The Swedish- Eritrean Partnership For Democray and Development/ SESADU cordially invites all forces for democratic change in Eritrea to a meeting in support of Geneva Demonstration that will be conducted on June 26th 2015. The aim of this meeting is coordinate the trip of those will participate and ask support from the public to succeed the rally in Geneva.
Date; Sunday 14th, 2015
Place: ABF Sundbyberg- Esplanaden 3C
Swedish- Eritrean Partnership for Democracy and Development/ SESADU
አገዳሲ ሕዝባዊ ኣኼባ
ጽላል ስዊደናዊ ኤርትራዊ ንደምክራያን ምዕባለን ኤርትራ ንኩሎም ሓይልታት ንደሞክራስያዊ ለውጢ ነቲ ብዕለት 26 ሰነ ኣብ ጀነቫ ክካየድ ተመዲቡ ንዘሎ ሰላማዊ ሰልፊ ንምድጋፍ ናይ ሕዝቢ አኼባ መዲቡ ስለዘሎ ንኩሉኩም ብኽብሪ ይዕድም። ዕላማዚ ኣኼባ ንሰላማዊ ሰልፊ ጀነቫ ንመእዋትን መገሻ እቶም ዝሳተፉ ንምውሃድን ሓገዝ ካብ ሕዝቢ ንምሕታትን ኢዩ፡፤
ጽላል ስዊደናዊ ኤርትራዊ ንደሞክራስያን ምዕባለን ኤርትራ
Swedish Foreign Minister
We, the undersigned representatives of Eritrean political and civil society organizations and community members residing in this country, have jointly decided to submit to you this urgent message regarding the extremely critical situation in our country of origin, Eritrea. This appeal seeks your most immediate attention and action to prevent Eritrea from becoming another full-fledged failed state in the region because of a regime that has turned to be one of a couple of worst of the worst in suppressing fellow citizens on this planet.
We above all appeal for mistakes by fraternal countries to be corrected as soon as possible. Dictators may keep the peace only for some time. But extreme repression as the one in Eritrea does always lead to the worst situation that cannot be imagined until it happens.
We Eritreans submitting this appeal fully understand the ill-advised feeling growing in this country and in the diplomatic corridors of the rest of continent that, observing the harmful developments in the region (e.g. Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria), what Eritrea deserves is simply a repressive dictatorship that it already has!But we cannot disagree more.
After 30 years of liberation war and additional 24 years of military bravado and hostilities with all neighbors by dictator Isaias Afworki, Eritrea’s 6 million people today constitute one of the two most militarized societies on the globe. Many learned estimates indicate that up to 90% of Eritreans inside the country and abroad are today opposed to the regime in Asmara and wish to get rid of it anytime soon by any means possible.
Presently, the regime’s security apparatus may appear hard to break. However, the situation is already humanly unbearable and cannot be reversed by any amount of support. It is thus very likely that, if the repressive regime which already lost the trust of the entire population is helped to continued, the highly militarized Eritrean society will at any moment implode and sow chaos to Ethiopia, the Sudan and much beyond the immediate region. We know nothing worse can happen to this fragile region than Eritrea’s imminent implosion/explosion if the regime is helped to continue to stay in power. It will not stay in power. It can only lead to a regrettably disastrous chaos.
The vast majority of us Swedish- Eritreans residing are today opposed to the autocratic regime in Asmara and are of the full conviction that the country will become another war zone like Somalia or Libya ONLY if the lawless regime that caused untold suffering to our people for the past 24 years is appeased with and let to continue its stay in power. Only to reiterate: we cannot hide that we are appalled by the unjustified appeasement with the reprehensible regime by the EU and a number of European countries.
Therefore, we are submitting to the Government and Parliament of Sweden this joint appeal of all Eritreans opposed to the dictatorship in Eritrea and struggling for justice and democracy to ask your support and most immediate action on the following major areas:
- Initiation of a Robust Program in Support of Eritrean refugees:
- Eritrea should be considered a humanitarian disaster area. The hundreds of thousands of Eritrean refugees in the Horn of Africa region as well as those stranded in Libya, Yemen and Israel deserve an action plan initiated by the EU and supported by the international community.
- Those recent arrivals in the refugee camps in the Sudan and Ethiopia, who exceed 300,000, require a robust program that should include not only better health, food and shelter facilities but also educational and skill training programs that can be funded mainly by resources that were suspended by different countries in the past several years from reaching the Eritrean people because of the reprehensive human rights record of the Eritrean government.
- A joint UN-EU action is required to address the plight of over 2,000 refugees still in Libya, 50,000 refugees in Yemen and 35,000 in Israel which still considers them as infiltrators and illegal migrants.
- EU Must Stop Beefing Up the Dictatorship in Eritrea:
Needless to say, the dictatorship in Eritrea, which failed to listen to different recommendations and advice in the past quarter of a century, does not deserve support to stay longer. The people inside the home country and abroad are doing all what it takes to replace the callous dictatorship by a democratic system of governance. We therefore appeal to you and all member countries of the EU to advise this important regional organization (EU) to stop its planned support with more than €300 million to the regime in Eritrea.
- Humane Refugee Policies Requested
We likewise call on Sweden and the rest of European countries to revise their refugee policies by opening up their doors to distressed Eritrean asylum seekers who are stranded in hostile places like Libya.
- Support UN Decisions and Recommendations
We also strongly appeal to Sweden and the rest of European countries in the EU and outside it to give full support to UN Security Council Resolutions on targeted sanctions as well as to the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council and its Eritrea-related organs that include the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea.
Trusting that you will give due attention and appropriate action on the above, we remain,
Swedish- Eritrean Partnership for Democracy and Human Rights
1. Swedish standing committee for foreign affairs
2. Swedish EU- parliament leaders
3. Human rights organizations ( Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch)
Mediterranean migrant crisis: More than 4,200 rescued off Italian coast; 800 drowned migrants to be given burialSunday, 31 May 2015 19:31 Written by AFP/Reuters
More than 4,200 migrants trying to reach Europe have been rescued from boats in the Mediterranean in last 24 hours, the Italian coastguard said on Saturday.
In some of the most intense Mediterranean migrant traffic of the year, a total of 4,243 people have been saved from fishing boats and rubber dinghies in 22 operations involving ships from nations including Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Britain.
The Italian navy said 17 corpses had been found on one of the boats off Libya. Details of the nationalities of the victims and how they died have not yet been released.
The bodies and more than 200 survivors were brought to the port of Augusta in eastern Sicily aboard the Italian navy corvette Fenice, the coastguard said.
Migrants escaping war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East this year have been pouring into Italy, which has been bearing the brunt of Mediterranean rescue operations.
Most depart from the coast of Libya, which has descended into anarchy since Western powers backed a 2011 revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
If there is anyone in Europe or in the world who thinks one's own conscience can be buried at a depth of 387 metres, France and Italy will go and tell them that this is not possible.
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi
Calm seas are increasingly favouring departures as warm spring weather sets in.
About 800 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya last month, when their 20-metre long fishing boat capsized and sank, making it the Mediterranean's most deadly shipwreck in living memory.
That spurred the European Union to agree on a naval mission to target gangs smuggling migrants from Libya, but a broader plan to deal with the influx is in doubt due to a dispute over national quotas for housing asylum seekers.
The EU plan to disperse 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other countries met with resistance this week, with Britain saying it would not participate and some eastern countries calling for a voluntary scheme.
The UN refugee agency estimated about 35,500 migrants have arrived in Italy from the beginning of the year up to the first week of May, a number which has grown considerably since. About 1,800 are either dead or missing.
'Sisters and brothers' to be recovered and buried
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has repeated his commitment to refloat the wreck of the trawler which sank in April with the deaths of around 800 migrants and lay to rest the victims.
The Italian navy located the wreck in early May lying 85 nautical miles north of the Libyan coast.
Investigators say pictures of the wreck show bodies lying nearby, on the bridge of the ship and inside the hull.
We will bring this boat to the surface and we will give a grave to these men and to these women, to these sisters and these brothers.
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi
"When this boat capsized and sank, we committed ourselves to go and check if there really were as many bodies as the survivors said," Mr Renzi said after talks with French prime minister Manuel Valls.
"I made this commitment and I would like to confirm it once again."
"We will bring this boat to the surface and we will give a grave to these men and to these women, to these sisters and these brothers."
"If there is anyone in Europe or in the world who thinks one's own conscience can be buried at a depth of 387 metres, France and Italy will go and tell them that this is not possible," he said.
Just 28 survivors were rescued and taken to Italy and 24 bodies were picked up and buried in Malta. The survivors included a Tunisian and a Syrian who are suspected of being the captain of the trawler and his second-in-command.
His Excellency Mr. Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Gutierrez
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
March 19th, 2015
Subject: Open Letter of Appeal to UNHCR on behalf of the Eritrean Refugees in Israel
We, the more than 300 representatives of the various Eritrean communities in Europe, who organised today’s protest demonstration in Geneva, would hereby like to submit our appeals to your Excellency with the hope that you will use your good office to stop the planned inhuman and forceful deportation of Eritrean refugees against their will from Israel to Uganda and Ruanda.
Since the outbreak of the 1998-2000 ferocious Eritrea/Ethiopia war and the cold war which followed between the two countries, young Eritreans in their thousands have been fleeing from Eritrea to different countries using various means and ways in order to avoid being forcefully drafted into a compulsory open-ended oppressive military service, including being forced into quasi-slavery forced labour on farms and factories. Some of those Eritrean refugees undertook a very perilous journey through the unforgiving Libyan and Sinai deserts, somehow reaching Israel after many terrifying ordeals. So many of their colleagues, brothers or sisters perished on the way from thirst and hunger, while others died at the hands of human traffickers and human organ hunters and traders.
The Eritrean refugees undertook the most hazardous route to reach the borders of Israel in the hope that a people which has suffered so much throughout history at the hands of anti-Semitic governments and in the most extreme way at the hands of the Nazi rulers of Germany would welcome Eritreans as refugees. Thus, those Eritreans who managed to reach Israel were conscious that, as the Israeli government is a signatory to the Geneva Convention on refugees, they could apply officially for refugee status to remain in Israel until the political situation returns to normality in Eritrea.
Unfortunately, and much to our dismay, we have recently learned that the Israeli government has a definite plan to deport thousands of Eritrean refugee applicants to some African countries that are willing to receive them in exchange for Israeli money and arms. It is important to mention here that Eritreans and the democrats of other countries clearly understand that the action and measures being undertaken by the Israeli government against Eritrean refugees is diametrically opposed to the Geneva Convention’s status and rights-based instrument, which is underpinned by a number of fundamental principles, most notably non-discrimination, non-penalisation and non-refoulement.
The illegal measures, which the Israeli government has announced to undertake against the thousands of Eritrean refugees living in Israel, have angered the thousands of Eritreans living in the western world and elsewhere. Consequently, as members of the worldwide Eritrean community, we, the representatives of the Eritrean community in Europe, have organised a peaceful protest demonstration in Geneva today to express our anger and dismay regarding the illegal deportation of Eritrean refugees by the Israeli government. We wish to convey to the Israeli government that Eritrean refugees are not commodities for sale to some corrupt and dictatorial governments in Africa where human rights and human dignity are grossly and crudely violated. In other words, the express purpose of our protest and the appeal letter we are handing to both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Geneva, and the Israeli Embassy in Switzerland, is to show active solidarity to our distressed fellow Eritreans in Israel. We wish to alert and inform the UNHCR in Geneva and other Human Rights organisations and governments to the plight and the imminent danger the thousands of Eritrean refugees are facing in Israel today.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established in December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly with a full mandate to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve their problems worldwide. In other words, as far as we are concerned, the primary purpose of the UNHR is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees, and to strive to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.
Indeed, as the key legal document, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees has clearly defined refugees and their rights and the legal obligations of the states hosting refugees. A refugee, according to the Convention, is defined as someone owing to well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
Similarly, under the title ‘prohibition of expulsion or return (“refoulement”)’, article 33 of the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, has also stated clearly that ‘No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedomwould be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’.
Thus, in line with the purpose, we have gathered here in Geneva in front of the Israeli Embassy to peacefully demonstrate and protest against the illegal measures, which the Israeli government is about to take against the thousands of Eritrean asylum applicants in Israel. We demand that the Israeli government immediately stops its threats to deport Eritrean refugees illegally from Israel. We also call on the United Nations and its representatives in Geneva to immediately intervene on behalf of the thousands of Eritrean refugee applicants living under fear and the looming danger of being deported against their will to some African countries run by oppressive and non-democratic regimes. In consultation with the Israeli government, we wish to find alternative host countries in Europe or elsewhere that are willing to receive our fellow country men and women on humanitarian grounds.
We thank you very much in advance for your understanding and for the urgent action that you will take to save the thousands of Eritrean refugees from being deported illegally to countries where they will not feel safe.
Long Live International Solidarity!!
Dr Tsegezab Gebregergis:
Spokesperson and Coordinator of the Geneva Demonstration
A paper prepared and read by Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis at the protest demonstration on May 19, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland.Friday, 29 May 2015 21:05 Written by Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis
Highly esteemed spectators and other passers-by: your attention, your attention please! We have a message to convey directly to the international community; to the people and government of this country; the local and international press and to other observers!!!
First and foremost, in the name of the millions of Eritrean people, I would like to convey and extend our fraternal greetings to you, the honourable Swiss people and the friendly government of Switzerland; the members of the press corps present here and other spectators; especially so to the inhabitants of this beautiful and historic city of Geneva.
I would also like to salute and thank the people of Switzerland and their democratic government for providing a temporary home to the hundreds of Eritrean refugees living at present in different parts of the country.
It is also my great pleasure to use this rare opportunity to remind you all that, in 1712, here in this historic city of Geneva, a great man and philosopher by the name of Jean Jacques Rousseau was born and whose ideas revolutionised old Europe and the countries beyond. He was the author of the Social Contract and the Origin of Inequality in Society. On behalf of humanity in ‘The Social Contract’ Jean Jacques Rousseau authoritatively stated that:”Man is born free but he is everywhere in chains." This lonely man, who died just a year before the French Revolution exploded, was a great humanist philosopher whose philosophy massively influenced the population and galvanised French men and women into taking revolutionary action in 1789 to overthrow the ancient regime and radically alter French society. I state this to act as an introduction.
Let me now explain who we are and why we are demonstrating in Geneva today. The organisers of today’s protest are Eritrean refugees and we have come to Geneva to let the world hear our cries on behalf of the oppressed Eritrean people who are living today under the thraldom and chains of the PFDJ-led government of Eritrea. Much to our dismay, even 300 years after Rousseau cried for freedom on behalf of humanity, the Eritrean people are still living in chains under the rule of an oppressive regime. Yes, we have come to Geneva from various European cities to express our anger with the Israeli government’s planned deportation of Eritrean refugees. Our purpose in organising and taking active part in this demonstration is to show our fraternal solidarity to our beleaguered compatriots in Israel, publicise their just cause and mobilise public opinion, so that the right of Eritrean refugees to live and work in Israel and elsewhere will be respected.
Let me also speak a little bit about our country and its people. Eritrea is a new country and a newcomer to the world political scene. Thus some of the spectators might not know the location of our country and the nature of Eritrean society. Eritrea is located in north east Africa, sandwiched between the Sudan in the north and Ethiopia in the south. Eritrea has a mosaic population estimated to be more than 5 million and is inhabited by both Moslems and Christians who have lived side-by-side, peacefully, for centuries. The Eritrean people have historical, cultural, linguistic and geographical ties with the countries and people beyond the Red Sea region. The coasts of Eritrea are separated by only 22 miles from Yemen (the Arabian Peninsula). Eritrea shares maritime borders with three Red Sea states: Yemen, Djibouti, and Somalia.
Eritrea is thus strategically located on the southern entrance to the Red Sea and fully controls the western part of the strategic Bab al Mandab strait, also historically known as the Gateway of Tears and Anguish. Eritrea also controls the areas of the Red Sea waters that lead to the Suez Canal. Therefore, from a geographic, military and political point of view, Eritrea is one of the most important countries in the Horn of Africa. Hence it is no wonder that, as a result of the evolving dangerous conflagrations in Yemen, overnight, Eritrea has become a very important partner to be consulted in finding a solution to Yemen’s raging internal conflict exasperated by the military intervention of Saudi Arabia.
After the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Bab al-Mandab Strait became not only the connecting point between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, but also the shortest and fastest waterway linking the East and the West, and thus also of great strategic importance.
It is thus important to mention here in passing that the United States of America is highly dependent on the Red Sea's geopolitical space, simply because most of the Gulf petroleum – i.e. America’s energy requirements – passes through the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Likewise, the other industrialized West European countries have also geopolitical requirements in the Red Sea. Again, this is because they mainly depend on the Gulf petroleum to meet their energy needs. Most of the oil consumed by their industries passes through the Strait of Babe -al-Mandeb. In short, in Western eyes, the Red Sea has always been the main artery that carries Persian Gulfoil to Western industrialized nations. They depend almost entirely on Gulfpetroleum to runtheir factories, warm their houses and maintain their economies. Russia can also be included in the geopolitical range of the Red Sea,because the RedSea is the shortest route that links its Black Sea ports with its fleet in the IndianOcean – a fleet thatplays an important role in Russia’s naval strategy.
Consequently, seen from military, political and economic points of view, the southern gateway of the Red Sea – the Bab al-Mandab Strait – is strategically very important. It needs to be remembered that, during the 1973 war between Israel and Egypt, both Egyptian and Yemeni forces blockaded the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. History seems to repeat itself. At present, there is Saudi-led bombing of Yemen. It is claimed that the political objectives of the present criminal military onslaught and bombing of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, comprising corruptand backward family dictatorships that are violently opposed to democracy and democratic principles(consisting of Egypt, the Kingdom of Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Kingdom of Bahrain, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan, Sudan) aims to restore the “legitimate President Abd-Rabbuh Manzour Al-Hadi” to power and bring democracy to Yemen. However, as far as the hard truth is concerned, the hidden political agenda of the US-government supported house of Saudi-led bombing of Yemen is to control the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden. This is being done with the express political objective of keeping the Iranians and their Houthi allies at bay and out of the region’s politics.In other words, the illegal and criminal military action of the house of Saudi against Yemen has nothing whatsoever to do with legitimacy, democracy or human rights.
It is for all the above reasons that I mention that the Horn of Africa has always been the scene of endless wars and conflicts and thus also the producer of the highest number of refugees.
Thus, after all is said and done, ‘real politick’ seems to dictate and suggest that peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, and even in the Arabian Peninsula, cannot be secured by excluding, cornering and by imposing unjust sanctions against Eritrea on the one hand, and by showering money, praise and military gadgetry on the Tigrian rulers of Ethiopia on the other.
For the reasons I have already stated, throughout their history, the people of Eritrea have been the victims of successive powers. Italy was one of the European colonial powers that victimised Eritrea and ruled its people for more than 50 years. Indeed, Eritrea was so named by the Italians when they colonised it in January 1889. However, after the defeat of the Italians at the end of the Second World War, Eritrea was placed for a brief interlude under British rule. In 1952, British rule was replaced by a sham federal relationship with feudal Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie. The sham federal arrangement was, in turn, nullified by the Ethiopian Emperor in 1960 and Eritrea was placed under the direct Ethiopian colonial rule. In response to the Ethiopian open colonial aggression of Eritrea, in September 1961 Eritrean nationalists launched an armed struggle to end Ethiopian rule in Eritrea by military force.
At long last, after more than 30 years of bloody war, fighting for national independence, in May 1991, the Eritrean freedom fighters succeeded in kicking out the occupying Ethiopian army and de facto independence was attained. There was thus great joy, jubilation and a mood of euphoria aroused by Eritrean independence and the entry of the freedom fighters to the Eritrean capital, Asmara.
However, the joy and euphoria of the Eritrean people was soon dashed when the EPLF/PFDJ-led government betrayed the aspirations of the Eritrean people to live under a democratic order of society and established instead a full-fledged dictatorship. This sad episode became a harsh reality after the EPLF/PFDJ generals were heavily emasculated in the 1998-2000 war, which erupted between Eritrea and Ethiopia under the pretext of border conflict. Furthermore, with the emergence of the opposition group known as the G-15, and the independent-minded journalists opposed to PFDJ dictatorship and their eventual imprisonment on 18 September 2001, the PFDJ dictatorship was fully consolidated and became deeply entrenched in Eritrea. As a result, all hopes of living in a democratic society, which respects the human rights of the Eritrean people, vanished overnight and Eritrea became a big prison house for the Eritrean people. In short, Eritrea became a police state.
What is more, as a consequence of the introduction of forced and open-ended military service; arbitrary and inhuman detention practices; lack of human rights and religious freedom and rampant unemployment, coupled by the existence of ‘alluring’ refugee camps constructed by the Ethiopian government to lure young Eritreans to abandon their country, Eritreans began to flee and to undertake hazardous journeys via the Libyan and Sinai deserts to get to Israel and Europe in search of peace and freedom.
We believe that as long as the existing push-and-pull political factors force young Eritreans to abandon their country, it is cruel and against international law and norms to repatriate Eritrean refugees, against their will, to return to the country which is led by a government they detest or to send them to other African countries in exchange for Israeli arms and money. We want to make it absolutely clear to all concerned that we stringently oppose such deals, because Eritrean refugees are not commodities for sale. We also believe that, according to international law and norms, the governments which have signed the July 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 protocol are legally and morally obliged to accommodate and give protection to Eritrean refugees until the dictatorial government in their country is removed and replaced by a government established for and by the people of Eritrea.
Finally, I would also like to remind the friendly government of Switzerland that there are hundreds of Eritrean refugees living in various camps that have applied for refugee status in this country and are still living in a legal limbo. We therefore demand the Federal government of Switzerland speedily processes their applications and grant them political refugee status so that they could start a new, organised and stable life and gradually integrate into Swiss society. In this connection, we would also like to point out that the hundreds of Eritrean refugees at present living in Switzerland are going to be the future leaders and ambassadors of their country and will provide a bridge between the Eritrean and the Swiss people. Thus, seen from the importance of a person-to-person relationship, the presence of hundreds of young Eritrean refugees in Switzerland is very significant for the cementing the future mutual relationship of our two countries and their people.
Long live international solidarity between and among the people of all nations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan St., Qiryat Ben-Gurion
P.O. Box 187, 91919 Jerusalem
Genève, May 19, 2015
Dear Prime Minister,
The authors of this appeal letter, who have gathered here in Genève, Switzerland to express serious concerns about the dilemma faced by Eritrean refugees in Israel, are Eritreans representing the various Eritrean communities in Europe. We have gathered here to protest because your government has announced that it has a definite plan to repatriate, against their will, the thousands of Eritreans who have requested political asylum in Israel. To our dismay, we have learned that the Israeli authorities are already rounding-up many Eritrean asylum seekers and detaining them in the harsh Negev desert as if they were ordinary criminals. The Eritreans at present in Israel, however, are neither criminals nor commodities for sale; they are refugees with a legitimate political cause and they deserve refugee status and protection in Israel.
As your government is well aware, article 1 of the Geneva Convention, as amended by the 1967 Protocol, has defined a refugee as: "A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
Thus, in our view, due to the fact that the Eritrean young are routinely being subjected to brutal oppression, wholesale and arbitrary detention, torture, severe restrictions and curtailment on their freedom of expression and association, they (all the Eritrean refugee population at present in Israel) fully meet the above criteria and the definition of a political refugee, as provided by the Geneva Convention. We therefore believe and uphold that all the Eritrean refugees at present in Israel deserve the status of political refugees and receive the protection of the international community.
We are therefore very much saddened to observe that, while fully cognizant that the Eritrean youth are fleeing their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, aggression of their country by neighbouring regional power, internal oppression and massive violation of human rights, forced labour and indefinite military service in Eritrea under PFDJ rule, the Israeli government is taking harsh and unlawful measures against Eritrean refugees.
We see the illegal and unwarranted detention of Eritrean asylum seekers by the Israeli government in the open desert detention centres, such as the Saharonim,Ktziot and Holot prisons, for their eventual repatriation, not only unconstitutional according to the Israeli constitution, but also in clear and crude violation of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as other recognized international standards, norms and human rights law pertaining to asylum-seekers.
The illegal detention of Eritrean and other African refugees is being justified by the Israeli government on the pretext of the refugees’ illegal entry to Israel through the Egyptian Sinai desert. Yet article 31 of the July 28, 1951 Convention and the amended 1967 protocol clearly states that: "The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”
Thus, as far as we are concerned, the State of Israel is fully cognizant of the fact that international law forbids the detention, deportation or forced repatriation of refugees to a place where they face torture and a real danger for their very lives. Nevertheless, the Israeli government is still taking measures which violate international law and norms pertaining to political refugees, and much to our regret there are no visible opposition or protest by the international community to the illegal measures the Israeli government is taking against the Eritrean refugees.
For us it is really a paradox, and we are at total loss to comprehend the illegal and cruel action being taken against Eritrean refugees by your government – a government which represents a people who have experienced expulsions, deportations and pogroms: yes, a people that have been enormously oppressed and suffered so much throughout their known history in the hands of anti-Semitic governments; particularly so in the hands of the barbaric Nazi rulers of Germany. For common sense seems to suggest that the representatives of a people with such an unhappy past and the people of Israeli would show some kind of understanding, leniency and solidarity with the plight of the Eritrean refugees. Unfortunately, this is not what we are observing regarding the Eritrean refugees in Israel today. Frankly, we believe and maintain that your cruel policy towards Eritrean refugees is influenced and shaped by your government’s desire to maintain racial purity in Israel rather than from a non-existing security threats to the State of Israel.
We therefore call on your government to reconsider your contentious policy to imprison and repatriate the thousands of Eritrean refugees against their will and to accommodate them in Israel by providing them refugee status until the political situation returns to normality in Eritrea. We also call on the people of Israeli to put pressure on their government to treat the Eritrean refuges humanely and respectfully. Likewise, we also call on the international community to shoulder their responsibility and put pressure on the government of Israel to respect all existing Conventions pertaining to refugees, international laws and norms and the right of African refugees in general and that of Eritrean refugees in particular.
We also call on the international community to find alternative countries for resettlement for the thousands of Eritrean refugees, should the Israeli government adamantly refuse to reconsider its policy of illegal repatriation of Eritrean refugees against their will to some African countries under the grip of anti-democratic regimes.
Long Live International Solidarity!!
Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis
Spokesperson and Coordinator of the Genève Demonstration
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari prepares to attend swearing-in ceremony in Abuja, amid tight security in the capital.
The Bay Area Eritreans for Democratic Change (BAEDC) celebrated May 24th this year in a very unique way. Traditionally, BAEDC celebrates in fanfare and with known musicians. This year has been different in all measures to the worst for the Eritrean people have suffered immensely. The Eritrean people amassed sad news to sad news day and day out for the last few years. This year top them the most. Drowning in the Mediterranean Sea in mass has become the norm life. Beheading by Islamic extremists is a new addition to the suffering. This cohort action hits into the heart of the Eritrean interwoven community. Dealing with such plight and suffering, does one need dancing and parting? Parting for what end? What is the meaning of independence when the essence of life under independence is enslavement? What is the meaning of independence when the owners are hunted by their own government and weathered by the scorch of the desert and swallowed by the deep seas? What is independence when it is synonyms with hell, enslavement, oppression, persecution, absolute dictatorship etc.? Dancing is not an answer to those questions. Because of those who parish in the Mediterranean Sea and those who were beheaded in Libya, BAEDC planned to celebrate May 24th in a unique way.
BAEDC has canceled the scheduled fanfare celebration for independence day, and instead replaced it with a solemn way by remembering those who parish seeking the light of freedom. Yes, seeking freedom. The owners of independent Eritrea have been fleeing the country for years in mass to seek freedom. Eritrean independence in essence is only replacing Eritrean flag to colonial. Thus, BAEDC presented human trafficking documentary prepared by Meron Stefanos. The documentary shows the brutality, inhuman and evil atrocities roots. As sad as it is, the documentary is evidence of how the Eritrean youth is encountering the atrocities weaved by PFDJ thugs. This documentary is a MUST see for all Eritreans.
After the documentary, BAEDC members discussed on how to work together. Discussions focused on how to avoid side issues and instead to focus on the big elephant in the room. BAEDC board assured members that more engaging meeting that are focused on harmonizing the opposition will follow.
In conclusion, participants were very satisfied by the boards plan. It was very gratifying to remember those children, unborn children, pregnant women, young mothers, youth and elders who lost their lives because of PFDJ’s atrocious actions.
The Dreams of those who perish will come true only by us!
MAY 24 meant to be a day that we Eritreans should celebrate our hard won independence. Yes, We are “nationally” independent; we are a country; we have a flag, we have a passport; and we have a name – ERITREANS. An accomplishment of a generation indeed. BUT, was that all? Was our vision of a nation and a society that short and that small?
WHAT happened to us now? What happened with our generation? We disrespect our dead, disregard the living. We fear death when we are half-dead. We are visited daily by grief, sorrow, pain and shame. We cry; continue crying while waiting for another tragedy of a deepening misery.
WHO have we become? Are We still ERITREAN? Are we still HUMANS? When we dance over the bodies of our beloved ones; when we praise the vampire that sacks life out of us; when we remain dehumanized; when our being is killed, our future perishes. Are we really the People? Are we those who did an imaginable deeds to ensure the RIGHT FOR SELF-DETERMINATION?
IF we believe we are ERITREANS defined by our history that we were its makers; IF we believe that we are the people who made May 24 a reality; IF we believe in our unity in diversity; then WHY do We continue to be victims of circumstances; remain divided; filled with fatalism and despondency; indifferent; disillusioned; captured by paralysing fear and unscrupulous opportunism? Have we become “ደርሆስ በምዑት ደቃ ትጻወት”?
REMEMBER! We sung with our head up and proud heart; We are the PEOPLE, WE are the NATION; We are the SEA; We are the Mountain; We are the River; We are the Forest; We are the GENERATION. Yes! We are the people, A people of dignity; a people of history; a people of culture; a people of family and a community; a people of the wise; a people of peace; a people of humility and honesty; We are the people part of the HUMANITY.
IT is in our united hands not to be defined by circumstance; IT is in our POWER not to succumb to the evil of the time. The CHOICE is ours not to continue being the people of the present, but the People of HISTORY and FUTURE. Eritreans! The choice is ours to be true to our generation’s mission and reborn as CITIZENS with full rights and responsibility equal in humanity.
THE CHOICE IS OURS on MAY 24, a historical day, to dialogue and reconcile with ourselves; redefine our being as a PEOPLE WITH POWER to design our destiny and our future that MUST be BRIGHTER! In fact, We have no choice, but to “… discover our mission, fulfil it …” (Frantz Fanon)
24 May 2015
Pretoria, South Africa
In a couple of days Eritrea will celebrate the 24th anniversary of its hard won independence. This is a day Eritreans celebrate passionately for the hefty price they have paid for freedom and justice. It was in May 1991 that Eritrea’s protracted struggle for independence came to a successful end with the liberation of the country from Ethiopian occupation. The country’s formal independence was declared two years later following the 1993 national referendum in which 99.8% Eritreans voted in favour of independence. In a continent that is ravaged by war, poverty and corruption, for its endurance and some of the achievements it had recorded in the revolution years, an independent Eritrea was hailed to be a symbol for African renaissance.
For Eritreans, the independence of their country signalled the end of a dark era in which their suffering and a prolonged war and its destruction were closed with triumph, Liberation. Many Eritreans assumed that their just cause, tenacity in the revolution years, and their passion for freedom and justice finally paid off. The level of optimism among Eritreans and others was high that the beginning of 1990s was a new kick-off for the emerging nation.
The first decade of Eritrea’s independence was of twofold. In the early years of independence a glimpse of positive signs were noticed. Following independence, the country was facing a huge task of nation building. Rebuilding its war ravaged economy was one of the top priorities. There was also a trend towards a nascent democracy. This was somewhat manifested when a constitution was drafted and ratified by the National Assembly in 1997. An embryonic free press was also evolving allowing the emergence of several private newspapers.
In the dark side of the period, there were cases where public protests - in the events of the 1993 former freedom fighters dissension and the 1994 demonstration of Eritrean disabled fighters - were suppressed by the government. There was also isolated harassment on some Eritrean Muslims which were branded as ‘extremists’ by the government.
The first decade also unfolded Eritrea’s tensions and clashes with three of its neighbours - Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia - in 1994, 1995, and 1998-2000 respectively. The causes of these problems were complex and beyond the scope of this article. But, considering the fact that the country was coming out of a long and destructive war for independence and in terms of its external relations with its neighbours, this was by no means a good beginning.
The border dispute with Ethiopia has had a devastating effect for Eritrea. In the wake of the border clash the Eritrean government began to march on a different path. The few encouraging signs that the country experienced in the first decade of its independence were quickly overturned. The year 2001 unveiled a rampant attack on civil liberties in Eritrea. The dominating nature of the omnipotent President became well-defined and was clearly unmasked when dissidents from within the government circle, the G-15, were arrested and disappeared from public scene once and for all. They were jailed merely for demanding accountability. Many of these were senior figures in the Eritrean government (ministers, army leaders and MP’s) and comrades in arms of the President himself during the war for independence. Simultaneously, the evolving free press was muffled when all private newspapers were banned and the journalists who worked in these papers were thrown into prison never to be seen again. Protesting university students were also banished into desert prisons and few years later Eritrea’s sole university was closed. Ironically, just within ten years of its independence, the once hailed and promising Eritrea was on a swift path to dictatorship.
Beginning in such a way, the second decade of Eritrea’s independence also highlighted boldly the government’s exploitative nature. In 2002, with a pretext of building the war damaged economy, the Warsai-Yikealo campaign was declared to extend the 18 month bound National Service into a lifelong scheme. The standoff with Ethiopia that followed the border dispute is used as an excuse by the government to prolong the compulsory National Service into an indefinite one. The notorious National Service developed into a system where several human rights abuses against young Eritreans were and still are recorded. Ultimately it becomes one of the main driving causes for many to flee the country.
The past fifteen years clearly witnessed how the Eritrean government turned into a despotic regime. Now Eritrea owns a government that exercise total control over its citizens. Every aspect of the citizens’ livelihood is under the scrutiny of the State which made Eritreans to live under continuous anxiety and despair. Today Eritrea is still a single party state ruled by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). It became a country where no elections were held despite it has 24 years as an independent state. This is an odd case even by African standards. Dissent is unthinkable. The people are rather expected to demonstration complete obedience to the government. Eritrea also becomes a country well-known for its repressiveness, human rights abuses and secrecy. It is now characterised as the most censored country in the world by the Committee to Protect Journalist, even beating the infamous North Korea, which holds second place. The never implemented but ratified constitution of 1997 was recently declared dead by a mere statement of the President in an interview.
A vivid weakness of the government is its mishandling of the country’s unique asset, the Eritrean youth. Thousands of young Eritreans, including some children, are fleeing the country in alarming numbers. Currently Eritrea is making the headlines for the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. Its citizens are second only to Syrians to arrive into the EU through the seashores of Italy. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) nearly 37,000 Eritreans applied for asylum in EU in the first 10 months of 2014. This is a shocking figure given Eritrean population of around 5 million. A destructive war can justify the Syrians plight but why do Eritreans flee in these high figures undertaking the dangerous journey through the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean? Many lost their life in this perilous journey. Lampedusa was a case in point. In the recent catastrophe in Mediterranean an estimate 350 Eritreans also perished following another boat disaster. Several Eritreans were killed or abused at the hands of human traffickers in Sinai, Libya and elsewhere. Some others became victims of the barbaric act of ISIS in Libya. Having deprived of the chance to live a peaceful life in their country, many Eritreans refugees are still languishing in several African countries and in Israel. This is the end result of the ruthless repression and pervasive state control in Eritrea.
Every year Eritrea celebrates its well-deserved Independence Day. But the objectives and promises made in the struggle for independence and in the immediate thereafter are grossly betrayed. During the liberation struggle Eritreans paid immensely. They fought long and hard not only to create an independent political entity but also to live, as citizens of a nation, an honourable life where peace, justice, democracy and the rule of law prevailed. The state of affairs in current Eritrea is far away from this. Justice hungry Eritreans are fleeing repression in search of freedom, peace and security elsewhere.
Eritrea and Eritreans will breathe freedom only when the government in Asmara chooses to reverse its march from despotism into democracy and build a transparent political system that adheres to accountability and the rule of law. When it is respecting basic human rights of its own citizens. When it is nurturing a political culture in which stable political institutions and independent civil societies can surface. At least this can be the starting point. The build-up on this then will take us on the journey where we can chase our dreams and the dreams of our fallen martyrs and where we want to be as people and a nation. Otherwise, as long as the current trends are not curtailed Eritrea’s predicament is not going to be ceased sooner.
Unquestionably our hard won independence is a big moment we celebrate but our freedom is yet to come.
Happy Independence day Eritrea.
 “10 Most Censored Countries” https://cpj.org/2015/04/10-most-censored-countries.php