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Africa, Eritrea, Netherlands

Date: 21/12/2017

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The Dutch Parliament is debating how to respond to the latest evidence that the Eritrean government is continuing to lean on members of the Eritrean diaspora community living in the Netherlands.

Fresh evidence

On Saturday a programme by investigative journalists from Argos radio programme will be broadcast showing Eritrean refugees being forced to pay the notorious 2% tax to the Eritrean government – something the Dutch authorities have repeatedly insisted must end.

Portions of the programme have already been released.

The programme, using secretly filmed footage, quotes from a conversation with the head of the Embassy, Solomon Mehari.

In it, an Eritrean asylum seeker is forced to pay the so-called 2% tax and to express his “regret” for having fled from Eritrea.

If he refuses to sign he will not be issued with the government document he came to the Embassy to request.

From the transcripts of the conversation it appears that the asylum seeker is forced to sign a form in which he repents and accepts he will receive what is called the “correct sentence”.

“Every person that left the country must first sign this. There is no way around it. After that, we can give our services, ” he is told. [Full transcript below]

MPs call for Embassy closure

Anger and frustration was expressed by politicians at the behaviour of the Eritrean Embassy in three motions debated in the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday.

These ranged from calls for the Embassy to be closed, to investigations on whether the 2% tax could be made illegal.

MPs from across the political spectrum expressed their concerns that pressure and intimidation was continuing, despite government calls for the Eritrean embassy to cease acting in this way.

In September the Dutch government promised to act if this didn’t happen. “When firm evidence emerges of intimidation and unlawful coercion in relation to the collection of the Eritrean diaspora tax by the embassy in The Hague, diplomatic measures will not be ruled out,” the government promised in an official statement.

Responding to the debate, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Halbe Zijlstra, described closure of the Eritrean embassy as an extremely serious step, which would require proof.

He said that the Dutch government had called on Eritreans to report the matter to the police and that so far they had received 10 report, but these have yet to lead to a criminal investigation.

Mr Zijlstra offered to discuss possibility of undertaking a formal prosecution with the Prosecutor, and once more offered to discuss the matter with the Eritrean ambassador in Brussels.

Parliament will vote on the motions today [Thursday].

Transcript of the conversation recorded by Argos

Asylum seeker: It says here ‘I am prepared to receive the appropriate punishment for my mistakes and to sign my statement’. That is why I am asking you for more time to let this sink in. You understand what I mean, right?

Mehari: No, I have a different understanding. We think that the government wrote this for your own good.

Asylum seeker: I will think it over. Because it says: I am prepared to receive the appropriate punishment! What that punishment is is not even known. It could also sentence someone to death.

Mehari: Every person has a conscience and if a person made a mistake, he will not be able to deny it.

Asylum seeker: About the whole Eritrean population is fleeing. I have done nothing that others have not done. Can my document be worked on while I think about this?

Mehari: No, it can not. That is not my decision. I am telling you the general requirements. Every person that left the country must first sign this. There is no way around it. After that, we can give our services.

Asylum seeker: But I need my document.

Mehari: No.

Asylum seeker: It will be Christmas soon. I want to be with my children. Even if I pay everything, only not signing this apology statement…

Mehari: No.

Asylum seeker: So you will not give me a document?

Mehari: First you must sign and then we will ask other things of you.

Asylum seeker: Everyone that needs services must do this?

Mehari: And then you will receive a special card.

Asylum seeker: Do I actually have to pay the 2% in one go? I mean, I have worked for 4-5 years. And if you have no money in your account, it is difficult.

Mehari: Listen, it is your own fault that you delayed it for so long.

Asylum seeker: I heard that it was voluntary.

Mehari: It is voluntary! If there are 10,000 Eritreans here in Holland and if half pays, we will not visit the houses of the other half to take it. But if someone asks something of the country, then that person must do what must be done. Shall we close now?

Asylum seeker: Well, It could be payed in terms, could it not?

Mehari: Such a thing does not exist. It is Thursday now. Take the weekend and come to a decision.


The role played by the Zimbabwe military and security forces shows that how much the military leadership who led the downfall of the Mugabe dictatorship were professional and preserving national interests instead of serving the dictatorship. This shows that Zimbabwe military was not corrupted by bribes, spoils of office, ethnic manipulation of appointments and promotions. Comparing the Eritrean military and security forces with that of Zimbabwe, the Eritrean military is not professional but enforced paramilitaries loyal to the regime or serving the interests of the regime.

When one country's military is less professional, it is less likely to act in pursuit of national interests and distance itself from the regime. Zimbabwe's military action was not coup but was very skilled and wise peaceful method of toppling the regime of Mugabe unlike many of  the previous coups in African countries.

It is essential that the Eritrean Democracy Activists be concerned on the relation between the civil society movements and the military in Eritrea because several studies pointed that the coercive strength of the military is a great hinder for democratization.

 One of the most important aspect of the struggle from dictatorship to democracy is to subordinate the military under civilian rule and be under democratic rule. The military's role is to make the process of democratization peaceful and guarantee security and stability of the people.

The great majority of the post -colonial African states began by constituting states based on constitution and election but later transformed to dictatorship, but in case of Eritrea, after independence is unique than the other post-colonial states of Africa, the EPLF/PFFDJ failed in all aspects to fulfil the criteria of state building based on constitution and institutions.

Under what conditions can the military in Eritrea facilitate a democratic transition like that of Zimbabwe? When can it happen? How can it happen?

In this article I will attempt to focus on the above mentioned questions. The regime in Eritrea is weak in all aspects of governance, its only institution is the military and security to unite and control the country through the methods of repression. Both the military and the civilians have been suffering under the authoritarian rule of the regime. In the past years the military and security in Eritrea have been opposed to democratic change and taken side with the dictator like many other African countries, for example in Togo, Zaire, Congo, and Niger.

Among many other reasons, the main condition was that the popular movements for democratic change was lack of policy and no attention given to the military and security forces in Eritrea. According to Luckham, the military establishment and other repressive organs in any dictatorship are the single most important obstacle to democratisation, and Monshiopouri argues likewise that, " the active support or acquiescence of the military is the key to any viable and sustained political transition to democracy." Hutchful argues that, paying to little attention to the military dimension of democratisation might prove " a crucial and potentially costly omission." There can be no transition or consolidation of democracy unless the military takes the side of the democratic transition. As in our case, both the military and the security forces, through their current control over the state's coercive apparatus are the necessary means to carry out its political agenda.

In case of the Eritrean military, it is equally oppressed and is suffering under crisis for so many years and in this situation it can be motivated to work for democratic transition in Eritrea. For example in 1994, in Malawi the military joined the forces for democratic change, and in Benin in 1990, the military refused to face down popular protests against the authoritarian regime. In Mali, a reform- minded faction of the military even decided to intervene actively to terminate the regime itself and facilitate the transition to democracy. The common condition in all these countries' is the same like that of our Eritrea. It is oppression in all spheres of their lives. What the Eritrean forces for democratic change need is to prepare for creating conditions where the military and security forces in Eritrea can facilitate democratic transition like that of Zimbabwe or other like the Benin or Malawi methods of transition.

December 15, 2017 (ADDIS ABABA) – A new report released by the New York-based press freedom group revealed that Egypt and Eritrea are Africa’s leading jailers of journalists in 2017.

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Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate at Cairo’s Tahrir Square after president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2011 (Getty Images)

According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report Egypt and Eritrea take the first and second spot, with 20 and 15 cases respectively.

The report showed a record number of jailed journalists for the second year across the world.

CPJ said the number of journalists imprisoned for their work hit a historical high, as the U.S. and other Western powers failed to pressure the world’s worst jailers—Turkey, China, and Egypt—into improving the bleak climate for press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists found.

As of December 1, 2017, CPJ found 262 journalists behind bars around the world in relation to their work, an increase on last year’s historical high of 259. Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work as the country continues its press freedom crackdown. China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134—or 51 percent—of the total.

Following Eritrea Azerbaijan and Vietnam are also on the top list with 10 cases each.

“In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.”

According to CPJ’s census 194 journalists, or 74 percent, are imprisoned on anti-state charges, many under broad or vague terror laws. In Turkey, every journalist on the census is either accused of or charged with anti-state crimes. Although many journalists cover multiple beats, politics was the most dangerous, covered by 87 percent of those jailed. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the percentage of freelancers is higher this year, accounting for 29 percent of cases.

The international community has done little to isolate repressive countries and U.S. President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric and insistence on labelling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists. CPJ’s 2017 census found the number of journalists jailed for “false news” doubled this year, to 21 cases.

Poor prison conditions is another issue this year, with two journalists jailed in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, dying just weeks after being released on medical parole, and several others seriously ill. In Egypt, CPJ found over half of the jailed journalists have health conditions.

The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.” CPJ has been conducting an annual survey of journalists in jail since the early 1990s.

CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2017. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.

CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.



Arbi Harnet (Freedom Friday) activists in Asmara confirms news that has been circulated by Eritrean radio broadcasts about the closure of hundreds of businesses across the city.

According to the activists it is unclear how many firms have been affected. The exact reason for the closures differs slightly from business to business.

bar AlbaAn activist, who was in contact on Monday, confirmed that :‘many of Asmara’s iconic landmark cafes and hotels are not open for business, this includes Bar Alba and Sweet Asmara Café (you can see the pictures showing that they are both shut in the middle of the day).

This is where ordinary people gather for coffee and chats.

In addition, some large hotels and resturants are also affected.

Median and Savana are the ones I can confirm. Restaurants like Golden Fork have also been targeted’.

Although the exact reason for the closures is unclear, the pretext seems to be ‘failure to follow financial regulations’.

Some are accused of hoarding their cash (rather than depositing it into banks) while others are accused of attempting to evade taxes.

However, the activists noted: ‘if they deposit their money they can’t have access to it easily as there are limits of 5000 Nakfa [per month] (about $330), and this includes their personal expenses’.

Businesses are required to carry out all other transaction by cheque or bank transfers, which are not convenient for many.

Remarking on the other potential reasons for the government’s heavy handed action Sweet Asmara Cafethe activist concludes: ‘this is clearly a measure to control people and their activities.

Financial activities are one aspect, but these are public places where people gathered and discussed many issues, including their grievances against the government and that could be the reason for all this.

It also shows that the government isn’t interested in promoting business or tourism in the country. Guests in these hotels had to evacuate with almost immediate effect.

No doubt those that had the means to do so would leave the country. Those who had been thinking of visiting visit will reconsider their plans’.


Africa, Eritrea, Horn of Africa


(translated from Dutch, please find the original here)

In 2015, Dutch Professor Mirjam van Reisen (Tilburg University, Leiden University) was interviewed by Dutch radio station BNR nieuwsradio about the news that people with ties to the Eritrean regime were employed as interpreters at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). In response to her statements in this interview, the (by now former) chair of the YPFDJ in the Netherlands, the youth department of the Eritrean regime in the Netherlands, started a court case (interim injunction proceedings) against Van Reisen. She won the proceedings, after which an appeal was started. The court has decided this week to dismiss the case and has ruled that the judge of the interim injuction proceedings had correctly dismissed all claims against Van Reisen.

The court case was about the following. Van Reisen commented in the interview about two interpreters, brother and sister, of the then-chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands, Mr. Bahlbi: “they are people that have been in the Netherlands for a long time, of whom the brother of the two concerned is the center of the Eritrean intelligence of which the heart is in the Netherlands, and that is known information and a fact.

The Court investigated whether there was enough factual support for this statement and judges that this is the case:

The Court is of the opinion that the assertations of Van Reisen are support to such an extent that the facts presented contain the necessary indications that the YPFDJ functions in part as a component in the intelligence network of the government of Eritrea (…)

Bahlbi [has been] chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands for several years and still [was] at the time of the interview. As chair, he can be considered as the center of the YPFDJ in the Netherlands in any case, while furthermore, concrete indications exist that this organisation plays a role in the intelligence network of Eritrea. Bahlbi has therefore made himself vulnerable to accusations of involvement with the intelligence network, by becoming chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands and by his presence at yearly conferences and other meetings of that YPFDJ, whereby in addition it can be assumed that he was in touch with representatives of the government of Eritrea.

Besides this, the Court also takes into account that the statements of Van Reisen came as a response to an article on about the interpreters. The Court is of the opinion that in this article, an “important wrongdoing that affects the society is coveredand because of this, Van Reisen has the right to “a large freedom to express herself about this in the interview in response to the article.

Another complaint was issued with regard to a lack of right of defence (audi alteram partem). On this subject, the Court rules that Van Reisen “cannot be blamed for violating the principle of right of defence because it was BNR Nieuwsradio that chose to not let Bahlbi speak as well.

Van Reisen was supported in the appeal by lawyers Christien Wildeman and Emiel Jurjens.


Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa
Africa, European Union, Libya

Date: 12/12/2017
Author: Martin Plaut

Source: Amnesty International
12 December 2017, 00:01 UTC
Full report at the end of this summary

"By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused," said John Dalhuisen.

European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya, said Amnesty International in a report published today, in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

Libya’s dark web of collusion details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses.”

A policy of containment

Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures aimed at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean, with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders. Their cooperation with Libyan actors has taken a three-pronged approach.

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

Detention, extortion and exploitation of migrants

The criminalization of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to DCIM detention centres where they endure horrific treatment. Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the soul-destroying cycle of exploitation to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money. If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.

While it is unclear how many members of the Libyan Coast Guard collaborate with smugglers, it is clear that, during 2016 and 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard’s increased capacity, due to support from EU member states, has led to an increasing number of operations where migrants are taken back to Libya. So far in 2017, 19,452 people have been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, taken back to Libya and immediately transferred to detention centres where torture is rife.

One man from the Gambia who was detained for three months told Amnesty International how he was starved and beaten in a detention centre: “They beat me with a rubber hose, because they want money to release me. They call the family while beating [you] so the family send money.” After his family paid the ransom he was taken to Tripoli by an assigned driver who demanded further payment. “I had to stay with him until I pay the money back, otherwise he will sell me.”

“One immediate way to improve the fate of refugees and asylum seekers in DCIM centres would be for the Libyan authorities to formally recognize UNHCR’s mandate, sign the Refugee Convention and adopt an asylum law. The automatic detention of migrants must also stop as that is when the worst abuses occur,” said John Dalhuisen.

Libyan coastguard endangering lives, intimidating NGOs

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress.

Footage, pictures and documents reviewed by Amnesty International indicate that a boat donated by Italy in April 2017, the Ras Jadir, was used by the Libyan Coast Guard during a horrific incident on 6 November 2017, where their reckless actions contributed to the drowning of up to 50 people.

Ignoring basic security protocols, the Ras Jadir approached a sinking inflatable vessel about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya. When it failed to deploy its rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to help facilitate the rescue, migrants were forced to climb the high sides of the ship and many fell into the water.

A nearby NGO vessel, Sea-Watch 3, deployed its own RHIBs to try and save people but footage shows those aboard the Ras Jadir throwing objects at these RHIBs to force them away. It also shows migrants aboard the Ras Jadir being whipped with a rope and others trying to jump into the water to try and reach the RHIBs.

Whilst reckless and dangerous actions by the Libyan Coast Guard have been documented before, this appears to be the first time a boat provided by a European government has been proven to have been used in such an incident.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused,” said John Dalhuisen.

“European governments must rethink their cooperation with Libya on migration and enable people to get to Europe through legal pathways, including by resettling tens of thousands of refugees. They must insist that the Libyan authorities end the policy and practice of arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and migrants, immediately release all foreign nationals held in the detention centres, and allow the UNHCR to operate unhindered.”


The Ras Jadir was donated by Italy to the Libyan authorities in two ceremonies: the first in the port of Gaeta (Italy) on 21 April 2017, and the second in the port of Abu Sittah (Libya) on 15 May 2017. The boat is clearly portrayed in videos of the ceremonies, in the presence of the Italian Minister of Interior Marco Minniti.

At the end of September 2017, IOM had identified 416,556 migrants in Libya, of which more than 60% are from sub-Saharan Africa, 32% from other North African countries, and around 7% from Asia and the Middle East. UNHCR figures show that 44,306 people in Libya were registered as refugees or asylum-seekers as of 1 December 2017. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher.

Amnesty Libya EU


Africa, European Union

This paper – presented to the European Parliament hearing on the ‘externalisation’ of the EU’s borders – is important.

The background the EU’s strengthening of its co-operation with Libya to prevent Africans from reaching Europe by sea. The EU is also working far deeper in Africa, with Niger and Mali, as well as Sudan and Egypt, to halt Africans before they reach the Mediterranean coast.

This is what is meant by ‘externalisation’ of the EU’s borders: building a virtual ‘wall’ that will prevent Africans landing in any part of Europe.

This paper explains the benefits to European military and security industries of this policy. Here are a few examples:

  • Germany provided Airbus equipment to Tunisia
  • Italy paid the Italian company, Intermarine, for ten patrol ships for Libya
  • The Dutch government allowed the export of Thales radar equipment to Egypt, in spite of an EU arms embargo

Stop Wapenhandel are planning a full report for next year


EU border externalisation benefits European military and security industry

Mark Akkerman of Stop Wapenhandel

EU border externalisation policies have devastating consequences. In the first place for refugees, who are confronted with ever more and more militarised border security and control measures. But these policies also undermine the development of countries, they strengthen dictatorships, feed repression and human rights abuses and threaten security and safety.

The way the EU deals with the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ has been marked by a discourse of securitarization of migration, framing migration and refugees as a threat, to be dealt with by boosting and militarising border security. The EU exports this model, these policies, which are heavily influenced by the military and security industry through intensive and succesful lobbying, to third countries. They have to act as border security outposts, preventing refugees from even reaching the external borders of the EU.

This ‘cooperation’, often enforced through blackmail, such as threatening to withold development aid, takes many forms. One of those is EU donations of equipment or EU funding for equipment purchases by third countries. With this, during the last years everything from helicopters, patrol ships and vehicles, via surveillance and monitoring equipment to biometric identification tools has found its way to countries outside the EU.

There’s a real danger that equipment provided, for example surveillance tools, will also be used for internal repression. Sudan, one of the worst dictatorships the EU is cooperating with, blatantly said it would use donated equipment for internal purposes as well. And, let’s remember, EU countries have a bad track record for supplying equipment to human rights violating regimes. For example, during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ popular uprisings were often surpressed with arms provided by European states.

Another problem is the diverting of money for development cooperation and peacebuilding to the goal of stopping migration. Oxfam recently calculated that over 80% of the budget of the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa comes from the European Development Fund and other development and humanitarian aid funds. And about 30% of the Trust Fund budget in the first two years goes to migration management or border security projects. One example of this is the purchase of six vessels from Dutch shipbuilder Damen by Turkey for strengthening its coast guard. The €20 million the EU used to finance this came from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), intended for peace-building and conflict prevention. It is even the largest project under this Instrument.

But the EU also pressurizes third countries into increasing on security and military, at the cost of much-needed spending on education, health care, fighting poverty and other social and environmental issues. At the same time, EU policies to decrease migration undermine migration-based economies, for example the one in the Agadez region in Niger, and economies that rely on remittances from refugees in Europe.

This feeds an untenable situation, threatening economic development, security and internal stability in many countries. In the end this will only force more people to flee, especially in the longer term. And though it shouldn’t be a leading question, given this, it is also very doubtful that these externalisation policies actually serve European interests, especially in the long term. As one unnamed EU official said: we are only “creating chaos in our own backyard” and that will eventually turn against us. Another point is that by making regular migration ever more diffcult, the EU is pushing refugees into the arms of criminal smuggling networks, that take over more and more from people who just had a job in facilitating migration.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the secutarization of migration in third countries, and the militarisation of borders, backed up with EU funding, benefits one group of interests however: those of the military and security industry. Major arms companies as Thales and Airbus have already shifted their attention in the field of border security to the African market.

Some examples: Germany donated large ammounts of Airbus equipment for border security to Tunisia, as well as 50 Rheinmetall fighting vehicles for border security to Jordan. Italy and the EU fund a large border security project in Libya from Italian company Leonardo. Another Italian company, Intermarine, sold ten patrol ships to Libya, again paid for by Italy. And French shipbuilder Ocea also provided patrol ships to Libya. One of those ships was used this year by the Libyan coast guard to intercept a NGO vessel on a rescue mission. The Dutch government allowed the export of Thales radar equipment to Egypt, in spite of an EU arms embargo, praising the role the Egyptian navy plays in stopping migration to Europe.

Biometric security companies, such as Veridos, OT Morpho and Gemalto, receive one order after the other for biometric and other identification equipment, because the EU pushes and funds third countries to register their population, including refugees present, with fingerprints or other biometric identification mechanism, to be able to identify (and often deport) them quicker if they enter Europe. French company Civipol, owned by the state and large arms producers as Thales, Airbus and Safran, sets up fingerprint databases in Mali and Senegal. In those fingerprints of the whole population of those countries will be stored. Big Brother on a global scale, but, again, also ignoring the risks of using those databases for internal repression.

Next to the military and security industry, several European state and intergovernmental institutions are main profiteers from EU funding for border security and control in third countries. Civipol was already mentioned. It is especially stunning that Civipol wrote a consultancy paper for the European Commission in 2003 that laid some foundations for current measures on border externalisation and already proposed that the EU should exercise heavy pressure on third countries to get them to act tougher on migration and refugees. Not suprisingly, Civipol has been a major beneficiary of EU border externalisation ever since, implementing many EU-funded projects. In other words: it helped shape the policies it now profits from.

Other institutional profiteers include the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, the International Organisation for Migration and the German state development institution GIZ. The for example last implements the Better Migration Project, under which Sudan is supported to strengthen its border security capacities.

If you take a list of the 35 countries the EU focuses most on in border externalisation, in strengthening border security and control and/or concluding readmission agreements to make deportations possible, this gives a mix of mostly African countries, some in the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, and some in Central and Eastern Europe. Of these 35 countries:

  • half (18) falls in the category ‘low human development’, only eight have a high level of human development;
  • half (17) has an authoritarian government, only four can be deemed democratic, yet still with flaws;
  • half (17) is listed as ‘not free’, with only three listed as ‘free’;
  • one-third (12) faces extreme human rights risks, the other 23 still face high risks;
  • one-fifth (7) has a EU and/or UN arms embargo in force against it.

Yet, the total value of licenses issued by EU member states for arms exports to these 35 countries in the decade 2006-2015 is over €76 billion. Arms exports that more often than not feed further conflicts, violence and repression.

The least to say is that there are other priorities, both for these countries and for the EU in relation to them, than stopping migration. EU policy should be focused on promoting democracy and human rights as well as fighting poverty and furthering sustainaible development. There are many red flags, in almost all of the countries, on why the EU should be careful about cooperating with them. This is especially important when such cooperation includes strengthening military and security capacities, with training, funding and providing equipment. Or in other words: the EU is doing exactly what it shouldn’t be doing, and in the end the only profiteers are military and security companies and institutions and those politicians that spread hate, racism and repression.



Last Updated on Thursday 07 December 2017

Addis Ababa, 6 December 2017: As part of the efforts to address the plight of the African migrants in Libya, the Joint African Union-European Union-United Nations Task Force convened its first meeting at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, on 4 December 2017. The meeting was chaired by the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira el-Fadil. 

In addition to representatives of the European Union and the United Nations, the meeting was also attended by representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and relevant Departments within the African Union Commission. It is to be recalled that the Task Force was established during the Tripartite meeting between African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, European Commission President Jean Claude Junker, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini, and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, held in Abidjan on 29 November 2017, on the margins of the 5th African Union-European Union Summit.

The Task Force, which will be chaired by Commissioner Amira el-Fadil, agreed to operate at three levels: political, working-level and operational (to be coordinated by the African Union Liaison Office for Libya based in Tunis). The immediate focus of the Task Force will be on the repatriation, within the next 6 weeks, of the 20,000 migrants currently in identified Government-controlled detention centers who have expressed the wish to leave Libya, while work will also continue to address other related issues. 

Other immediate priorities also include working with: (i) the concerned African Union member states to provide consular services to their nationals stranded in Libya, in order to identify them and provide them with travel documents; (ii) the Libyan authorities to grant landing permits for airlines other than those from Libya, in order to expedite the returns; and (iii) neighboring countries to provide overflight permission. 

The Task Force expressed appreciation to countries that have already pledged to support the returns from Libya, and urged other member states to do the same. The European Union pledged to provide financial support to those countries to facilitate return and reintegration efforts. 

On 5 December 2017, the Chairperson of the Commission met with the Permanent Representatives of 21 member states that either have nationals stranded in Libya or share a border with Libya. The Chairperson and the Commissioner for Social Affairs used the opportunity to brief the member states on the ongoing African Union-led efforts with partners. The Chairperson highlighted the collective duty of the continent to act quickly and swiftly to ease the suffering of stranded African migrants. In this respect, he called on concerned Member States to send consular officials and to speedily provide consular services, including identification of their nationals and issuance of emergency travel documents. He further urged the Libyan authorities to ensure the safety and security of the migrants held in Government-controlled detention centres, facilitate access to all detention centers for consular officials from the migrants’ countries of origin and officials from the African Union and the International Organization for Migration, and to issue flight and landing permits for all air carriers transporting migrants.

The Chairperson reaffirmed the commitment of the African Union to work closely with its member states, the United Nations, the European Union and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the necessary steps are put in place in order to expedite the voluntary repatriation and resettlement process of the African migrants. He expressed appreciation to the member states that pledged logistical support and/or offered to host migrants to be resettled, within the framework of African solidarity and shared responsibility. He urged the other African Union member states to contribute to these efforts.


By Abraham T. Zere

Are Eritrea's young people saying enough is enough? Credit: David Stanley.

Are Eritrea’s young people saying enough is enough? Credit: David Stanley.

On the 31 October, Eritrea experienced a rare protest as hundreds of people took the streets in opposition against the nationalisation of an Islamic school. Government forces reacted in characteristically brutal fashion and dispersed protesters with gun-shots in the capital Asmara.

A protest in the hugely repressive state of Eritrea is remarkable in of itself. But last month’s demonstration was additionally notable for the make-up of its participants. Many of those who took to the streets were secondary school students. An article on the Ministry of Information’s portal dismissively referred to the protestors as “a group of teenagers”.

For over 16 years, there has been virtually no space to challenge the government of Eritrea. There is no independent press or right to free association and movement. Internet penetration is almost non-existent. And extreme militarisation and surveillance pervade society. All the government’s former critics have all been imprisoned, disappeared or have fled.

However, that does not mean there is no opposition to the regime in the country. They may be disconnected from one another and uncoordinated, but 31 October was not the first time “a group of teenagers” has expressed its frustrations and openly defied the all-powerful Eritrean government.

The plight of Eritrea’s youth is well-documented. Facing indefinite military conscription and a lack of jobs, the youth are fleeing the country in droves only to be stranded in the neighbouring countries or faced with the risky journey across to Mediterranean. Even the sons and daughters of the ruling elite try to escape the country, including the youngest son of President Isaias Afwerki. They would prefer to cut ties with their parents and risk living as destitute refugees than remain in Eritrea.

Of course, not everyone leaves. Some stay happily. But for the many disillusioned young people who remain in the country, there is the feeling of a deepening divide between their generation and the governing system. Recently, this has manifested in a number of under-reported clashes between protesting youth and the government.

The regime attempts to suppress such incidences, which is made easier by its restrictions on international media. This means that these events largely remain confined to those directly affected, but they could have a much broader significance.

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Fighting back

Despite continued repression and an education system set up to produce obedient citizens, Eritrea’s youth currently seems to be the only group ready to openly confront the regime. Young people in national service have reportedly booed officials coming to conduct seminars and killed commanders’ goats in protest.

The class of 2013 was reportedly particularly insubordinate. According to students and an internal report that was leaked, many of that year’s intake was punished for their defiance by being told they would be recalled to the military training centre Sawa after their exams. They were told to prepare for a long walk. That night, however, hundreds of students fled. Soldiers were deployed to lock down the camp.

Those who remained – more than 12,000 – were rounded up and forced to travel on foot for over 21 days. The report says two students drowned crossing a river, while another two died from snake bites. On arriving at their destination, the group was put in open prison camps without proper shelter. 34 more died, while there were 17 unwanted pregnancies.

This year, there was news of similar collective resistance. In July, 6,000 students were reportedly deployed to Adi-Halo where President Afwerki is attempting to establish a college of agriculture and machinery. However, there was allegedly no proper lodging to accommodate the students, many of whom were assigned there involuntarily.

They believed they were brought there to work on Afwerki’s projects in the area. In protest, they started leaving rocks on the road the president takes to his office in Adi-Halo and demanded he address their concerns.

When the military intervened, the unarmed students openly challenged the guards. In October, tensions escalated and protesters began throwing stones at them. The Eritrean opposition radio Medrek reports that the military responded by forcibly moving the students to Naro in the far north for military training.

Eritrea’s youth standing up

These isolated but notable incidents suggest that the protest in Asmara last month was unique, but not unprecedented. In that demonstration, hundreds took to the streets of the capital in defiance of the regime’s repressive rule and in anger at its decision to wield greater control over the education system. Once again, many of them were students.

These acts of insubordination suggest that many young people are now saying enough is enough. There does not seem to be coordination around a collective movement. But in the face of clear threats and repression by the regime, and in the absence of an organised opposition, groups of youth may be beginning to take matters into their own hands. Knowing no-one will instigate change for them, frustrated young people may be feeling a greater sense of ownership over their own affairs and future.

If they do continue to mobilise, they may nevertheless find support amongst their as yet quieter compatriots. In Asmara, police sent to disperse the protest reportedly told demonstrators that they share their grievances and refused to fire on them.

That is reportedly how the protesters managed to get so close to the Office of the President. It was there, however, that Special Forces fired on them in a show of violence that leaves those who would question the regime in no uncertain terms about what they ultimately are up against.