Rome, Feb 9 (IANS/AKI)on Wednesday extradited toan Eritrean accused of belonging to a people-trafficking gang that smuggled hundreds of people fromtoacross the Mediterranean.

Fitiwi Negash arrived at Rome's Fiumicino airport under police guard aboard a flight from the German city of Frankfurt.


He was on an Interpol list of "most wanted" trafficking suspects and was among 24 Etritrean, Ethiopians, Ivoirians and Guineans targeted in April 2015 by a probe spearheaded by prosecutors in Palermo.

Negash played a key role in the trafficking gang's Italian operations and organised the transfer of migrants to various northern European countries after they arrived by boat in Sicily from North Africa, investigators said.

The alleged gang had bases in the Sicilian provinces of Agrigento and Catania as well as in the capitaland the northern city of Milan.

From Italy, the gang trafficked migrants on to Germany, Norway, Sweden and other countries, police said.

The gang organised the migrants' entire journeys from their villages to the Libyan coast and had affiliates in other European countries as well as in several African countries, according to investigators.



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)





Somalia's Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo chosen as president

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 23:42 Written by
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo addresses lawmakers after winning the vote at the airport in SomaliaImage copyright Reuters Image caption The new president is known as Farmajo, Italian for cheese

Somalia's MPs have elected a Somali-US national as the country's new president in a vote held in an aircraft hangar.

Ex-Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed beat President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in a surprise result.

The vote was held at the heavily guarded airport complex in the capital, Mogadishu, as the rest of the country is too dangerous.

Traffic was banned and a no-fly zone imposed over the city to prevent attacks by militant Islamists.

Despite this, suspected militants fired mortar rounds close to the venue on Tuesday night.

Somalia has not had a one-person one-vote democratic election since 1969.

That vote was followed by a coup, dictatorship and conflict involving clan militias and Islamist extremists.

Mr Mohamed's election is part of a lengthy and complex process to help the East African state rebuild its democracy and achieve stability.

More than 20,000 African Union (AU) troops are stationed in Somalia to prevent militant Islamist group al-Shabab from overthrowing the weak government.

The new president is popularly known as "Farmajo", Italian for cheese, because of his love for the dairy product.

Much of Somalia was a former Italian colony.

What has been the reaction to the result?

The aircraft hangar is crowdedImage copyright Amisom Image caption The aircraft hangar was crowded with MPs

Thousands of Somalis quickly took to the streets to celebrate Mr Mohamed victory and cheering soldiers from the Somali army fired into the air, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Mohamed is seen as a Somali nationalist, and his chances of winning increased after Somalia's arch-rival, Ethiopia, was seen to be backing the defeated president.

Mr Mohamed obtained 184 votes, compared with 97 for the outgoing president, who accepted defeat, avoiding a third and final vote.

"History was made, we have taken this path to democracy, and now I want to congratulate Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo," Mr Mohamud said in his concession speech.

Did the election go off peacefully?

Yes. The election hall, a converted aircraft hangar packed with MPs, was at the Mogadishu international airport complex.

It is viewed as the most secure site in Somalia, as the main AU base is there.

The vote was moved to the airport complex from a police academy because of growing fears that al-Shabab could strike.

The 2012 presidential vote was held at the academy, and the 2007 and 2004 vote in neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti respectively.

Were there only male presidential candidates?


A woman, Fadumo Dayib, had said she would stand but pulled out saying it was marred by corruption. However she has welcomed Mr Mohamed's victory.

More than 20 entered the race on Wednesday, but the number was reduced to two after two rounds of voting.

At least 16 of the original candidates have dual citizenship - nine hold US passports, four UK passports and three Canadian passports, according to a leading Somali private radio station.

It means that if US President Donald Trump's ban on Somali citizens entering the US comes into force again, some of them could be affected.

Many Somalis obtained dual nationality after fleeing the decades-long conflict. The US, UK, Kenya and South Africa are among countries where many Somalis have settled.

How big a threat is al-Shabab?

Control map of Somalia

The militants are suspected to have been behind a series of attacks on the eve of the vote, with two mortar rounds fired close to the voting venue.

Residents in Arbacow village outside Mogadishu say militants also attacked an AU base there.

Al-Shabab has a presence in much of the southern third of the country and has previously attacked the Somali parliament, presidential palace, courts, hotels and the fortified airport zone.

At least 19 politicians, as well as many civilians and soldiers, have been killed in its assaults.

Wednesday's security measures include a ban on flights to and from Mogadishu airport.

Who are al-Shabab?

What is the new president's main challenge?

A Somali lawmaker casts his ballot during the presidential vote at the airport in SomaliaImage copyright Reuters Image caption More than 250 MPs are taking part in the secret ballot

Apart from achieving stability in a country that has not had an functioning government since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, he has to tackle corruption.

Unconfirmed reports said votes were being sold for up to $30,000 (£24,000) in a country heavily funded by foreign donors, and where most people are poor.

"This is probably the most expensive election, per vote, in history,'' Mogadishu-based anti-corruption group Marqaati said on Tuesday, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Ahead of the vote, the United Nations' envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, told the BBC the new president would have to tackle corruption.

"It sets the stage for the next president to do something about it. In fact the credibility of the next president will revolve around whether he takes decisive action," he said.

Analysts say holding the election at the airport complex is also aimed at reducing the possibility of vote buying or other corruption during the election process.

Will the UN and AU back the new president?

Yes. The UN and AU see the vote as a building block in efforts to create a stable democracy in the hope that the next president will be chosen in a one-person one-vote election.

Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017.Image copyright Reuters Image caption The security forces have taken up positions in the largely deserted city to prevent attacks

They cannot ignore Somalia. It is strategically important for international trade, as it lies along the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Foreign navies, including those of the US and China, have a strong presence in the region. They have succeeded in reducing piracy, which was a very big problem until a few years ago.

The US also has a huge military base in neighbouring Djibouti, using it to carry out air strikes on militants in Somalia.

Some analysts also fear that the conflict across the sea in Yemen could spill over into Somalia.

There have been reports that some groups are smuggling weapons into Yemen via the Eastern African state, increasing pressure on foreign powers to improve security in the region.


January 8, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Sunday said it has intercepted the smuggling of 1500 illegal migrants on the Sudanese-Libyan border during the last seven months.

JPEG - 135.1 kb
SRF field commander Mohamed Hamdan (Hametti) speaks in a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday May 14, 2014 (ST)

Sudan is considered as a country of origin and transit for the illegal migration and human trafficking. Thousands of people from Eritrea and Ethiopia are monthly crossing the border into the Sudanese territories on their way to Europe through Libya or Egypt.

In June 2016, hundreds of RSF elements have been deployed in the remote desert of the Northern State shortly after complaint by the governor of drug and human trafficking by the criminal networks.

On Sunday, 115 illegal immigrants captured by the SRF at Sudan’s northern border have arrived in Khartoum.

Speaking at a press conference in Khartoum Sunday, SRF Commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, (aka Hametti), said the victims would be handed over to the Ministry of Interior.

He pointed that Sudan is amongst countries who fight ruthlessly against human trafficking, illegal migration, arms smuggling and terrorism, saying the SRF troops were deployed along the borders with all neighboring countries.

Dagolo added that the SRF is making large efforts to combat human trafficking and illegal migration especially as the operations are being conducted in rough terrain within the desert, saying several of his men were killed and injured during these operations.

He demanded the international community to lift the sanctions imposed on Sudan in order to allow it to combat human trafficking, pointing to the adverse impact of sanctions on all segments of the Sudanese society.

Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since 1997 and remains on the US list of state sponsors of terror.

Washington admitted Sudan’s cooperation in the anti-terror war but now points that it wouldn’t remove Sudan from the list of states sponsor of terrorism or left economic sanctions before the end of armed conflicts in Darfur region and Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

Last year, the European Union granted a €100m development package to address the root causes of irregular migration in Sudan. The financial support came after pledge by the Sudanese government to cooperate with Brussels to stop human trafficking to Europe.

In January 2014, the Sudanese parliament approved an anti-human trafficking law which punishes those involved with human trafficking with up to 20 years imprisonment.

The RSF, which is widely known as the Janjaweed militias, were originally mobilized by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.

The militia was reactivated and restructured again in August 2013 under the command of NISS to fight the alliance of rebel groups from Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states following joint attacks in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.


Eritrean women taking a photo in Ramat Gan. FLASH 90 PHOTO

From 2009 to the end of September 2016, 1,856 Eritreans made refugee claims in Canada, but in recent months, a small number of them made those claims after travelling here from Israel.

JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) Toronto has helped facilitate the immigration of a small number of the refugees, who are coming under private sponsorships. Lia Kisel, language and settlement director at JIAS, said that as a sponsorship agreement holder, JIAS has received government approval to sponsor refugees and provide settlement services once they are in Canada.

“We have submitted applications for a couple of Eritrean families currently in Israel, as well as for other Eritrean and Ethiopian families not in Israel,” she said. “These families have been referred to our agency by NGOs in Canada and overseas.”


Kisel said the Eritreans are considered refugees from Eritrea, not Israel, as they retain refugee status, even though they found safety in Israel. “Refugees retain their status when a durable solution, such as being able to successfully settle and integrate, is not found in their countries of residence.”

Daniel Schild was on a recent El Al flight from Israel to Canada with a sizable group of Eritreans on board. He struck up a conversation with one family.

“The father was dressed in his best, a sports jacket with unfortunately a bad tear in the seam and a red bow tie. The mother was seated one row back. Her hair was beautifully braided and their toddler daughter – clearly born in Israel – also had cute braids. The father told me he has lived in Israel for seven years and communicated with the little girl exclusively in Hebrew. He told me that they began their application to come to Canada 18 months ago and suggested that they had people he knew in Canada but was very vague as to whom,” Schild said.

“The family was destined for Edmonton, and [another family] told me they were going to Regina. They had a precocious toddler son. They called him what sounded like Moshe, but spoke to him in their native tongue,” he added.

“I told them that except for the weather, Canada was the best country in the world, and I definitely felt a feeling of happiness mixed with uncertainty coming from them.”

According to Canadian government statistics, 383 Eritreans made refugee claims from January to September 2016, up from 290 in all of 2015.


Eritrea, located in east Africa, is an oppressive dictatorship that has imposed indefinite military service, denies basic freedom and which routinely tortures dissidents. Thousands of Eritreans have fled the country, and many have tried to make their way to Europe through Libya. Over the years, some reached Israel via Sudan and Egypt. In Sinai, they risked kidnapping by Bedouins who held them for ransom, routinely torturing and raping their victims.

In 2013, Israel completed a 140-mile- long fence on its Sinai border to prevent what the government termed “infiltrators” from entering the country.

According to Israeli data, as of June 2016, there were 42,147 asylum-seekers in the country, including 31,000 from Eritrea and more than 8,000 from Sudan. Israel has granted them “temporary group protection.” Although they’re in Israel legally, only four out of 2,408 applicants were granted refugee status, or 0.4 per cent. In Canada in 2016, the acceptance rate was 82 per cent.

Eritreans have become a polarizing issue in Israel. Some argue that given Jews’ experience as refugees, Israel should be more welcoming. Others say some could pose a security risk and they contribute to crime, and without entry limits, they’d pose a demographic challenge.

They’ve been offered $3,500 and a ticket to a third country that will accept them. More than 6,000 Eritreans have left Israel, most of them to third countries like Uganda and Rwanda, with which Israel has secret agreements. However, some reports indicate they’re not safe in those countries.

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said Canada and Israel have no specific agreements to resettle refugees from Eritrea via Israel. In 2016, almost all those Canada resettled fell under the private sponsorship program.


by Martin Plaut


Today (Wednesday) the UN Security Council will be warned that European plans to hold refugees in Australian style off-shore detention centres could leave asylum seekers in real danger.

At their summit in Malta last Friday Europe's leaders issued a statement saying that they are “seeking to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, together with the UNHCR and IOM.”

But holding refugees in Libyan detention centres would leave them vulnerable to what the UN warned are "unimaginable" abuses including sexual violence and torture.

The European plan would mean working closely with the Libyan coastguards, who are accused of being complict in these abuses (see below).

The Security Council has been sent a statement by  Zainab Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, warning about the situation faced by migrants face sexual violence in Libya's official and unofficial detention centres.

Libyan coastguards collaborate in "unimaginable" human rights abuses

Ms Bangura warned that the detention centres were places in which the Islamist group, ISIL inflicted “systematic sexual violence”on those who are held.

This reflects the findings of last December's UN report which citied “unimaginable” human rights violations and abuses of migrants in Libyan detention centres.

Below is a UN summary of the report, which can be read in full here.

The report, published jointly by UNSMIL and the UN Human Rights Office, is based on information gathered in Libya and from interviews with migrants who had arrived in Italy from Libya, among other sources.

Migrants are held in detention centres mostly run by the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), where there is “no formal registration, no legal process, and no access to lawyers or judicial authorities,” the report states.

Places of detention are severely overcrowded, with insufficient food and clean water. With no access to toilets, detainees are often forced to defecate and urinate in their cells. Malnutrition, acute diarrhoea, respiratory problems and infectious diseases, including scabies and chickenpox, are common.

Smugglers and traffickers also hold migrants in “connection houses”, on farms and in warehouses and apartments, where they are forced to work to earn money for their onward transport.

“We are called animals and are treated as animals,” a 16-year-old boy from Eritrea told UNSMIL. “They beat us with what falls into their hands…it can be a rock, a stick, a brick,” a child migrant interviewed in Italy said.

The report also notes that DCIM and the Libyan Coast Guard are subject to pressure from the armed groups that have proliferated since 2011.  UNSMIL has received reports that some State employees and local officials have participated in the smuggling and trafficking process.

The report also details accounts of armed men, allegedly from the Libyan Coast Guard, intercepting migrant boats and abusing migrants. Migrants brought back to shore describe being beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres.

“Libya must acknowledge that migrants are being abused,” said Mr. Kobler. “But addressing migration is not only Libya’s responsibility. Countries of origin and destination beyond Libya also need to play their part.” He added: “I welcome the life-saving efforts currently being made by many in the Mediterranean.”

Among the report’s recommendations to Libya are:  immediately release the most vulnerable migrants, with a view to urgently ending all arbitrary detentions; reduce the number of detention centres; ensure women are held separately from men; improve conditions of detention and protect detainees from torture and all other forms of abuse; and, in the medium-term, decriminalize irregular migration and adopt an asylum law.

The report also recommends that countries of destination beyond Libya continue search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Training and support for Libyan institutions that engage with migrants, including the Libyan Coast Guard, should be accompanied by comprehensive efforts to stop arbitrary detention of migrants and improve their treatment in detention.

“These are people who, for a range of reasons, feel compelled to leave their own countries and embark on these desperate and precarious journeys. The report lays bare the suffering endured by these migrants who have experienced unimaginable abuse and, in some cases, fallen victim to the despicable trade in human lives,” said High Commissioner Zeid.

“The report serves to deepen our compassion and strengthen our resolve that the rights of migrants should be fully protected and respected, whatever their status.” 

by Martin Plaut


It’s that time of the year again. The Eritrean military has issued its annual demand that civilians go on refresher courses as part of their training in the reserve militia, known as the 4th division.

This force consists of people who were exempted from indefinite National Service for a variety of reasons.

Posters have gone up around Asmara.

The one above, from Geza banda, was photographed by the Freedom Friday (Arbi Harnet) resistance network. It calls for women of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions, previously considered unfit for duty because of their health, to enlist in the training.

So too are retired pensioners. All are told to report to the military training centre by Monday 1st of February at 6pm.

But its just not happening.

According to reports this weekend the number of people who reported is far lower than anticipated by the authorities.

This is particularly true in the case of women. So the authorities to extended the deadline for reporting by a week, while circulating warnings that anyone who does not report will lose their government coupons for buying essential goods in government shops.

People in rural areas are particularly bitter about these annual calls since they coincide with the harvest season. Farmers busy bringing in their crops resent losing their harvest while they undertake military refresher courses.

Overflowing jails


Meanwhile, its reported that Eritrean prisons are so overcrowded that they have had to implement a shift system to cope with the unprecedented numbers of prisoners.

This is particularly true of Adi Abeto military prison on the outskirts of Asmara. Prison governors have decided to send some prisoners home for three days in a week.

As a result some serve their sentence at the start of the week and others in the second half of the week.

Many observers are saddened by the fact that at the time when countries in the region are registering unprecedented economic growth the regime in Eritrea seems to focus on imprisoning an unprecedented number of its citizens.

According to sources inside Asmara, January 2017 saw a sharp rise in the number of middle level officials who are being jailed in various ministries, as well as the arrest of officers in the police and army. High ranking officials and officers have not been included.

Those arrested have been accused of passing information to opposition forces outside the country or that they are conducting an ‘unclear’ mobilisation. Police and prison officers who have also been incarcerated are accused of ‘corruption’.

by Martin Plaut


At their summit in the Maltese capital, Valletta, European Council leaders have agreed to do all they can to halt the flow of African refugees and asylum seekers across the Central Mediterranean.

This is effectively the last route left for men, women and children attempting to flee repressive African dictators.

The European leaders agreed on a declaration (below) which includes this phrase: They are "seeking to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, together with the UNHCR and IOM."

The phrase is vague, but it would appear to open the way to the establishment of Australian style detention centres in Libya - away from the European mainland.

MSF, UNHCR, IOM criticism

The declaration has already been condemned by MSF, which issued this statement tonight:

“With their 'Malta Declaration' on the Central Mediterranean, the European Council is delusional about just how dangerous the situation in Libya really is. Those we rescue on our boats tell us that people still there are starving in detention centres, harassed and abused. The last thing these people need is for the EU and Italy to join the list of predators.

This declaration is yet more evidence that the EU leaders’ only aim is “stemming the flow”. Today was not about saving lives, it's clear that the EU is ready to sacrifice thousands of vulnerable, men, women and children in order to stop them reaching European shores.

The declaration does not refer to any alternatives for people who are unable to stay in Libya and would be at risk if they were returned home. The suggested ways of improving the situation in Libya for refugees and other migrants are dangerously lacking in detail. In short, the plan, is nothing more than another attempt to keep them away from European shores.”

– Arjan Hehenkamp, General Director of MSF

Earlier today the UNHCR and IOM put out a separate appeal calling on the European leaders not to establish detention centres in Libya. (See full text at end of blog)

"We believe that, given the current context, it is not appropriate to consider Libya a safe third country nor to establish extraterritorial processing of asylum-seekers in North Africa."

Speaking to the press the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the plan was no silver bullet but expressed confidence it could help stem the flow of migrants from Libya.

"We know Libya is in a particular situation but this must not be an excuse to do nothing; if anything it is a reason to do more with Libya," he said at a press briefing attended also by Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

European politicians, under intense domestic pressure to reduce the arrival of refugees and migrants, are now close to sealing the Mediterranean as an escape route.

They already have a virtual "wall" across the sea, with Libya almost the only loophole remaining. It is this that they are attempting to block.


European Council PRESS RELEASE 43/17


Source: European Council

Malta Declaration by the members of the European Council on the external aspects of migration: addressing the Central Mediterranean route

1.    We welcome and support the Maltese Presidency's efforts to take forward all elements of the EU's comprehensive migration policy. We reaffirm our determination to act in full respect of human rights, international law and European values, and in conjunction with UNHCR and IOM.

2.    A key element of a sustainable migration policy is to ensure effective control of our external border and stem illegal flows into the EU. In 2016, arrivals decreased to one-third of the levels in 2015. On the Eastern Mediterranean route, while pressures remain, arrivals in the last four months of 2016 were down 98% year-on-year. We remain committed to the EU-Turkey Statement and the full and non-discriminatory implementation of all its aspects, as well as to continued support for the countries along the Western Balkans route.

3.    On the Central Mediterranean route, however, over 181,000 arrivals were detected in 2016, while the number of persons dead or missing at sea has reached a new record every year since 2013. With hundreds having already lost their lives in 2017 and spring approaching, we are determined to take additional action to significantly reduce migratory flows along the Central Mediterranean route and break the business model of smugglers, while remaining vigilant about the Eastern Mediterranean as well as other routes. We will step up our work with Libya as the main country of departure as well as with its North African and sub-Saharan neighbours.

4.    The Partnership Framework and the Valletta Action Plan have allowed us to deepen long-term cooperation with a number of partner countries, including on root causes of migration, through a solid partnership based on mutual trust. This work is already yielding results and will be intensified. At the same time, the urgency of the situation requires immediate additional operational measures at the regional level, taking a pragmatic, flexible and tailor-made approach at each and every point involving all actors along the migratory route. In this context, we welcome the joint Commission and High Representative Communication "Migration on the Central Mediterranean Route - Managing flows, saving lives".

5.    Efforts to stabilise Libya are now more important than ever, and the EU will do its utmost to contribute to that objective. In Libya, capacity building is key for the authorities to acquire control over the land and sea borders and to combat transit and smuggling activities. The EU remains committed to an inclusive political settlement under the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement and to supporting the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord backed by the United Nations. Where possible the EU and Member States will also step up cooperation with and assistance to Libyan regional and local communities and with international organisations active in the country.

6.    Priority will be given to the following elements: a) training, equipment and support to the Libyan national coast guard and other relevant agencies. Complementary EU training programmes must be rapidly stepped up, both in intensity and numbers, starting with those already undertaken by Operation SOPHIA and building on its experience. Funding and planning for these activities needs to be made sustainable and predictable, including through the Seahorse Mediterranean Network; b)Further efforts to disrupt the business model of smugglers through enhanced operational action, within an integrated approach involving Libya and other countries on the route and relevant international partners, engaged Member States, CSDP missions and operations, Europol and the European Border and Coast Guard; c) supporting where possible the development of local communities in Libya, especially in coastal areas and at Libyan land borders on the migratory routes, to improve their socio-economic situation and enhance their resilience as host communities; d) seeking to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, together with the UNHCR and IOM (emphasis added); e) supporting IOM in significantly stepping up assisted voluntary return activities; f) enhancing information campaigns and outreach addressed at migrants in Libya and countries of origin and transit, in cooperation with local actors and international organisations, particularly to counter the smugglers' business model; g) helping to reduce the pressure on Libya's land borders, working both with the Libyan authorities and all neighbours of Libya, including by supporting projects enhancing their border management capacity; h) keeping track of alternative routes and possible diversion of smugglers' activities, through cooperative efforts with Libya's neighbours and the countries under the Partnership Framework, with the support of Member States and all relevant EU agencies and by making available all necessary surveillance instruments; continuing support to efforts and initiatives from individual Member States directly engaged with Libya; in this respect, the EU welcomes and is ready to support Italy in its implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed on 2 February 2017 by the Italian Authorities and Chairman of the Presidential Council al-Serraj; i) deepening dialogue and cooperation on migration with all countries neighbouring Libya, including better operational cooperation with Member States and the European Border and Coast Guard on preventing departures and managing returns.

7.    These objectives shall be underpinned by the necessary resources. In line with the Valletta Action Plan, the European Union is strengthening the mainstreaming of migration within its Official Development Assistance for Africa, which amounts to €31 billion during this financial period. Some of the actions referred to above can be funded within projects already under way, notably projects funded by the EU Trust Fund for Africa as appropriate, which mobilises €1,8 billion from the EU budget and €152 million from Member States' contributions. To cover the most urgent funding needs now and throughout 2017, we welcome the Commission's decision to mobilise as a first step an additional €200 million for the North Africa window of the Fund and to give priority to migration-related projects concerning Libya.

8.    We will further develop our external migration policy in order to make it resilient for future crises. We will identify potential barriers, for example in relation to conditions to be met for returns, and reinforce EU return capacities, while respecting international law. We welcome the Commission's intention to rapidly present, as a first step, an updated Action Plan on Returns and to provide guidance for more operational returns by the EU and Member States and effective readmission based upon the existing acquis.

9.    We agree to act determinedly and speedily to achieve the objectives set out in this Declaration and call upon all actors to work towards this end. We welcome the intention of the Maltese Presidency, in close cooperation with the Commission and the High Representative, to present a concrete plan for implementation to this effect to the Council at the earliest opportunity, to take work forward and to ensure close monitoring of results. The European Council will review progress on the overall approach at its meetings in March and in June on the basis of a report from the Maltese Presidency.

Press office - General Secretariat of the Council

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Joint UNHCR and IOM statement on addressing migration and refugee movements along the Central Mediterranean route

2 February 2017   |  Français

Ahead of the informal meeting of the European Council in Valletta tomorrow, we call on European leaders to take decisive action to address the tragic loss of life on the Central Mediterranean route and the deplorable conditions for migrants and refugees in Libya.

To better protect refugees and migrants, we need a strong European Union that is engaged beyond its borders to protect, assist and help find solutions for people in need. This includes building capacity to save lives at sea or on land, strengthening the rule of law and fighting against criminal networks.

We call for concerted efforts to ensure that sustainable migration and asylum systems are put in place in Libya, when the security and political situation permits, and in neighboring countries.

We urge a move away from migration management based on the automatic detention of refugees and migrants in inhumane conditions in Libya towards the creation of proper reception services. Open reception centres should offer safe and dignified conditions, including for children and victims of trafficking, and respect key protection safeguards.

We hope that tomorrow’s summit will also help move towards the adoption of a common approach to migration by the European Union.

Concrete measures in support of the Government of Libya are needed to build capacity to register new arrivals, support the voluntary return of migrants, process asylum claims and offer solutions to refugees. This should include a significant expansion of opportunities for safe pathways such as resettlement and humanitarian admission, among others, to avoid dangerous journeys.

In Libya, together with partners, we have made tremendous efforts to deliver basic protection to refugees, migrants and affected local populations, which in some places are also in dire need of assistance.

Security constraints continue to hinder our ability to deliver life-saving assistance, provide basic services to the most vulnerable and find solutions through resettlement, assisted voluntary return or self-reliance. Unhindered humanitarian access remains a priority.

We believe that, given the current context, it is not appropriate to consider Libya a safe third country nor to establish extraterritorial processing of asylum-seekers in North Africa.

We hope that humane solutions can be found to end the suffering of thousands of migrants and refugees in Libya and across the region, and we stand ready to assist and enhance our engagement, conditions permitting.


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“When prison became a synonym for Eritrea…you can only flee.”

In Eritrea, even being part of the East African nation’s tame state media is no protection. That was the conclusion Abraham Zere reached after years of working as a columnist for the government newspaper Hadas Erta and later for the ruling party’s magazine. 

All independent media outlets in the country of 6 million were closed in 2001 amid a massive crackdown on internal dissent following the country’s disastrous two-year border-war with Ethiopia. More than a dozen prominent journalists were jailed – and to this day it’s not known how many are still alive. 

Abraham Zere

Abraham Zere (courtesy)

But as Abraham has written, for state media workers Eritrea became aKafka-esqueworld of uncertainty and seemingly random detentions by security forces.

In 2006, security forcesdetained10 state media journalists who worked at the Ministry of Information without any apparent rhyme or reason–keeping some in custody for weeks. In 2009, the military raided a state educational station called Radio Bana, arresting at least 40 reporters and media workers for reasons that are still unclear. Some wereheldin prison until 2015. 

Abraham had his own difficulties in 2009 after publishing a column in the ruling party’s Hidri magazine highlighting the disaffection of Eritrean youth. That led to an immediate rebuke from Eritrea’s powerful Minister of Information Ali Abdu (himself now anasylum seekerin Australia after fleeing in 2013) – who published his own column in the state newspaper labeling Abraham’s work  “irresponsible and dangerous.” 

“I was living in a stifling atmosphere characterized by fear and uncertainty,” Abraham says. “When prison became a synonym [for] Eritrea; when citizens were left to languish in harsh dungeons merely by association, friendship or suspicion; when you vividly see your bleak future projected, what other options do you have? You can only flee.”Eritrea-CIA_WFB_Map_(2004)

Abraham escaped Eritrea in 2012 after being granted permission to study abroad. Now living in Ohio, where he co-founded the free expression group PEN Eritrea and is a graduate student at Ohio University, he spoke with Global Journalist’s Anna Sutterer about his work in a country that has ranked last in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index foreight consecutive years

Global Journalist: How did you manage to get out of Eritrea in 2012? 

Abraham: I left the country initially to study in South Africa after lobbying and pulling all possible contacts for more than four months. I had to go to the Office of the President in person and discuss my case with the director [Yemane Gebremeskel, now information minister].

It is still considered a big favor…I had a good excuse to leave officially to study, but I also badly wanted to escape and breathe fresh air.

GJ: Tell us about the article you wrote that angered the former information minister – and led you to think about fleeing?

Abraham: After resigning from [state newspaper] Haddas Erta, I started to contribute to the only other outlet: Hidri magazine, the official organ of the ruling party. Then in April 2009, I wrote an article in which I boldly mocked how the Eritrean youth were disempowered while the national media have been portraying otherwise.

The article outraged [former information minister] Ali Abdu, as I was teasing his ministry. The next day he wrote me a strong warning and identified me as a national security threat in the national newspaper.

Global Journalist: It’s been very difficult for foreign reporters to cover Eritrea, though recently a few have been allowed in. How free are they to report?

Abraham: The journalists have their escorts who are often extensively briefed by the ruling party’s leaders. Then they end-up interviewing tow or three media-friendly government officials. 

But there has been an exception to this recently by theNew Yorker‘s Alexis Okeowo. Her main story was the Eritrean soccer team that defected in Botswana.

She extensively interviewed the players, met most of the crucial figures in the country and accurately described everyday life in Eritrea. Her article, in my view, is the best article written on Eritrea over the last decade. 

Global Journalist: PEN Eritrea advocates for free expression in Eritrea. Why is it important to keep talking about press freedom there when it hasn’t changed in 15 years?

Abraham: Myself and other exiled colleagues are writing to underline the abysmal state of free press in Eritrea. Over the last year, we have done some tangible works and highlighted the cases offorgotten Eritrean journalists who have been reduced to names and numbers mainly for lack of information.

For the last year and a half, I have been extensively writing mainly on Eritrea’s freedom of expressions and human rights abuses for different media. When I publish something, in an attempt to shake the dread silence, I relieve a fraction of my guilty conscience for staying behind my colleagues who are languishing in Eritrean detention centers. 


by Martin Plaut

This is something that has been on the cards for some time.

It is the latest attempt to shore up Europe's 'wall' against Africa, which Leonard Vincent and I wrote about earlier (see below).


Libya may allow EU ships to pursue people-smugglers in its waters

Source: The Guardian

UN-backed PM says foreign ships could be permitted to operate in Libyan waters alongside national military coastguard German navy sailors reach a migrants’ boat off the coast of Libya in March 2016. German navy sailors reach a migrants’ boat off the coast of Libya in March 2016. Photograph: Matthias Schrader/AP

 Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Libya’s UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Serraj, has said Nato or EU ships could be permitted to operate in Libyan waters alongside the national military coastguard to slow the flow of people-smuggling across the Mediterranean.

The move came as a report claimed elements of the Libyan coastguard were complicit in the smuggling and said returning anyone caught on boats to coastal detention centres was risky since conditions there were horrendous.

Serraj’s comments after talks at Nato on Wednesday will be a boost to EU plans to move its anti-smuggling mission Operation Sophia into Libyan waters to help prevent migrants from reaching Europe. The EU is due to discuss a comprehensive plan for Libya at a special heads of state summit on Friday.

“If there is something to be carried out jointly between the Libyan navy and any other party interested in extending a hand to the Libyan navy, that would be possible,” Serraj said.

“Of course, we have to modernise our navy flotilla and enhance its capacities. Nato or any other friendly nation on a bilateral basis could extend a hand in this.”

Smugglers’ boats currently can only be turned back to Libya if they are stopped inside Libyan waters, but both Nato and the EU need Libyan government consent to operate inside its sovereign waters. This year tens of thousands of migrants will face the risk of drowning while the smugglers’ networks benefit from the political chaos in Libya.

Serraj, struggling to gain authority inside Libya, is under pressure not to be seen to be succumbing excessively to outsiders.

On Wednesday Italy pledged €200m (£170m) in funds to several African countries as part of its drive to reduce migration at source. The foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said the fund – aimed at Niger, Libya and Tunisia – would help bolster the “fight against human trafficking and illegal migration”.

He said Europe was not trying to build a wall but helping countries to reduce the incentive to migrate.

A report by the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch thinktank, drawing on first-hand research, said migrants intercepted or rescued at sea by the Libyan coastguard were sent to detention centres “where they often spend months languishing with no legal recourse, subject to the whims of their jailers”.

It said some smugglers tortured migrants to secure the release of more money from their families, or forced them to work in order to continue their journey. “Moreover, migrants are reportedly sold to criminal groups if they cannot pay for their voyage across the Mediterranean: for €15,000 they were sold to groups, mostly Egyptians, who are involved in removing and selling organs. Finally, based on self-reporting by migrants, up to 40% of migrants are forced on to boats.”

The report added: “Particularly in the northwestern part of Libya, migration is accompanied with absurdly high levels of crime and violence, and migrants are subject to the whims of the group that controls the area they are in. The line between smuggling and trafficking runs thin here, as cases of kidnapping, torture, sexual violence and killings are widespread, and the situation in and around detention centres for immigration is horrific.”

Martin Plaut and Leonard Vincent

It may not be a physical barrier comparable to Donald Trump's wall to prevent Mexicans from reaching the USA, but it is nearly in place.

Europe is close to sealing the routes refugees and migrants take across the Mediterranean.

Consider the facts. These are the routes into southern Europe. (Map: Frontex Risk Analysis, Q2 2016)

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The graphic produced by the EU’s Frontier Agency is clear: the major route that Africans are taking is via Libya.

The map below, from the same source, underlines the point.

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Two routes that Africans have used in the past have almost been sealed. There is next to no transit by sea from West Africa through the Canary Islands and only a limited number arriving in Spain.

The route through the Sinai and Israel has been closed.

The brutal treatment of Eritreans and Sudanese in the Sinai by mafia-style Bedouin families, who extracted ransoms with torture and rape, was certainly a deterrent. So too has been the increasing propensity of Egypt to deport Eritreans to their home country, despite the risks that they will be jailed and abused when they are returned. But this route was sealed in December 2013 when the Israeli authorities built an almost impregnable fence, blocking entry via the Sinai.

This has left Libya – and to a lesser extent Egypt – as the only viable routes for Africans to use. Both are becoming more difficult. Although the International Organisation for Migration calculates that roughly 17 men, women and children perishing every day making the crossing, or nearly one every hour, they have not been deterred.

Libya is critical to the success of the EU's strategy, as a recent European assessment explained:  “Libya is of pivotal importance as the primary point of departure for the Central Mediterranean route.”

Libya: the final brick in the ‘wall’

The European Union has adopted new tactics to try to seal the central Mediterranean route.

The countries keenest to push this for this to take place are Germany and Italy, which took the bulk of the refugees that arrived in recent years. Germany received nearly 1.2 million asylum seekers over the past two years, while Italy received 335,000 arrivals over the course of 2015 and 2016.

Earlier this month Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti was dispatched to Tripoli to broker an agreement on fighting irregular migration through the country with Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

Minniti and al-Sarraj  agreed to reinforce cooperation on security, the fight against terrorism and human trafficking.

“There is a new impulse here — we are moving as pioneers,” Mario Giro, Italy’s deputy foreign minister, told the Financial Times. “But there is a lot of work to do, because Libya still doesn’t yet have the capacity to manage the flows, and the country is still divided.”

The deal has, apparently, hit a snag. The Libyan government is resisting Italy’s proposals, although their detailed objections have not been revealed.

Germany’s aid threat

While Italy’s attempting to strike a deal with Libya, Germany is issuing threats.

With Chancellor Angela Merkel facing elections in 2017 and keen to show she is no longer a ‘soft touch’ for refugees, a much harder line is now being taken with anyone seeking asylum in Germany.

Germany deported 25,000 migrants in 2016 and another 55,000 were persuaded to return home voluntarily.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is pushing a plan that would make it easier to detain rejected asylum seekers considered a potential security threat, and to deport them from “repatriation centres” at airports.

Germany is underling its determination to cut numbers by threatening to end development aid to countries that refuse to take back rejected asylum seekers. “Those who do not cooperate sufficiently cannot hope to benefit from our development aid,” Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel.

Europe and Africa

The Italian proposals are very much in line with agreements the EU reached with African leaders during their summit in Malta, in late 2015.

The two sides signed a deal to halt the flight of refugees and migrants.

Europe offered training to “law enforcement and judicial authorities” in new methods of investigation and “assisting in setting up specialised anti-trafficking and smuggling police units”. The European police forces of Europol and the EU’s border force (Frontex) will assist African security police in countering the “production of forged and fraudulent documents”.

This meant co-operating with dictatorial regimes, like Sudan, which is ruled by Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

But President al-Bashir is now seen as a western friend, despite his notorious record. One of President Obama’s last acts in office has been to lift sanctions against Sudan.

What is clear from the Italian and German initiatives is that Europe is determined to do all it can to reduce, and finally halt, the flow of Africans through Libya – the only viable route left for most African migrants and refugees to reach Europe.

A legal route into Europe

While the informal and illegal routes are being sealed a tiny legitimate route is being opened. The Catholic Church, working through its aid arm, Caritas and the Community of Sant Egidio, has managed to negotiate an agreement with Italy for 500 refugees from the Horn of Africa to be allowed to come to Italy.

Oliviero Fortis, Head of the Immigration Department of Caritas, said: "We must, as far as possible, promote legal and secure entry solutions. Being able to enter Italy with a visa is an operation that works perfectly. Except at the political level, and that's the big problem! It is the Italian Church that will bear the costs, in the hope that this initiative will be a model for the acceptance of refugees that can be monitored and replicated by European institutions."

EU and Eritrea

Eritrea – among the most brutal dictatorships in Africa – remains one of the key sources of migration and refugees. Although Eritrea has fewer citizens than most other African states more Eritreans arrived illegally in Europe in early 2016 than from any other African country.

This comes at a time of unprecedented pressure on Eritrean refugees, as they make their way through Sudan and into Libya.  The Sudanese government’s ‘Rapid Support Force’ – an autonomous special force headed by a notorious Janjaweed commander – has been used to round up refugees, to deport them back to Eritrea.

The EU is floundering around attempting to halt this exodus. Recently it offered €200 million in aid to Eritrean ‘projects’, but has few means of monitoring just how it will be spent. Eritrea is a one-party state, in which the ruling PFDJ has never held a congress.

The country is ruled by a narrow clique surrounding President Isaias Afwerki, which uses National Service conscripts on the farms and factories that they control.

While the EU has outlined a range of programmes it is willing to support, given the monopoly power exercised by the sole party and army commanders over the entire Eritrean society, it has next to no means of ensuring that the funds do not ultimately end up reinforcing this autocracy.


If the EU initiatives fail (and it is highly likely that they will) they will only serve to strengthen the Eritrean and Sudanese regimes. At the same time attempting to block Libya and Egypt as the only remaining means of reaching European soil is likely to force Eritrean and Sudanese citizens to take even longer and more dangerous journeys to reach safety.

The EU is working hard to strengthen its ties with Libya so that it can go into Libyan waters and destroy the boats and other infrastructure used to smuggle Africans into Europe.

In a report to EU’s 28 member states, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, who heads the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EU NAVFOR MED) explained that it is vital that European navies operated inside Libyan territorial waters to halt trafficking. But this cannot happen at present. “It is clear that the legal and political pre-conditions have not been met,” said Admiral Credendino, indicating that greater cooperation with the Libyan authorities was needed.

The tiny legal route offered by Italy is unlikely to meet the needs of Africans desperate to seek refuge in Europe. Instead, the increasing restrictions are likely to lead to increased deaths and despair as destitute African youths take ever-more risky routes out of Africa – and further destabilisation of an already fragile part of the world.

This is the likely outcome of Europe’s African ‘wall’.

It will neither end the flow of refugees fleeing suffocating repression, nor will it seal the borders of Europe. Thousands of people fleeing for their lives will be forced away from Europe (and away from European public opinion). Instead it will place the burden of this crisis on brutal and often racist regimes along the fugitives' routes.

And all this for what?

Refusing to accommodate, for a reasonable period of time, a few thousand young women and men who are only too eager to learn, live and contribute to European societies, until eventually circumstances change and they can return home with gratitude towards their European hosts.

It's not only a shame; it is a political mistake of historic proportions.

African asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, take part in protest against Israel's deportation policy in front of Knesset on 26 January (AFP)
Last update: 
Saturday 28 January 2017 3:32 UTC

TORONTO, Canada –“No more prison! We are refugees!” the crowd chanted outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem this week, as more than 1,000 African asylum seekers rallied to demand that their asylum requests be fairly heard.

The refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have been fighting for years for Israel to ease its harsh restrictions on their daily lives and put an end to indefinite detention and threats of deportation.

“You, the justices of the High Court, are the only ones who have the authority to save Israel from committing the injustice of deporting vulnerable asylum seekers in violation of all international agreements,” March for Freedom, the group that organised the protest this week, said in a statement,according to the Jerusalem Post.

“Our fate is completely in your hands,” the group said.

The protest comes only a few weeks after an Eritrean refugee, who is now living thousands of kilometres away in Canada, began working once more to expose the harsh treatment African asylum seekers are subjected to in Israel.

Dawit Demoz left Israel last March after more than six years in Tel Aviv, where he became a leading activist in the struggle to protect the rights of the country’s marginalised and maligned African asylum seekers.

Now a Canadian permanent resident, the 30-year-old is studying psychology at York University in Toronto and working part-time at a local grocery store.

But he can’t forget the tens of thousands of African asylum seekers still in Israel.

“I can’t just come here, and forget everything I left behind. It’s hard. I think about it all the time,” Demoz told Middle East Eye from a café in Toronto’s west end earlier this month.

“I cannot forget about the people that I left behind. The situation is getting worse there, there’s no hope that the situation in Israel will change. I said to myself, ‘I have to do something.’”

Human rights abuses

The dire living conditions of African asylum seekers in Israel have been widely reported since tens of thousands of mainly Eritrean and Sudanese refugees began making the journey to Israel in the last decade.

More than 40,000 asylum seekerscurrently live in Israel, the vast majority of whom are originally from Eritrea and Sudan. Many refugees reached Israel after a dangerous journey across the Egyptian Sinai desert.

In its history, Israel has recognised less than one percent of all asylum claims. Last year, it granted refugee statusfor the first timeto a Sudanese national, Mutasim Ali, a young activist and protest leader.

For years, the government gave asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan “temporary protection” in the form of short-term visas, which allowed the government to avoid actually processing their asylum claims.

Today, most African asylum seekers must renew temporary visas to remain in the country, and they live under a risk of being summoned to Holot, a detention facility built in the southern Negev desert.

Israel also signed a secretive deal to deport asylum seekers to third countries. The Israeli government says the agreementposes no risk to the deportees; a representative for the Israeli Justice Ministry said last year that at least 3,000 people had been sent to Rwanda and Uganda.

But it’s a policy that refugee advocates say puts the asylum seekers in danger and leaves them in a state of legal limbo. Some asylum seekers have reported being repatriated to their home countries after their deportation from Israel, where they may face imprisonment, torture and other abuses.

‘Expedited’ immigration process

Demoz, who recently organised a film screening and fundraiser in Toronto to benefit the Eritrean Women’s Centre in Tel Aviv, said he is encouraged by Canadians’ desire to help Eritreans.

The first goal of the event was to raise awareness, and provide information for how Eritreans can be sponsored to come to Canada, he said.

“I want you to know about the situation of Eritreans, but at the same time, there are things that you can do now. If you are ready or if you’re interested to help, you can sponsor Eritreans,” said Demoz, who was privately sponsored by a Canadian group.

Canada’s unique private sponsorship programme allows community groups (known as private sponsorship agreement holders) to sponsor individuals in need of resettlement. These groups are then financially responsible for the refugees’ first year in Canada.

"If you are ready or if you’re interested to help, you can sponsor Eritreans” - Dawit Demoz

Officially, the Refugee Protection Division within the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is tasked with holding hearings andinvestigating claims for refugee protectionmade in the country.

It recently gave Eritreans access to an “expedited process” to make their claims. Syrian and Iraqi nationals are the only others to have access to this process in Canada.

This means that the IRB has recognised a “pattern of human rights abuses” and can grant refugee status to individuals from these countries more quickly, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“An expedited process is good for them to try to move [through] obvious claims quickly,” Dench told Middle East Eye. “From the claimants’ point of view, it can [mean] you are saved what can be a very traumatising hearing process. It makes it an easier and friendlier and potentially a slightly faster process.”

Between January and August last year, 3,081 Eritreans received permanent residency in Canada: 2,773 were privately-sponsored refugees, while the remaining 308 people were sponsored by the government. That’s an increase from 2015, during which 1,648 Eritreans received Canadian permanent residency.

But Dench said Canada should also put a suspension of removals in place for Eritrean nationals, given the dire human rights situation in their home country.

In 2015, United Nations said the Eritrean government was responsible for “systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations” that may amount to crimes against humanity.

Eritreans are forced into indefinite conscription, where they are subjected to hard labour, torture, physical and sexual abuse. Dissent is stifled, imprisonment and enforced disappearances are widespread, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country.

“It is not law that rules Eritreans – but fear,”the UN reported.

Having a clear policy that blocks deportations to Eritrea would allow the refugees to get work permits and be in a better position than simply waiting for Ottawa to deport them.

“It’s well established that there are massive human rights abuses going on, and yet there is very little international coverage of it,” Dench said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why we don’t have a temporary suspension. If people have been paying more attention, it would have been in place long ago.”

Can Canada help Eritreans in Israel?

Individuals cannot apply directly for resettlement in Canada, but they must instead be referred, either by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) or other organisation, or a private sponsor, explained Rémi Larivière, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

In the case of Eritreans living in Israel, Larivière said Canada has no specific agreement with Israel to resettle them, and the IRCC department has not requested referrals from UNHCR for refugees in Israel.

“However, Canada always remains open to considering urgent or vulnerable cases the UNHCR may identify as being in need of resettlement anywhere in the world,” Larivière said.

Since 2012, Canada has instituted caps on the number of new applications it will accept each year from sponsorship agreement holders.

"Canada always remains open to considering urgent or vulnerable cases" - Rémi Larivière

Last year, a cap of 350 new applications was put in place in Tel Aviv “due to a growing backlog of applications and concerns over long wait times,” he said.

This year, the cap on private sponsorship applications is set at 7,500 people globally, and Canada expects to resettle 40,000 refugees and protected persons.

Larivière added that Canada has committed to welcoming 4,000 government-sponsored Eritrean refugees currently in Sudan and Ethiopia before the end of 2018.

According to Dench, there are political considerations involved in how Canada approaches the possible resettlement of Eritreans currently living in Israel.

“If you resettle somebody out of their country, then you are indirectly acknowledging that the country is not providing appropriate protection and a durable solution to the refugees that are there, and a country like Israel might not take well to that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Demoz said that his new life in Canada has showed him just how unjust the situation in Israel really is.

“Canada is a country of immigrants and both the Canadian government and the Canadian public see this as an asset… They say diversity is our strength,” he said.

“In Israel, it’s completely different. [They say], ‘You’re not part of us; you’re a different colour, you’re a different ethnicity, you’re a different culture so you’re not part of us. We don’t want you.’