On September 18, 2001, as the world reeled from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York and international attention focused on the United States, the president of a tiny African country decided journalists were no longer needed in his country.

Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea— which borders Ethiopia and lies 20 miles across a strategic shipping canal from Yemen—announced that all independent media organizations were to cease activity. Private presses were shuttered and broadcasters closed down; journalists were rounded up and put in prison.

The deplorable state of press freedom in the Horn of Africa country—Eritrea has been ranked bottom of Reporters Sans Frontieres’ (RSF) Press Freedom Index in eight out of the last nine years—has led to the country being dubbed Africa’s North Korea, in comparison with the East Asian totalitarian dictatorship.

But Fathi Osman, an ex-Eritrean diplomat who fled the country and now works for Paris-based Radio Erena, an Eritrean media outlet in exile, says that comparison doesn’t do the situation in his home country justice. The Eritrean capital Asmara, he says, is a less open place than Pyongyang.

Eritrean migrant An Eritrean migrant simulates what she says is a torture technique during a protest outside the European Union delegation in Israel, in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv on June 25, 2015. Eritrea, a repressive state with no free press, is one of the most closed countries in the world. Baz Ratner/Reuters

“This is not a catchphrase, this is a well-deserved description. When you have one newspaper, one radio, and people are not allowed to leave the country from aged nine to 57—imagine that,” Osman, 51, tells Newsweek . “So we are maybe the worst copy of North Korea, [like] when you have a genetic mutation...Eritrea is a deformed copy.”

Read more: Who is Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea’s enigmatic dictator?

Today, there are no independent media outlets in Eritrea, a country where around 10 percent of the population has fled abroad as refugees and asylum seekers. The number of newspapers, broadcasters and internet news agencies can be counted on two hands; all of these are state-run. Eritrea is, effectively, a land with no journalists.

“The country gives only one version of the truth, the government version of the truth,” says Osman. “Internet is very difficult to access and, even if it’s accessed, it’s one of the slowest in the world. It takes maybe two hours to see a very short video clip.”

Through Radio Erena, Osman and his colleagues are doing their bit to try and lift the information blackout in Eritrea. Founded in Paris 2009 with backing from RSF by Biniam Simon, an ex-government television presenter who fled Eritrea for France, Radio Erena—which means “Our Eritrea”—has a network of sources inside the repressive state and broadcasts in the middle of the day, when Eritreans workers can return home for lunch, shut the door, pull the blinds down and listen in the relative seclusion of their homes. This week, U.K. non-profit One World Media gave Radio Erena its special award for its role as the country’s sole independent source of information.

Osman leads the station’s Arabic news team, which broadcasts a 30-minute program three times a week. (Radio Erena also broadcasts in Tigrinya, the local language in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.) He is reluctant to reveal how the station’s journalists contact sources in Eritrea—the government views Radio Erena as a public enemy, working on behalf of political opposition—but says that steps are taken to ensure their safety. “Numbers, whereabouts, things like that [we do not disclose], but we have our own confident and reliable sources inside the country. This gives Radio Erena an advantage.”

But Osman says that the station sometimes has to turn away potential sources and stories for the safety of those providing information. “We don’t encourage people to call us. There are some people that want to call us and comment in hotel rooms. We advise them not to do that,” he says.

Having worked within the Eritrean government for more than a decade, Osman knows from the inside how dangerous life can be inside the country. He started working for the Ministry of Information—which oversees state-run media—in the 1990s. Those were heady days in Eritrea: the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) had claimed victory in 1991 in a 30-year war against Ethiopian occupiers, and independence was sealed in a 1993 referendum.

Fathi Osman Fathi Osman collects an award on behalf of Radio Erena at the One World Media Awards in London on June 7. Radio Erena, based in Paris, is one of the only independent sources of information for people living in Eritrea. Kinga Kardynal/One World Media

But in 1996, things began to turn sour for Eritrea’s journalists. The government passed a law that required all journalists and publications to be licensed by the administration and for publications to be submitted for government approval before dissemination. Osman, who was working as an editor for a state-run Arabic language newspaper, lost his job in what he says was described by the government as a “downsizing” of the media industry. He then worked in the foreign ministry for several years before being posted as a diplomat, first to Pakistan in 2003, then to Saudi Arabia in 2004.

After eight years in Riyadh, Osman defected in 2012—a year after the government rounded up independent journalists. He is reluctant to explain why, but says he was subjected to “threats” and had disagreements with his colleagues over the government’s increasingly authoritarian policy. “You cannot defend the policies of a government that you don’t believe, that you don’t have faith in,” he says.

Many of the journalists arrested in Eritrea in 2001 remain in prison, and the country is the biggest jailer of reporters in sub-Saharan Africa, with at least 17 journalists in jail as of December 1, 2016, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The climate does not seem to be improving, according to Jennifer Dunham, research director at Freedom House, a pro-democracy U.S.-based NGO that works on press freedom. “[The climate] has led to either extreme self-censorship in the country and a climate of fear for any remaining journalists and the general population,” says Dunham. “Even the [journalists] working for state-run outlets are under threat.”

Osman says that Radio Erena has dedicated its award to the journalists currently imprisoned in Eritrea. And while he is not optimistic about the future of press freedom in Eritrea, he says it is important to keep supplying the Eritrean people with some degree of news.

“There is not a hint or a tip that [the government] may release these people, so it’s dark at the moment, but one believes in change and one should work for this change,” says Osman. “We did not coin the North Korea [comparison] but we are confirming it and telling the truth about the situation in Eritrea and give the facts and give people the chance to judge for themselves.”

Source=http://www.newsweek.com/eritrea-north-korea-press-freedom-isaias-afwerki-623641

The Washington Post
 

The decision by five Arab states to sever ties with Qatar marks another chapter in a multiyear saga of turbulent relations between Qatar and its neighbors. A split between Doha and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was brewing for years. At the heart of the problem lies an irreconcilable difference between the Persian Gulf countries about how to interpret the events of the 2011 Arab Spring and, more important, how to react to them.

In contrast to its GCC neighbors, Qatar actively promoted regime change across the Arab world. The Qataris mobilized finances and offered favorable media coverage to many Islamist actors, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza, the Ennahda party in Tunisia and myriad militias in Libya and Syria.

In response, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia worked forcefully to block Qatar’s interests in the region, helping to depose Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, funding rival opposition factions in Syria and supporting the government of Gen. Khalifa Hifter in Libya.

Although the Saudis and Emiratis began to resist Qatar’s regional activities, Qatar’s rulers were no pushover. The emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, and his cousin, Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, were seasoned operators on the international stage. For 20 years, they built “Brand Qatar” by forming a crosscutting swathe of alliances across the region, stretching from Mauritania to Afghanistan. And so the decision by Hamad to hand power to his son Tamim in August 2013 presented an opportunity for the Saudis and Emiratis to put pressure on the young monarch to force him into line.

In an environment increasingly hostile to Qatari foreign policy, Tamim lacked the experience of his father and uncle to handle the challenges. Al Jazeera was hemorrhaging viewers regionally, and Qatari foreign policy increasingly struggled in Libya, Syria and Egypt in the face of GCC pressure.

Sensing their opportunity, the Emiratis, Saudis and Bahrainis urged Tamim to scale back Qatar’s regional activities. Following six months of failed negotiations, the three countries pulled their ambassadors from Doha in protest in early 2014.

With the help of Kuwait’s emir, Qatar agreed to acquiesce to each of the three countries in a series of bilateral negotiations, leading to a repair in relations by the GCC summit in December 2014. But it was not until December 2016, when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz came to Doha, that the rift was publicly mended.

But for all the goodwill that was shown, the core problem that underlay the split had never healed. While the Qataris had toned down Al Jazeera and evicted a few Muslim Brotherhood members from Doha, their ambition to be a regional actor remained, as did their myriad of friendships with a host of political Islamists across the region — friendships that the UAE in particular found hard to accept.

In recent months, Qatar has once again drifted outside the GCC consensus. Particularly galling for the UAE and Saudi Arabia has been Qatar’s interaction with Islamist groups linked closely to the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. Worse still to them are its business dealings with Iranian regional affiliates. In April, Qatar was involved in communications with the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al Sham organization to guarantee population transfers in the country. Qatar appeared to have brokered the deal by communicating with Iran, which in return managed to secure the release of 26 Qataris royals kidnapped in Iraq in return for a princely sum to be paid to Iranian client militia Kataib Hezbollah.

Qatar also helped Hamas publicly rebrand itself— and the group launched its new policy objectives at a Doha hotel in May. Islamist rebranding has been a favored tactic Qatar uses with Syrian opposition groups, particularly the Islamist Ahrar al Sham, and, unsuccessfully, with the leader of the now defunct al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. This attempt to legitimize Islamist groups is an issue the Emiratis in particular find difficult to accept.

The United States has served as a key actor from which the Saudis can take their lead. As Riyadh has moved closer to the United States in recent days, helped with a promise of purchasing more American arms during President Trump’s visit in May, there is little doubt the Saudis felt emboldened to ratchet up the pressure against the Qataris.

The Emiratis also have found themselves in favor with the new Washington administration, whose strong dislike for both Iran and Sunni Islamists fits well with UAE policy priorities. Accordingly, there is a newfound confidence in Saudi Arabia and the UAE that strong measures to force the Qataris back into their box will find support in Washington.

Qatar’s support for Hamas seems to have been a card the gulf states have played effectively to curry favor with U.S. decision-makers amid the warming relations between the gulf and the Israelis. The UAE and Saudi Arabia appear to be preempting U.S. policy by sounding notes that will find favor with pro-Israel, anti-Iran, and anti-Islamist legislators in Congress, albeit for reasons much more applicable to intra-GCC politics than the regional strategic goals of the United States.

Given that diplomatic attempts to isolate Qatar in 2014 seem to have had no long-term effect on Doha’s behavior, it is not surprising that the Saudis have decided to dramatically up the stakes this time around by closing off Qatar’s only land border and— along with the UAE and Egypt— blocking all air travel to the emirate, with Egypt denying Qatar Airways the use of its airspace.

The closure of land borders and the disruption to air traffic will have serious consequences for the Qatari economy and its society that will quickly prove prohibitively expensive, even for a rich state like Qatar. And so, serious concessions will have to be made if relations in the GCC are to normalize to the usual levels of mutually suspicious friendship.

Michael Stephens is a research fellow in the Middle East Department and head of the Qatar operations of the British-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies.

Source=http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/analysis-why-key-arab-countries-have-cut-ties-with-qatar-%E2%80%94-and-what-trump-had-to-do-with-it/ar-BBCdfog?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

Jun 1, 2017 | 11:30 AM
 
(PHOTO: BARNABAS FUND)Eritrean Christians in Egyptian prison worship together.

Just like its despotic East Asian counterpart, the regime in this East African country has been accused of stepping up its campaign against Christians, arresting almost 100 of them in the past month, World Watch Monitor reported.

The arrests were made 10 years after the dictatorial regime of President Isaias Afwerki placed Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch (Abune) Antonios under house arrest, and also 15 years after the forced closure of many churches in the country.

Patriarch (Abune) Antonios, who turns 90 in July, is also being held incommunicado in a location known only to the authorities.

His family and friends have expressed concern that the Patriarch, who is reportedly diabetic, may not be receiving adequate medical treatment.

The latest arrests were made early last month ahead of Eritrea's Independence Day on May 24.

A source told World Watch Monitor that 49 Evangelicals were arrested outside the capital, Asmara, on May 21 at a post-wedding celebration where the couple were among those picked up and detained.

Four days before that, security officials arrested more than 35 Christians from their homes in Adi Quala, a market town not far from the Ethiopian border.

Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been living in fear in Eritrea since 2002 when a law was passed prohibiting churches other than the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches, and also Sunni Islam.

However, as the Patriarch's house arrest shows, even members of permitted churches face arrest if they criticize the regime.

Eritrea has been described as among the harshest dictatorships in the world, according to Haaretz.

A special permit is required to go to a friend's house for dinner if the meal is to be attended by at least three guests from different families. This is because the authorities already consider it a gathering that requires a special permit, according to the Israeli news outlet.

The group Reporters Without Borders ranks Eritrea the 179th out of 179 countries when it comes to the lack of freedom of expression, even lower than hermit communist country North Korea.

Eritrea is also ranked as the 10th most difficult country for a Christian to live in, according to the Open Doors' 2017 World Watch List.

Last month, 10 Christians - four women and six men - were reportedly arrested by security officers in Eritrea for still undetermined charges, according to the Christian persecution watchdog.

Open Doors reports that Christian prisoners in Eritrea are locked up in shipping containers with little ventilation, if at all, and many have died as a result.


Source=http://www.christianpost.com/news/100-christians-detained-in-eritrea-orthodox-patriarch-marks-10th-year-under-house-arrest-186025/

Leonard Doyle, chief spokesman for the UN migration agency, the IOM, said it had detected a hardening of attitude towards economic migrants from Africa, who were looking for work as they moved north towards Europe. “These are impoverished, black, sub-saharan Africans and there’s definitely less interest in them and less warmth towards them than there was towards the refugees coming in from Syria last year, there’s no question about that,” said Doyle.

He added: “The rate of deaths has gone sky high. People looking for work are being told to get into a dinghy and they’ll get a job. These are very vulnerable people ending up in exploitative situations.”

During the first five months of last year the IOM recorded 205,858 migrants reaching Europe via the Mediterranean with 2,512 deaths. So far this year a far smaller amount – 71,029 – of migrants and refugees have crossed the Med to enter Europe yet the number of deaths stands at 1,650.

Research by the University of Warwick published last week – the first large-scale comparative study of the backgrounds and aspirations of refugees and migrants heading for Europe – challenged the prevailing view that they pick Europe as their destination of choice. Instead, researchers found that many did not even know anything about the EU prior to their arrival and had in fact been manipulated by traffickers who promised them work.

Thousands of asylum seekers remain stranded on Greek islands as the “one in one out” EU-Turkey deal falters.

source= https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/03/mediterranean-refugees-migrants-deaths

 

Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar

Monday, 05 June 2017 10:06 Written by

  • Four Arab nations have cut ties with Qatar
  • The nations pointed to Doha's terrorism ties and their own national security as part of their rationale
  • The coordinated move escalates a dispute over Qatar's support of the Muslim Brotherhood, and adds accusations that Doha backs the agenda of Iran

Saudi Arabia and three other nations broke diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab state Qatar on Monday, pointing to Doha's ties to terrorism and the need to maintain national security.

Riyadh ended all land sea and air contacts with Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt also cut ties with Doha on Monday. The coordinated move dramatically escalates a simmering dispute over Qatar's support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world's oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.

Crude and natural gas prices jumped after the news with global benchmark Brent up 1.42 percent to $50.66 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate up 1.45 percent to $48.35 a barrel. U.S. natural gas prices quoted at the U.S. Henry Hub jumped 1.37 percent to $3.040 per million British thermal units.

Qatar's foreign ministry called the other nations' decision "unjustified" and vowed that the move would not affect the "normal lives of citizens and residents," according to a statement reported by Al Jazeera.

"It's clearly an attempt to get the Qataris in line and not support Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood," said Peter Sluglett, visiting research professor at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Doha, Qatar.
Justin Solomon | CNBC
Doha, Qatar.

The governments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE are all wary of the Muslim Brotherhood because it enjoys support as an Islamist party among a broad base, Sluglett said. In the case of Iran, he added, a key factor is the Trump administration's threat to review a landmark deal that lifted most economic sanctions against Iran in return for curbing its nuclear and missile programs.

"The Americans cannot unilaterally back out of the deal as it is the P5+1 [permanent five members of the U.N. security council and Germany], so they are using the GCC and Egypt to put pressure on any countries supporting Iran," Sluglett said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which counts Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman as members.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, responded on Twitter to the news by pointing out that Qatar "is very heavily reliant on food supplies accessed" through Saudi Arabia, so a closing of the borders poses a "very" serious challenge to Doha.

For its part, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups and spreading their violent ideology, in an apparent reference to its influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

"(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly," state news agency SPA said.

The statement went on to accuse Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.

Qatar said in May that hackers had faked remarks by its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, criticizing some leaders of fellow Gulf Arab states and calling for an easing of tensions with Iran, a regional adversary.

But several Gulf Cooperation Council states rejected Qatar's explanation, leaving local media to unleash a barrage of attacks accusing the emir of cozying up to Tehran.

Qatar shares the world's largest gas field, South Pars, with Iran. The commercial and business ties have irritated Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries at odds with Iran over Tehran's support for Shia-linked militants.

Sluglett noted that Qatar's dealings with Iran center on the gas field and that Doha is uncomfortable at times with a hard push against Tehran: "They find it quite ridiculous to blindly follow U.S. views on Iran."

But, he added, the possibilities of the tensions to escalate to conflict are unlikely. "I wouldn't think it would lead to bare-knuckle fighting, but I wouldn't have seen the Saudi be so adventurous in Yemen either."

Qatar, Sluglett added, has used its soft power status as an ally to the U.S. by hosting the U.S. Central Command and also a winning, but controversial, bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

"This soft power image is very important to Qatar," Sluglett said. "The Saudis and others know this and this can be seen as a warning they must behave themselves."

Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, also said on Monday it has cut diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing its fellow Gulf Arab state of backing terrorism and interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs.

The United Arab Emirates' decision to cut ties with Qatar was reported by state news agency WAM, accusing its Gulf Arab neighbor of supporting extremism and undermining regional stability.

The Emirates gave diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, citing their "support, funding and embrace of terrorist, extremist and sectarian organisations," WAM said.

A spokesman for Abu Dhabi airline Etihad Airways said the airline would suspend flights to and from Qatar from Tuesday morning.

Qatar is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and has extensive air and banking links throughout the countries that snapped diplomatic ties. State-owned flag carrier Qatar Airways uses air terminals in all of the countries and has extensive links to Europe, Asia and the United States.

—CNBC's Ed Lane, Reuters and NBC News contributed to this report.

Source=http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/04/saudi-arabia-bahrain-and-egypt-cut-diplomatic-ties-with-qatar.html

 

Share this article

'They got the wrong man': Doubts remain over identity of people-trafficking suspect
File photo of a coastguard boat arriving at Lampedusa. The man is accused of organizing the packing of migrants onto a boat that sank off the island in 2013, killing 360. Photo: AFP
08:59 CEST+02:00
 
One year ago an Eritrean was arrested in Sudan on charges of heading a major people-smuggling network and extradited to Italy, where he has languished in jail ever since - despite persistent claims the police got the wrong man.

Sicilian prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi hailed the arrest as "a turning point in the fight against human traffickers" after months of trying to break into a ring of smugglers shipping migrants across the Mediterranean.

Medhanie Yehdego Mered, 36, is accused of being "the General" of one of the largest migrant trafficking networks, with branches in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates as well as in several European countries.

Investigators suspect him of organizing since 2013 the often deadly journeys of hundreds of people a month - especially young people from the Horn of Africa - across the baking Sahara and out to sea towards Italy.

He ended up on an international wanted list after being identified as the man who organised the packing of migrants onto a boat that sank off Lampedusa in 2013, killing at least 360 people in one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean.

The "cynical and unscrupulous" Mered, who reportedly styled himself on ex-Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, had been "continuously and constantly reaping vast profits while showing a contempt for human life," according to a joint statement by Sudan, Italy and Britain announcing his arrest on May 24th last year.

READ ALSO: Italian police bust people-trafficking ring in Lombardy

But images of a frail young man in a red shirt being marched off a plane in Italy sowed the first seeds of doubt.

Some who had known "the General" said the police had the wrong man. The handcuffed prisoner was instead identified by relatives as a refugee, Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, then a 29-year-old carpenter.

"This is not the General. He doesn't even speak Arabic," Tasfie Haggose, an Eritrean refugee in Khartoum, told AFP.

Shared first name

The trial against him went ahead, and the prosecution will call its last witnesses for a hearing in Palermo this month.

But the accused man's lawyer, Michele Calantropo, says it is a case of mistaken identity.

"At the moment, there is nothing" that proves his client is the wanted trafficker, he said.

Calantropo says he has 42 witnesses and experts ready to testify in the coming months that the man behind bars has only one thing in common with "the General": his first name, Medhanie.

This was the name flagged by Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2016 when it heard someone going by that name calling the tapped phone of a suspected smuggler in Libya.

The man who made the calls was tracked down and arrested in Khartoum. But while prosecutors say the calls were made to organize migrant trips, Calantropo says his client was just looking out for loved ones heading to Europe.

READ ALSO: Italy PM hails migrant rescuers amid probe into trafficking links

Prosecutors said two Eritrean translators had testified to police that the arrested man's voice matched a 2014 recording of "the General" captured by wiretap, though standard voice recognition software failed to produce a result.

Although the smuggling kingpin had been wanted internationally since 2015, investigators knew little about him.

The prosecution has deemed it irrelevant that the man behind bars is six years younger than the suspect and does not resemble a wanted photograph released by police.

An NCA spokesman told AFP that it "remain(s) confident in our intelligence". But the man has had a lonely wait for justice. Since Italy considers him to be Medhanie Yehdego Mered, the family of Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe is not allowed to visit or contact him by phone.

"I was the only one who could wish him happy birthday" when he turned 30 in early May, Calantropo said.

By Fanny Carrier

Source=https://www.thelocal.it/20170524/italy-trafficking-smuggling-court-eritrea-sudan-mistaken-identity

5,000 migrants rescued in 48 hours off Libya

Saturday, 27 May 2017 23:37 Written by

AFP

Share this article

5,000 migrants rescued in 48 hours off Libya
 
17:46 CEST+02:00
 
Some 5,000 migrants bound for Italy were rescued in waters off the coast of Libya between Thursday and Saturday morning by Italian and Libyan coastguards, statements from both countries said.
Around 2,900 people were rescued on Thursday, 2,300 of whom were found in international waters and taken to Italy, while 580 picked up in Libyan waters were returned to the north African country.
Through Friday until Saturday morning, coastguards rescued another 2,100 migrants packed in 17 vessels, but found the body of one man who drowned, the Italian coastguard said.
The number of migrants arriving in Italy has soared this year by more than 30 percent in comparison with the same period last year, with 46,000 people arriving so far.
But of every 39 migrants who survive the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, one dies, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, adding that 1,244 migrants were known to have died so far this year.
 

 

Share this article

Italy makes deal with Libya, Chad and Niger aimed at cutting down migration
Migrants disembarking in Italy after being rescued off the Libyan coast. File photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP
09:04 CEST+02:00
 
Italy has signed a deal with Libya, Chad and Niger to try to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean by beefing up border controls and creating new reception centres in the African nations.

A joint statement by the interior ministers of the four countries said they had agreed to set up centres in Chad and Niger, key countries of transit for migrants who travel to Libya and on to Italy from sub-Saharan Africa.

The statement, released on Sunday after an Italy-organized meeting in Rome, said the new centres in Chad and Niger, and the existing ones in Libya, would live up to "international humanitarian standards".

Rights groups have slammed the conditions of existing detention centres in crisis-hit Libya and questioned how the West can ensure such "international standards" are met and kept.

READ ALSO: EU migrant plan will send children back to 'a living hell', rights groups say

"Libyan legislation criminalizes illegal immigration so it is not clear how these could be reception centres and not detention centres," Mattia Toaldo, a European Council on Foreign Relations expert, said on Monday.

"The establishment of 'reception centres' in Niger and Chad is also questionable: is Europe outsourcing its border control to these countries? If so, in exchange for what amounts of money and coming from where?".

Toaldo also questioned why the deal was made by interior ministers and how they hoped to follow through on a commitment to "promote legal economic development" as an alternative to the wealthy trafficking trade.

Brink of famine

On Sunday the head of the United Nations refugee agency Filippo Grandi urged Libyan authorities to free all asylum seekers and refugees from its detention centres, slamming the conditions as "shocking".

While promising to try to step-up the UNHCR's presence, Grandi said it would take time for political and security reasons. Libya has long been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe. People smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the chaos which has engulfed the country since its 2011 revolution.

READ ALSO: One of Italy's largest migrant centres was 'controlled by the mafia'

Italy registered nearly 50,000 migrant arrivals by sea by mid-April, 97 percent of them from Libya, according to Rome, and the country's own migrant centres have become overcrowded.

The Libyan coastguard is believed to have picked up close to 6,000 migrants attempting the perilous crossing this year and returned them to Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Nigerians have made up the largest group of people fleeing for Italy since January. Two million people are teetering on the brink of famine in the country's northeast, home to the notoriously ruthless Boko Haram.

The jihadist group launched an uprising there in 2009 which has since spilled over into neighbouring Chad and Niger.

Source=https://www.thelocal.it/20170523/italy-makes-deal-with-libya-chad-and-niger-aimed-at-cutting-down-migration

A well-attended get together of Eritreans and their Swedish friends held two consecutive events in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 25 May 2017 at which the situation in Eritrea was very well highlighted. The first event was a seminar organized by the Eritrea-Sweden Solidarity Association at which invited speakers transmitted timely and useful information to an audience mainly made up of young Eritreans. The seminar was followed by a congress of the association named 'Eritrea in Our Hearts'.

Sweden 5 DSC 0082

The seminar was opened by welcoming statement of of Mr. Tomas Magnusson, president of the Eritea-Sweden Solidarity Assocation, who invited to the podium the Mayor of Gothenburg, Mr. Yonas Attenius, responsible for residential homes and employment opportunities in the city.

Microsoft Word Eritrea Sweden Solidarity Association Holds Seminar and Congress doc 2

 

The Mayor explained the problems faced in his area of responsibility and how solutions are worked out.

Microsoft Word Eritrea Sweden Solidarity Association Holds Seminar and Congress doc 3

The other guest speaker was Mr. Rezene Tesfazion, Executive Committee member in charge of finance in the Eritrean People's Democratic Party (EPDP), who spoke in great detail about the ups and downs in history of the Eritrean people and their current situation at home and abroad.

Following Mr. Rezene Tesfazion's presentation, Mr. Ulf Bosrom, City Police Officer in charge of integration work, spoke the role of police in a democratic system of governance which gives high value to everyone's commitment to the rule of law.

The final speaker at the seminar was Mr. Viktor Stenlov of the Swedish Social Democratic Party who spoke on the role of youth in social change. In concluding his inspiring speech by informing his audience of young Eritreans, he said that they join their Swedish friends of same age in making a difference in the Swedish society.

Sweden 1 DSC 0052

The seminar was followed by the annual congress of Eritrea in Our Hearts whose outgoing committee members presented reports of past activities. The congress finally elected a 15-person committee to lead the young association for one year.

Woldeyesus Ammar

(This paper was presented a year ago at a conference in Geneva entitled:  "Eritrea at Silver Jubilee: Stocktaking on the Nation-Building Experience of a 'Newly' Independent African Country." .........).