. For many years now, gross violations of human rights have been perpetrated by the Eritrean authorities over its entire population.
The themes we will address in our information stands will be:
- The proposals made by the various political parties during the summer;
- The totalitarian system in Eritrea and crimes against humanity that may have been committed there (forced labor, sexual slavery, arbitrary imprisonment, extrajudicial executions, etc.);
- Illegal activities of the Eritrean consulate in Geneva;
By force of circumstances, we have been propelled at the centre of the debate. We take the stage!
"Those who believe that the Eritreans leave their country for economic reasons only ignore the sad record of the country's human rights."
President of the UN Commission of
Inquiryon Human Rights in Eritrea
Media are cordially invited to cover this action.
Dates: Geneva, Saturdays 12, 19 and 26 September
Lausanne, Saturday 5 and September 19
Information on the place, time and dateswill be announced later.
Genève: Mme HudaBakhet (078.618.38.90), M. FilmonAbraha (076.389.39.82)
Lausanne: Mme SenaitAlmedom (079.625.20.63),
Fribourg: M. Siem Haile (076.382.86.06)
Bern : M. Michael Rezene Haile (076.248.37.72)
Basel: Mme AlmazZerai (0049.177.552.94.77), M. George Drar
Lucerne: M. Samson Kidane (076.443.14.86)