The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 503rd meeting held on 30 April 2015, was briefed by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the AU on the xenophobic attacks against foreign migrants in South Africa and the measures taken by the South African authorities to address this situation.

Council expressed its rejection of xenophobia in all its forms and manifestations. In this respect, Council welcomed the press release issued by the Chairperson of the Commission on 15 April 2015, which strongly condemned the attacks, expressed her concern for the safety of foreign nationals and called for the immediate halt of these unacceptable attacks. Council further expressed strong condemnation of these acts carried out by isolated groups against innocent foreigners. Council expressed its heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wished prompt recovery to the injured.

Council commended the Government of South Africa for the steps it has taken to address the situation, notably the concerted leadership of President Jacob Zuma and the South African Cabinet. Council noted that the situation is beginning to return to normalcy. Council expressed its confidence that the South African authorities would do all in their power to fully address the issues at hand, to ensure that there is no repeat of this xenophobic violence in the future, including bringing to justice the perpetrators of these heinous acts. Council further called for steps to compensate for the loss of life and property.

Council acknowledged that the incidents that have taken place in South Africa are a reflection of larger social, economic and political challenges facing the continent, which are further reflected in the attempts by African migrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, notably through Libya, with the attendant massive loss of life. In this respect, Council underlined the need for a comprehensive approach to these challenges, taking into account the constraints of Member States, the imperative to respect the rights of migrants and ensure their humane treatment, as well as the overall objective of achieving freedom of movement across the continent, as one of the main components of the integration agenda of the Union.

Council recommended that the relevant policy organs convene a special session devoted to the issue of migration and its related challenges, with a view to agreeing to an enhanced African collective effort, on the basis of a report to be submitted by the Commission.


London, April 28, 2015

As most of you are acutely aware, there are thousands of Eritrean refugees in Israel awaiting a decision from the Israeli government for their application to be given the status of political refugees. Much to our dismay, we have recently learned that the Israeli government has made a definite plan and is preparing to deport the thousands of Eritrean political refugees to Uganda and Ruanda in exchange for financial rewards and arms. In order to justify the planned illegal deportation of Eritrean refugees, the Israeli government has stated and forwarded fallacious and quasi-racist arguments, such as that the presence of the thousands of Eritrean refugees in Israel is a threat to the Jewish character of the Israeli State. 

We, the members of the Eritrean refuge communities in Europe, North America, Canada, Australia and elsewhere consider the planned action of the Israeli government to deport Eritrean refugees against their will to Uganda and Ruanda in exchange for arms and money to be not only an indefensible and immoral act, but also illegal. It is illegal because it clearly and crudely violates the letter and spirit of the 1951 Geneva Convention governing refugees, and is incompatible with the international norms set by the United Nations, to which the Israeli government is a signatory.

Furthermore, it also illegal because the 1951 Refugee Conventions clearly state that “No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where the freedom and safety of a refugee would be threatened.”

We therefore call upon all Eritreans in Europe and elsewhere, and other democrats and human rights organisations, to join us at the planned protest demonstration on the 19th May 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland, to show active solidarity to our stressed compatriots and stringently oppose the planned deportation of Eritrean refugees by the Israeli government.

Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis

Spokesperson and Coordinator of the Geneva Demonstration


EPDP Information Office

On Saturday, 25 April, over 500 Geneva residents staged a silent demonstration in memory of those hundreds of Eritreans, Ethiopians and others who were drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and those beheaded by Islamist extremists in Libya simply because of their religion.

Jointly organized by Eritrean and Ethiopian civil society groups, the demonstration walked for kilometer and gathered in front of the statutes of Calvin and other historic leaders of the city of Geneva. The demonstration participants were called for a moment of silence by Ms Huda Omar Bekhit, one of the young Eritrean organizers of the event.

victims memorial Swiss2Young Verona Almedom of the Anti-Slavery Campaign, Tedros Teklemariam, chair of a newly formed civl movement in Geneva, coordinated the speeches presented by Geneva city representatives and Eritrean and Ethiopian civil society members deeply regretting the failure of Europe to save lives in its doorsteps and condemning the brutal beheadings of Eritrean and Ethiopians asylum seekers for the simple reason of their being Christians.

The speakers emphasized the most urgent need of addressing the push factors that are forcing so many Eritreans and others to leave their home in search of safety and better live.

It was reported by UNHCR officials that not less than 350 Eritreans perished when a rickety boat carrying up to 800 persons capsized in the Mediterranean Sea five days ago.  A survivor of the IS beheadings in Libya also estimated that the vast majority of those beheaded by the fanatic group in Libya were from Eritrea.

One compelling image has come to represent all the Greek people who treated desperate migrants like fellow human beings

Boat migrant being rescued

Antonis Deligiorgis saving Negasi Nebiat: ‘I was having trouble lifting her out of the sea, then instinctively, I put her over my shoulder.’ Photograph: Argiris Mantikos/AP


It was an image that came to symbolise desperation and valour: the desperation of those who will take on the sea – and the men who ferry human cargo across it – to flee the ills that cannot keep them in their own countries. And the valour of those on Europe’s southern shores who rush to save them when tragedy strikes.

Last week on the island of Rhodes, war, repression, dictatorship in distant Eritrea were far from the mind of army sergeant Antonis Deligiorgis. The world inhabited by Wegasi Nebiat, a 24-year-old Eritrean in the cabin of a yacht sailing towards the isle, was still far away.

At 8am on Monday there was nothing that indicated the two would meet. Stationed in Rhodes, the burly soldier accompanied his wife, Theodora, on the school run. “Then we thought we’d grab a coffee,” he told the Observer in an exclusive interview recounting what would soon ensue. “We stopped by a cafe on the seafront.”

Deligiorgis had his back to the sea when the vessel carrying Nebiat struck the jagged rocks fishermen on Rhodes grow up learning to avoid. Within seconds the rickety boat packed with Syrians and Eritreans was listing. The odyssey that had originated six hours earlier at the Turkish port of Marmaris – where thousands of Europe-bound migrants are now said to be amassed – was about to end in the strong currents off Zefyros Beach.

For Nebiat, whose journey to Europe began in early March – her parents paid $10,000 for a voyage that would see her walk, bus and fly her way to “freedom” – the reef was her first contact with the continent she had prayed to reach. Soon she was in the water clinging to a rubber buoy.

“The boat disintegrated in a matter of minutes,” the father-of-two recalled. “It was as if it was made of paper. By the time I left the café at 10 past 10, a lot of people had rushed to the scene. The coastguard was there, a Super Puma [helicopter] was in the air, the ambulance brigade had come, fishermen had gathered in their caiques. Without really giving it a second’s thought, I did what I had to do. By 10:15 I had taken off my shirt and was in the water.”

Deligiorgis brought 20 of the 93 migrants to shore singlehandedly. “At first I wore my shoes but soon had to take them off,” he said, speaking by telephone from Rhodes. “The water was full of oil from the boat and was very bitter and the rocks were slippery and very sharp. I cut myself quite badly on my hands and feet, but all I could think of was saving those poor people.”

In the chaos of the rescue, the 34-year-old cannot remember if he saved three or four men, or three or four children, or five or six women: “What I do remember was seeing a man who was around 40 die. He was flailing about, he couldn’t breathe, he was choking, and though I tried was impossible to reach. Anyone who could was hanging on to the wreckage.”

Deligiorgis says he was helped by the survival skills and techniques learned in the army: “But the waves were so big, so relentless. They kept coming and coming.” He had been in the water for about 20 minutes when he saw Nebiat gripping the buoy. “She was having great problems breathing,” he said. “There were some guys from the coastguard around me who had jumped in with all their clothes on. I was having trouble lifting her out of the sea. They helped and then, instinctively, I put her over my shoulder.”

The rescue operation on the Greek island of Rhodes. Photograph: Xinhua /Landov / Barcroft Media/Xinhua /Landov / Barcroft Media

On Friday it emerged that he had also rescued a woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Rhodes general hospital. In a sign of her gratitude, the Eritrean, who did not want to be identified, told nurses she would name her son after him. While Deligiorgis’s heroism has raised the spirits of a nation grappling with its worst economic crisis in modern times, he is far from alone. All week there have been stories of acts of kindness, great and small, by islanders who rushed to help the emigrés. One woman stripped her own child to swaddle a Syrian baby, hundreds rushed to donate food and clothes.

“They are souls, like us,” said Babis Manias, a fisherman, breaking down as he recalled saving a child.

“We couldn’t believe it at first. We thought it was a tourist boat, what with all the hotels along the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it, the terror that can haunt a human’s eyes.”

The incident has highlighted the extraordinary sacrifice people on the frontline of Fortress Europe will often make as the humanitarian disaster unfolding on the continent’s outer reaches becomes ever more real. Last week close to 2,000 migrants were reported entering he country with the vast majority coming through its far-flung Aegean isles. Most were said to be Syrian students and other professionals able to afford passage to the west.

“As long as there are crises in their own countries and desperation and despair, they will look to Europe,” said Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, who heads the United Nations refugee mission in Athens. “And as long as there are no legal alternatives they will take these great risks to get here.”

Like other passengers, Nebiat, who would spend most of the week in hospital being treated for suspected pneumonia, has no desire to stay in Greece. Sweden is her goal. And on Thursday she boarded a ferry bound for Piraeus, the continuation of a journey that began in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, took her to Sudan and from there to Turkey travelling on a fake passport. “I am lucky,” she said as she was reunited with those who made the journey with her. “Very lucky to be alive.”

Deligiorgis falls silent at the mention of heroism. There was nothing brave, he says, about fulfilling his duty “as a human, as a man”. But recounting the moment he plucked the Eritrean from the sea, he admits the memory will linger. “I will never forget her face,” he says. “Ever.”


The EU’s de facto policy is to let migrants drown to stop others coming. How many more deaths can we stomach?
A dinghy packed with migrants off the Libyan coast

A dinghy packed with migrants off the Libyan coast. ‘Five hundred people have already died this year; the figure for the equivalent period in 2014 was 15.' Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

These are the people we are allowing to die in the Mediterranean. The EU’s de facto policy is to let migrants drown to stop others coming. Last year nearly four thousand bodies were recovered from the Med. Those are just the ones we found. The total number of arrivals in Italy in 2014 went up over 300% from the year before, to more than 170,000. And the EU’s response, driven by the cruellest British government in living memory, was to cut the main rescue operation, Mare Nostrum.

The inevitable result is that 500 people have already died this year. The figure for the equivalent period in 2014 was 15. There are half a million people in Libya waiting to make the crossing. How many more deaths can we stomach?

Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life, which is malice by proxy. Like drones and derivatives, migration policy allows the powerful to inflict horrors on the powerless without getting their hands dirty. James Brokenshire, the minister who defended cutting Mare Nostrum on the nauseatingly hypocritical grounds that it encouraged migration, never has to let the deaths his decision helped to cause spoil his expensive lunch with lobbyists. It doesn’t affect him.


But it does affect us. Right now we are a diminished and reduced society, bristling with suspicion and distrust of others even as we perversely struggle with loneliness and alienation. We breathe the toxic smog of hatred towards immigrants pumped out by Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins, and it makes us lesser people.

Forget the fact that this society wouldn’t work without migrants, that nobody else will pick your vegetables and make your latte and get up at 4am to clean your office. Forget the massive tax contribution made by migrants to the Treasury. This is not about economics. Far too often, even the positive takes on migration are driven by numbers and finance, by “What can they do for us?”. This is about two things: compassion and responsibility.

Lampedusa, my play currently running at the Soho Theatre, focuses on two people at the sharp end of austerity Europe. Stefano is a coastguard whose job is to fish dead migrants out of the sea. Denise is a collector for a payday loan company. They’re not liberals. They don’t like the people they deal with. They can’t afford to. As Stefano says: “You try to keep them at arm’s length. There’s too many of them. And it makes you think, about the randomness of I get to walk these streets, and he doesn’t. The ground becomes ocean under your feet.”

Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life: malice by proxy

But eventually, the human impact of what they do breaks through. And in their consequent struggles, both Stefano and Denise are aided by a friendship, reluctant and questioning, with someone they formerly thought of as a burden. This is compassion not as a lofty feeling for someone beneath you, but as the raw reciprocal necessity of human beings who have nothing but each other. This is where we are in the utterly corrupted, co-opted politics of the early 21st century. The powerful don’t give a shit. All we have is us.

But equally important is responsibility. In all the rage about migration, one thing is never discussed: what we do to cause it. A report published this week by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveals that the World Bank displaced a staggering 3.4 million people in the last five years. By funding privatisations, land grabs and dams, by backing companies and governments accused of rape, murder and torture, and by putting $50bn into projects graded highest risk for “irreversible and unprecedented” social impacts, the World Bank has massively contributed to the flow of impoverished people across the globe. The single biggest thing we could do to stop migration is to abolish the development mafia: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

A very close second is to stop bombing the Middle East. The west destroyed the infrastructure of Libya without any clue as to what would replace it. What has is a vacuum state run by warlords that is now the centre of Mediterranean people-smuggling. We’re right behind the Sisi regime in Egypt that is eradicating the Arab spring, cracking down on Muslims and privatising infrastructure at a rate of knots, all of which pushes huge numbers of people on to the boats. Our past work in Somalia, Syria and Iraq means those nationalities are top of the migrant list.

Not all migration is caused by the west, of course. But let’s have a real conversation about the part that is. Let’s have a real conversation about our ageing demographic and the massive skills shortage here, what it means for overstretched public services if we let migrants in (we’d need to raise money to meet increased demand, and the clearest and fairest way is a rise in taxes on the rich), the ethics of taking the cream of the crop from poor countries. Migration is a complex subject. But let’s not be cowards and pretend the migrants will stop coming. Because they won’t. This will never stop.


Two Eritrean men smuggled across the Med from Africa to Europe said they knew the risks but had no choice but to make the journey.

19:31, UK, Tuesday 21 April 2015


Two Eritrean asylum seekers have told how they relived their own nightmare of journeying across the Mediterranean when they heard how hundreds of people died in a single boat tragedy.

Habtom Hadish, 31, and Essay Fitiwi, 36, both took smuggler boats across the Mediterranean last year and had to be rescued by the Italian coastguard when their vessels broke down.

Speaking about the disaster off Libya at the weekend, Mr Hadish told Sky News: "I very sad that so many men and women died."

Mr Fitwi added: "I'm hurt, I'm sad and I'm crying. The situation is so dangerous."

Although they travelled separately, they both told how their boats broke down at sea - leaving them fearing they were going to drown.

Video: Migrant Ship Captain Facing Charges

Mr Hadish said: "The journey from Libya to Italy was very dangerous. It was in a small boat, about 350 people, in the middle of the sea. Unfortunately the pumping of water stopped and I felt like we were going to die, all of us."

He said two people on board suffocated below deck before the coast guard arrived.

Mr Fitwi said of the desperate conditions: "Inside there is heightened pressure and intensification. There is no air.

"Travelling without food, without water for 26 hours and the captain didn't know the direction for the GPS."

Video: How Can UK Tackle Migrant Crisis?

He said the boat ran out of fuel and it ended up drifting.

He added they were so desperate that they drank their own urine and said: "I thought we were going to die". The coastguard then arrived after 10 hours.

Both men were fleeing instability in Eritrea. Mr Fitwi travelled to Libya via Sudan in a truck, and Mr Hadish went via Ethiopia.

They both paid people smugglers $2,000 each but say they knew the risks they were taking.

Video: Where Are The Migrants Coming From?

Having arrived in Italy they then made it to France where they paid more people smugglers to get them to Britain in a lorry.

After claiming asylum, the Home Office sent them to Glasgow while their applications are being processed.

Mr Hadish said: "I had no choice. I had to take the risk. Eritrea is very corrupt. There is no freedom of speech or movement. Life is very dangerous. I chose to flee."

His colleague said his cousin paid the money to smugglers, adding: "Eritrea is a political dictatorship. There is only one party. No right to speak. No freedom of movement.

Speaking about living in Glasgow, Mr Fitwi, who gets £5 a day in benefits, said: "It's nice. You can learn and speak whatever you like. It is free. I'm going to college, learning English and working with a charity."

The men both think that more should be done to stop the smugglers.

But they believe the focus should be on improving the countries from where people flee.


| 22 APRIL 2015

The massive number of migrants and refugees that continue to lose their lives in the Mediterranean Sea is shocking and highlights the deadly consequences of the lack of appropriate action from those who have the capacity and obligation to respond, not only from the realm of the institutions but from that of humanity.

In the last two weeks alone, over a thousand people, vulnerable men, women and children, fleeing war, terror and poverty, victims of unscrupulous people-traffickers, have fallen, drowned in the Mediterranean, a sea that today, instead of bringing people and cultures together, is becoming a grave and a divide between dreams and indifference.

Europe needs to act, if only to save itself, because no progress, economic wellbeing or a land of plenty can exist alongside want, fear or death.

Our International, built upon values of justice and solidarity, and which has worked consistently for a world where everyone’s existence matters and where everyone is at the center of the priorities for government and politics, calls on all those with responsibility in Europe to act immediately and effectively to stop this bleeding in the Mediterranean. Our movement will do all it can to contribute to this end.

St. Paul's Bay (Malta), April 22nd, 2015. Stop the boats carrying refugees before they set sail. Bomb the boats so that they cannot leave the African coast and sail for the European Union. Prevent those fleeing war and persecution leaving their homelands. The proposals suggested by the highest political offices of the Italian state and - incredibly - accepted by the EU as possible solutions to the tragedies migrants are being subjected to, are authentic projects of genocide, brutal crimes against humanity. I'm proud to be on the other side of the fence, on the side of the victims and persecuted by those in power. If one day they hold Nuremberg trials against these crimes, I want to be on the witness stand.

In the picture, "The Nuremberg Trials", painting by Laura Knight

EveryOne Group
Triq Il Hgejjeg - blk. B
Waterloo Flts - Fl. 6
Bugibba - St. Paul's Bay
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">'); document.write(addy_text97716); document.write('<\/a>'); //-->\n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  ::
Tel. +393343449180 :: +35677615662

Thanks to a lack of joined-up policy on refugees, the Mediterranean has become the world's most dangerous migrant destination.Author

  1. Sarah Wolff

    Lecturer, School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London


Migrants arriving in Salerno. EPA/Ciro Fusco

Europe is today the deadliest migration destination in the world and the Mediterranean is becoming an open-air cemetery. In spite of worldwide condemnations – from civil society to global institutions such as UNHCR – the EU’s approach has been hopeless. While deploring deaths at sea, it has been unable, over the past three years, to act as the responsible political authority it ought to be – preferring to leave Italy to tackle the problem alone.

The tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean is a severe blow for the European common migration and asylum policy. Thought of initially as an accompanying measure to the achievement of the EU single market by easing the freedom of movement of people internally, it has drifted towards a Fortress Europe for most outsiders.

In 2004, between 700 and 1,000 died each year as they tried to cross into Europe from Africa depending on whose numbers you consulted. This number almost tripled in 2011 and included migrants dying in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Malta, Italy, Spain, Algeria, Greece, but also people shot dead on the Moroccan-Spanish border in Ceuta and Melilla or drowned in the Evros river on the Greek-Turkish border.

Migrants have long tried to escape both poverty and violent conflict by crossing into Europe, but the consensus is that the building of a restrictive common EU migration policy – which allows fewer legal ways of coming to Europe – and more sophisticated surveillance to enforce this policy have contributed to this stark increase in the number of deaths.

So, one of the most popular migrant routes in 2004, the West African route – which involved taking sea passage from West African countries, mainly Senegal and Mauritania, into the Canary Islands – has become largely disused. Compared to the 31,600 illegal migrants detected by Frontex in 2008, only 275 migrants took this route in 2014.

Cooperation between Spain, Mauritania and Senegal involving more sophisticated surveillance – as well as repatriation agreements with West African countries which have returned thousands to their countries of origin – have prompted migrants to take different routes, mainly the central Mediterranean route that goes through Libya. The Gilbraltar strait is now well controlled by the Spanish Integrated System of External Vigilance which has forced migrants to divert via longer and more dangerous routes.

Since the fall of Gaddafi the absence of a stable government in Libya has caused a considerable disruption of border controls in and out of the country which has led human traffickers concentrate their efforts there. And it has also been reported that restrictive border controls in Israel and the Gulf – Saudi Arabia has built a 1,800km fence on its border with Yemen – has prompted many migrants, notably from East Africa, to head for Europe instead. After Syrians fleeing the civil war, Eritreans are the most common nationals found attempting the central Mediterranean route.

Mare Nostrum and Triton

Faced with the indecisiveness of its European partners over the migratory flows the Italian government unilaterally established its Mare Nostrum operation, which ran from October 2013 to October 2014 and patrolled 70,000km in the Sicily Straits at a cost of Euros 9m per month (US$9.6). This involved more than 900 Italian staff, 32 naval units and two submarines taking shifts amounting to more than 45,000 hours of active operations. The Italian navy reports that during the Mare Nostrum operation it engaged in 421 operations and saved 150.810 migrants, seizing 5 ships and bringing to justice 330 alleged smugglers.

But by the end of 2014 the burdens of running Mare Nostrum alone were becoming too much for Italy, which was keen to involve its European partners. The Triton programme, coordinated by the EU border agency Frontex and under the command of the Italian ministry of Interior, was duly established, on a much smaller scale than Mare Nostrum – Triton deploys two ocean patrol vessels, two coastal patrol vessels, two coastal patrol boats, two aircraft and a single helicopter.

It also has no mandate for rescue-at-sea operations since its job is to control EU’s external maritime and land borders. Before last week’s tragedy, 24,400 irregular migrants have been rescued since November 2014, mostly by Italy. Some 7,860 migrants were saved by assets co-financed by Frontex.

Italy has been left to bear the brunt of rescue missions. EPA/Marco Costantino

Click to enlarge

The horror at the rocketing numbers of deaths in the Mediterranean in recent weeks has at last prompted the EU to call for concerted action by its member states – and the ten-point action plan endorsed by European foreign and interior ministers on April 20 calls for an strengthening of Frontex Triton and Poseidon’s operations.

But the question of Frontex mandate on rescue at sea has not been addressed and nor has its inadequate budget, which is around Euro 2.9m monthly – just one-third of Mare Nostrum’s. Instead, increased cooperation between Europol, Eurojust, the European Asylum Support Office and Frontex and the deployment of immigration liaison officers to “gather intelligence on smugglers” are very vague action points which appear to merely repackage existing measures.

Needed: a joined-up policy

It is actually quite clear what the EU should be aiming for. First, a much larger rescue-at-sea operation should immediately be put in place. Since Italy halted Mare Nostrum, deaths at sea have increased rapidly. Its inadequate replacement, Triton, provides a convenient scapegoat for politicians who should never have mandated Frontex – the EU Border agency – for the task of rescue at sea in the first place. What is needed from the EU is to agree a collective system of rescue at sea – rather than relying on the efforts of individual EU member states.

Second, there must be safer, legal, avenues for asylum in Europe. Migrants are not just fleeing poverty, they are fleeing violence, danger and repression. At present most of them end up in Libya, which is in itself a very dangerous place; the hope of reaching safety in Europe prompts these refugees to risk highly perilous – and expensive – escape routes. Many are dying at sea.

This is not likely to go away anytime soon and building legal, virtual or real fences won’t help. For some of those migrants, Europe could offer humanitarian visas and others could take advantage of family reunion with relatives already in Europe. Employment programmes could identify jobs to fill key shortages in the European economy. Offering more and easier legal means would necessarily lead to a fall in irregular migration.

We also need to establish a joined-up policy involving not just destination countries, but places of origin and transit countries. For many years the EU has been relying on non-members to police its borders. This is a flawed approach – rather than simply offering financial compensation, the EU needs to revise its incentives and provide what these origin and transit countries want: visa facilitation and trade and access to the EU single market. It’s time to work out an effective cooperation, not merely trying to impose a top-down security agenda, which is doomed to fail. Also doomed to fail is the traditional approach which has relied on southern European states and their neighbours dealing with the surge of refugees.

Meanwhile, in Libya. EPA/STR

Click to enlarge

The Dublin convention, which was established in 1990 to regulate the assignment of asylum applications processing, is surely no longer viable. A system that reassigns applications of asylum-seekers to the country they first entered puts southern Europe under excessive strain – especially as countries such as Greece lacks the capacity to host and process applications while observing their human rights obligations. The 2015 Tarakhel vs. Switzerland is the latest of a series of cases which highlight the inefficiency of that system. It is high time to review the notion of “burden-sharing” within the EU.

Not needed: the Australian solution

Tony Abbott’s suggestion that Europe should follow Australia’s example and simply turn boats back, or ship all rescued refugees and migrants to off-shore processing centres is certainly not a serious proposal. By diverting migrants to Papua New Guinea islands of Manus and Naura, Australia has been found to violate its international law obligations. Meanwhile, to Australia’s shame, Amnesty International has documented numerous human rights abuses in these processing centres.

Australia’s refugee policy is not only inhumane, but apparently rather expensive: AU$342.2m ($256.5) was spent by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for its Civil Maritime Surveillance and Response programme – which involves policing illegal maritime arrivals.

Following Australia’s example is unrealistic as it relies so heavily on siting its offshore facilities in its neighbouring countries. Given the long-standing reluctance of north African and Middle Eastern countries to play that role – and given their own limited capacities, this is never going to work. The migratory flows are much larger, for a start.

Adopting Australian’s offshore processing of boat people would not only contravene EU and international law but would also probably reveal that the EU is going adrift and that, next to a governance crisis, it is undergoing a deep moral and ethical crisis.


Eritrea: Africa's land of exodus

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 14:44 Written by

Eritrea is the world's most censored country according to a new list released by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Thousands of Eritreans flee to Europe to escape torture and arbitrary arrests.

Mohammed Idris speaks softly as he vividly recalls his journey a year ago. It took him from Eritrea to Europe. "In Libya, it was very hard. I even had to spend a month in prison," says the Eritrean. Then he ventured the crossing to Europe. "We boarded a boat and went across the Mediterranean to Italy."

Unlike many others, Mohammed Idris made it to Germany. Each year, thousands of Eritreans flee the Horn of Africa nation. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 300,000 Eritreans fled the nation of 6.5 million inhabitants last year.

It's not just the men, but also many women and their children who risk everything to take the perilous journey across the desert and into the Mediterranean. "The majority of them are very young," Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest who fled to Italy from Eritrea more than 20 years ago, told DW in an interview.

Eritrean Catholic priest Mussie Zerai founder of humanitarian organization Habeshia.

Eritrean born Catholic priest Mussie Zerai has dedicated his life to helping stranded refugees

Nowadays, he is involved in helping refugees who are in distress. "Last week, I received distress calls from the Mediterranean sea. I collected the information and passed it on to the Italian and Maltese coast guard and asked them to help these people."

Country without perspective

The human rights organization Amnesty International describes Eritrea as one of the most repressive regimes in the world. President Isaias Afewerki has been in power for 22 years. Afewerki is in effect the union head of state, head of government, commander in chief of the armed forces, parliament speaker and leader of the only authorized party, the PFDJ.

"Since 1993 when Eritrea gained independence, it has had only one president, only one party. And no opposition is allowed," says Clara Braungart, Eritrea researcher at Amnesty International.

African refugees protesting at a camp at Egypt's border with Israel.

Some of the Eritrean refugees end up in Israel after crossing Egypt

All forms of civil society are prohibited. Media is not independent as there is only one state-run TV and radio outlet. "Against this background, no freedom is possible," says Braungart.

Mekonnen Mesghena, an Eritrean and expert on migration at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, agrees. He says a climate of fear reigns and people lack any political or economic perspective. "Many people feel trapped in a permanent conflict situation."

In 1998, a simmering border dispute broke out with neighboring adversary Ethiopia. Since then, the government justifies any repression with the argument of a "threat to national security," Mesghena says. Each spark of protest is punished with arbitrary detention and torture.

Torture as a tool for oppression

"We have received many reports of people being tortured. For example, they are tied up, hung by their feet or are exposed to excessive heat," says Clara Braungart of Amnesty International.

Issaias Afewerki, President of Eritrea.

President Issaias Afewerki has lead Eritrea with an iron fist since 1993

For these reasons, the people would not even dare to speak out against the government.

There is only sporadic opposition to Eritrea's government policies. In 2012, the entire Eritrean national football team asked for asylum in Uganda after taking part in a regional tournament. In 2013, dissident military officers occupied the Ministry of Information demanding political reforms. 187 of them were immediately arrested. Last year, four Roman Catholic bishops criticized the political situation in the country in an open letter.

Another reason why many young Eritreans flee the country is military conscription, says Braungart. All men and women from the age of 18 must serve in the armed service for 16 months.

Even students are asked to complete their final year in a military camp. "People often have to serve the military for many years with very little pay," Braungart says.

A pharmacist stands inside a chemist in Eritrea's capital Asmara.

Eritrea has a rich Italian colonial legacy such as this pharmacy in the capital Asmara

If they refuse, they face imprisonment and arbitrary military service could be extended indefinitely.

Human rights violations have also been condemned by the international community. In 2012, the United Nations named Sheila Keetharuth as Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. Since then she has sought to travel to Eritrea with no success.