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Professor Dan Connel in Sweden

Saturday, 12 September 2015 12:15 Written by

Seminar Report

Today, Thursday September 10th 2015, Dan Connell has arrived in Sweden and has held a seminar at Uppsala University with students in the evening from 7,15 PM up to 9,20 PM

He presented his lecture by a brief historical analysis about the Eritrean political and liberation struggle before the independence and the current situation after the post independence Eritrea.

His main focus was on the Eritrean refugee crisis. His lecture was both in slides and analysis showing the desperate routs of the Eritrean refugees escaping from the suffocation of the brutal dictatorship in Eritrea. His presentation draws on the field research in Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Israel, South and Central America. The aim of the presentation was to draw international attention to the human rights situation in Eritrea and find out ways to deal with it.

Dan Connell is invited by the Swedish - Eritrean Partnership for Democracy and Development/ SESADU. On Saturday, 12th September 2015 he will be conducting seminar with Eritreans in Tensta Hall at 18.30Pm.


Refugees arrive on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing from Turkey in a dinghy. Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images

Syrians account for 50% of the 380,000 refugees who had arrived in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean by early September, but several other nationalities are turning up in large numbers. According to UN figures, 75% of the total refugees hail from countries in the midst of armed conflict or humanitarian crises. So apart from Syria, where are they coming from, why did they leave, and how are they reaching Europe?

Afghans – 13%

Why are they leaving?

According to the Afghan government, 80% of the country is not safe. That is because extremist groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State’s local affiliate are waging insurgencies in many provinces. Civilians are at risk from frequent bomb attacks, while many individuals are fleeing because they have received specific threats from extremists.

Yama Nayab, who travelled with his two small children through the Balkans earlier this summer, left because he was attacked by extremists angry with him for working as a surgeon with the Afghan army. “Why are you working for the government?” one assailant allegedly told him, before stabbing him four times near his heart. “Here in Afghanistan, the Americans and the pagans made a government – and you are working for that government,” he was told.

The route taken
Some are going via Pakistan, but most are walking over the border into Iran, a trek that takes up to two days. Then they drive to Iran’s border with Turkey, where they cross again on foot, in another laborious hike. If spotted by border guards, the walkers face trouble. “The Iranians fired on us near the border and killed two people,” said Rahman Niazi, 18, a computer science student who reached Europe this year.

Once in Turkey, Afghans take a day’s bus journey to the same Aegean ports many Syrians are using to reach Greece. Some pay €10,000 (£7,250) to smugglers to organise each stage of their journey. Others move on a more ad-hoc basis.
It's not at war, but up to 3% of its people have fled. What is going on in Eritrea?
Read more

Eritreans – 8%

Why are they leaving?

Eritrea is Africa’s version of North Korea, a country with no constitution, court system, elections or free press. Outside of the metropolitan elite, most Eritreans must submit to a form of forced labour – lifelong military conscripts who have no choice about where they live or work. Any dissenters are sent to prison without any judicial recourse.

“Eritrea has become an earthly hell, an earthly inferno for its people, and that’s why they are taking such huge risks to their personal lives to escape the situation,” said Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, the former head of Eritrea’s central bank and ex-ambassador to the EU. “It’s become unliveable.”

The route taken
Most walk over the border into Ethiopia or Sudan, a dangerous first step that sees some shot by border guards or kidnapped for ransom by smugglers. If they make it to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, they then being a brutal journey through the Sahara to Libya. To cross the desert, smugglers cram about 30 people into the back of pick-up trucks. Many refugees die of dehydration en route and trucks often go missing during sandstorms.

The trauma does not end in Libya. Most people carry no cash, in case it is stolen, and do not pay upfront in case the smuggler leaves without them. So on arrival in the town of Ajdabiya, in north-east Libya, they are held in smugglers’ compounds and usually tortured until their families send the $2,000 (£1,300) required for payment. This process is often repeated at least once – for a similar ransom – at a location further along the Libyan coast, before the refugees are permitted to board a ramshackle boat to Italy from one of the country’s western ports.
Eritrean refugees at the Shire refugee camp in Ethiopia

Eritrean refugees at the Shire refugee camp in Ethiopia. Photograph: Vincent Defait/AFP/Getty Images

Nigerians – 4%
Why are they leaving?

Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, continues to fight an insurgency in northern Nigeria, killing and kidnapping locals and forcing many to flee. “Boko Haram is everywhere, killing innocent people every day,” said Vincent Collins, 24, who described himself asa victim of the conflict. “Bombing, fighting, every day. It’s so terrible.”

Other Nigerians are escaping from poverty. Many have a story like that of Paul Ohioyah, a plumber and part-time pastor who tried to reach Europe earlier this summer. He said life was untenable in Nigeria because he would only get two plumbing jobs each month. “So before you’ve got another customer, you’ve had to spend what you earned the last time,” said Ohioyah, who is still on the coast of north Africa after unsuccessfully attempting to reach Europe by boat. “It’s better that I die here than go back to Nigeria.”

The route taken
Most head over the northern border to Niger and take public buses to the city of Agadez, a smuggling hub on the cusp of the Sahara. From here, they join the smuggling trail to Libya, experiencing similar horrors to Eritreans crossing the desert from Sudan – kidnap, torture and death by dehydration. Smugglers take them to Sabha, in south-west Libya, for about £150. From there, for a similar fee, different smugglers transport them to ports on Libya’s western coast.

Somalians – 3%

Why are they leaving?

As in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islamist insurgents, including al-Shabaab, are fighting an insurgency, with civilians caught in the middle. Eissa Abdirahman, 18, a footballer with one of the country’s second-tier teams, said he left because he was attacked by al-Shabaab militants and told to stop playing football. “They put a gun to my head and kicked me,” said Abdirahman, shortly after being rescued from the Mediterranean earlier this month. “They said: ‘If you don’t stop playing football, we will kill you.’”

The route taken
One popular route is through Kenya, Uganda and south Sudan. Then people head north to Khartoum, where most follow the same route and adversities as the Eritreans. But a smattering of refugees now follow the Balkan route – into Kenya, fly to Iran, then cross the Iranian-Turkish border, before heading by boat to Greek islands.

Refugees at a reception centre for asylum seekers in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany
Refugees from Pakistan sitting on the grass at a reception centre for asylum seekers in Eisenhüttenstadt, eastern Germany. Photograph: Patrick Pleul/dpa/Corbis

Pakistanis – 3%
Why are they leaving?

More than 1.2 million Pakistanis have been displaced by insurgencies in north-west Pakistan, according to the UN, and by some estimates, more than 20,000 civilians have been killed. The well-documented attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai and the December 2014 massacre of 100 schoolchildren in Peshawar are prominent examples of the threats ordinary people face from extremists.

The route taken
Like Afghans, Pakistanis walk into Iran, then take a bus to the border with Turkey, where they cross again on foot. They then pick up the Balkan route that begins on the Turkish coast.
Iraqis – 3%

Why are they leaving?
Vast swaths of Iraq, including its second city, Mosul, have recently been conquered by Isis, worsening a nightmare that began with the west’s invasion of the country in 2003. “They force people to pray by force, they use us as their human shields,” said Ahmad, a civil servant who fled Mosul a month ago, and recently reached central Europe. “They’ve also murdered many people, and detained many others before killing them.”

The route taken
Iraq borders Turkey, so most reach Turkey by land and then take boats to Greek islands.
Sudanese – 2%

Why are they leaving?
Civil wars in the country’s Darfur and Kordofan regions continue to displace civilians. Mohamed Abdallah, 21, from Darfur, said he was forced to flee aged 12, when government militias destroyed his village, killed many of the local people, and raped his sisters. “There is a war in my country, there’s no security, no equality, no freedom,” he said. He tried to reach Europe earlier this summer, after the war spread into south Sudan, where he had first fled to.
From Syria to Sudan: how do you count the dead?
Read more

Darfur is still unsafe – a Human Rights Watch report recently alleged that the Sudanese government had carried out many killings and mass-rapes of civilians in dozens of towns.

The route taken
Sudanese refugees can easily reach their capital, Khartoum, from where they are smuggled to Libya, and then across the Mediterranean to Italy. Like Eritreans and Somalians, many die of thirst in the desert and fall victim to extortion and torture by smugglers in Libya.

Statistical source: the UN refugee agency.



Sunday, 06 September 2015 10:57 Written by


Those elderly veteran fighters who gave everything they can to their people and nation should be admired and appreciated. According to our culture people say "Nzigeberlka Giberelu wey Ngerelu" which means shorty those who did good deserves at least appreciation for what they did. Bologna Forum always values and appreciates the sacrifice of our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who paid and who are paying the ultimate price in bringing Justice and Democracy to Eritrea. In the upcoming Oakland Bologna Forum, Prof. Bereket Habteselassie will receive his Award of Excellence from the organizers. Bringing our culture of mutual respect to where it was is one means of struggle to defeat the disrespectful one man led regime in Eritrea. Please come and join us in this historic day, were the father of the Eritrean Constitution 1997 receives his Award.

Prof Bereket Habteselassie

Thank you Prof. Bereket Habteselassie for your service as a Freedom fighter, Chairman of Constitutional Commission of Eritrea and now as a father and adviser for the democratic struggle at hand.

It is one of the tragedies of the plight of Eritrean refugees that even when they have escaped from the repression that has engulfed their own country they are not free.

A network of spies and informers has been carefully nurtured by the Eritrean regime to spy on their own citizens abroad.

The Eritrean diaspora is under constant surveillance – and they know it.

Go to almost any Eritrean opposition gathering and you will see them: young men and women who gather information and intelligence on anyone who steps out of line.

A meeting I held with the renowned Eritrean scholar, Dan Connell, was subjected to harrassment and was filmed by government supporters.

The image above is an example of their work.

Sometimes they go further.

Meetings are broken up and anyone who speaks out against the repression of President Isaias Afwerki is heckled and shouted down.

The youth wing of the ruling party – the YPFDJ – are among the most actively involved in these attempts at intimidation.

I have experienced this myself at first hand on several occasions, but Eritreans are treated much more harshly.

Openly violent

Eri Blood

In a previous article I have dealt with the violence that is sometimes meted out against anyone who attempts to protest against Eritrean government events.

During last year’s Bologna festival two members of the official security staff allegedly attacked demonstrators, injuring two of them.

One needed stitches in his head, the other to his head and back.

The Festival security staff were identified by the distinctive T-shirts they wear, with a read heart logo called “Eri blood” with a picture of a red heart.

During a demonstration outside the festival, Eritrean government supporters tried to provoke the opposition by driving their car into the demonstrators.

One person was injured.

Surveillance in Scandinavia

This is what Tewlede Ghirma told Radio Assena on 9 July this year.

He explained that an Eritrean he shared a house with in Norway – Michael – threatened him as a member of the opposition.

His computer was hacked and although Tewelde reported this to the police nothing was done. Meanwhile his family in Asmara was arrested and detained for three weeks until they managed to escape.

Tewdle says Michael travels to Eritrea frequently and is involved in smuggling. Twelde says he believes Michael is behind the hacking of his computer and the arrest of his family.

Tewelde is convinced that he is targeted because of his opposition to the regime. And his case is not an isolated one.

Eritreans in Norway and Sweden have complained that they hare systematically harassed, their computers and mobile phones hacked and pressure exerted on them because of their politics.

The UN Commission of Inquiry

Considerable international attention has been given to the UN Commission’s findings on the human rights abuses conducted by the regime which – they concluded – are so severe they might constitute ‘crimes against humanity.’

Little attention was paid to what the commissioners had to say about the Eritrean spy network around the world. Below I have incorporated what was said. It is worrying.

Clearly the regime has constructed a sophisticated system of keeping its disapora under surveillance.

This is something governments around the world need to halt.

From the Commission Report

(ii)     Eritrean diaspora

  1. The spying web has its outposts outside Eritrea, used to control the Eritrean population in the various countries where they reside. Eritrean resentations in foreign countries recruit spies to conduct surveillance of Eritreans in the diaspora. Allegedly, Government operatives are active in almost every other place Eritreans live.[1] Information obtained by the Commission indicates that, to conduct spying activities on their behalf, embassies often approach individuals from within the Eritrean communities abroad, in particular those who pay the 2 per cent Rehabilitation Tax as this is perceived as a form of support to the Government.[2]

One witness who reported having been a spy for an Eritrean embassy told the Commission that “In 1997, Mr. [A], the consul in [a foreign country]… called me for a meeting joined by other spies. They told us we should continue our struggle in [a foreign country]. He introduced us to each other and started meeting us individually. There was an organisation … We were assigned to this organisation, not to work but to ensure the PFDJ was represented in every organisation. They wanted me to join the board. I refused, arguing I was too young and inexperienced. Later, Mr. A told me he had a job for me. He told me I should work for them as a security agent in [city Z]. He said this would only be between him and me. Later, he gave me appointments and said I would always be able to enter the consulate, without needing permission and without having to wait for an appointment. Even the people at the consulate were not allowed to ask us any questions. I received a schedule for the entire week. I was asked to go every day to different hotels or restaurants. There were three shifts per day. We were asked to chat with people who came to those places and report on what we heard. Every day, I had to report back to the consul in person. I believed this was the right thing to do … We had to observe every religious group. Those working in the religious groups are church members and PFDJ members at the same time … We did not know who was an agent and who was not. The work was organised by the consul alone, not with others. Now they have people who don’t trust each other. At the time, it was different … I decided to discontinue my work with them.”

  1. The Commission heard accounts of how spies track individuals who are considered to be political dissidents or engaging in religious activities that are not authorised in Eritrea.[3]

A person told the Commission that: “My brother and my father cannot go back to Eritrea because they belong to the opposition party. There are spies in [a foreign country] who spy on what Eritreans do there.”

Another person told the Commission that: “People cannot speak freely. Even here in [a foreign country], Eritreans cannot speak freely because the Government of Eritrea sends people to spy on those who have fled Eritrea.”

  1. The focus of this espionage also includes political organizations and religious entities. However, more generally the purpose of the surveillance by embassy operatives is for the Government to detect any suspicious and undesirable conduct, namely conduct that is perceived to be against the policies or needs of the Government.[4]
  2. Eritreans in the diaspora, for fear of reprisals, have felt the negative impact of the spying and surveillance on their lives. Many people spoke about the fear of returning to Eritrea to visit because they might have been backlisted due to their political and other activities. Other people told the Commission about how they felt constrained to join organisations in the diaspora or express free opinions regarding the situation in the country. Most importantly, the Commission found that there are legitimate fears among Eritreans in the diaspora that the Eritrean Government engages in phone tapping and email surveillance in Eritrea such that they cannot freely communicate with their relatives in the country.[5]

(c)     Other means to conduct spying and surveillance

(i)     Intimidation and harassment

  1. The Commission gathered information indicating that the spy web of the Government of Eritrea uses intimidation – specifically in the form of threats and retaliation against family members – and harassment to collect information. This is done to put pressure on people within and outside Eritrea.[6]

A witness told the Commission that: “When I left the country, the security forces kept on asking my wife if I was coming back or not. They made frequent visits to the house. They tried to make her their informant so that they could extract information about my activities. They thought that I was involved in political activities. In 2008, due to the visits and harassment, she packed and left the country with the children.

In a submission received by the Commission, a man who was harassed by security agents reported: “The darkest night for me was actually after I was released from jail. Every morning and every evening the national security forces were coming to my family and asking, ‘What did you do? Did your daughter recant? What did you do?’ This happened almost every day. My family kept telling me, ‘If you do not recant, if you do not leave this religion, you are going to send us to prison’.

Another person whose mother was detained for asking questions told the Commission that: “In Asmara, there were always people watching our family. I first began to notice it in 2009. They were always in the same cars, the same people. They just sat outside our apartment when we were home and followed us when we went out. They never said anything to us or touched us. However, on one occasion my mother was stopped on her way home from work. She was asked where she was coming from and she asked who they were. They told her that they were from the security agency. She asked to see their badges. She was not satisfied and told them that she would not respond. She was arrested and detained for a day.

During the conduct of interviews with Eritreans in the diaspora, one witness told the Commission that “A colleague and I have received death threats for the past three weeks from someone in Asmara. My colleague … called back and recorded the conversation. We are told the number is an intelligence number.

A son whose father was arrested and detained for the former’s alleged political activities in the diaspora told the Commission that: “My father was imprisoned for 20 months when he returned from [a foreign country]… We do not know why he was arrested and he was not told the reasons either. But when he returned to Eritrea, before he was arrested, intelligence people asked him about my political activities. He was told to ask me to leave the political organisation I was affiliated to.

Another witness told the Commission that while he was living abroad, his mother was approached by national security officers: “One day when going to work she spoke to a woman in the intelligence unit who said to her ‘Your son is very active in the opposition, why don’t you tell him to just concentrate on his studies?’ to which my mother replied ‘You know today’s children, they don’t listen to their mothers’.”


Eritreans, Friends of Eritrea, Swiss associations and non-governmental organizations will hold information stands to inform the Swiss public opinion on problems of Eritrea and Eritreans.

From September to October 2015, information stands will be held in major Swiss cities including Geneva, Zurich, Berne, Basel, Lucerne, Lausanne and Fribourg. Our compatriots wish to establish a dialogue with the population on the issue of Eritrea in the context of the current electoral debates.

This electoral context requires parties to take a position on issues that affect our country, the reasons of our exile and the situation of Eritrean refugees in Switzerland. Unfortunately, these positions are very frequently based on insufficient information about the current situation in Eritrea and sometimes leading some to define the Eritrean refugees as economic migrants. Others brandish development aid to the State of Eritrea to stem the flow of migrants.

These debates surprise us much but they have the advantage of motivating us to inform more about the political and social situation of our country.

Therefore, the purpose of these information stands is to initiate a dialogue through direct and pragmatic exchange with the Swiss population and, at the same time, with political parties on the current situation of Eritrea. For many years now, gross violations of human rights have been perpetrated by the Eritrean authorities over its entire population. 
The themes we will address in our information stands will be:
- The proposals made by the various political parties during the summer;
- The totalitarian system in Eritrea and crimes against humanity that may have been committed there (forced labor, sexual slavery, arbitrary imprisonment, extrajudicial executions, etc.);
- Illegal activities of the Eritrean consulate in Geneva;
By force of circumstances, we have been propelled at the centre of the debate. We take the stage!
"Those who believe that the Eritreans leave their country for economic reasons only ignore the sad record of the country's human rights."
Mike Smith,
President of the UN Commission of 
Inquiryon Human Rights in Eritrea
Media are cordially invited to cover this action.
Dates:     Geneva, Saturdays 12, 19 and 26 September
               Lausanne, Saturday 5 and September 19
Information on the place, time and dateswill be announced later.
Media Contacts

Genève: Mme HudaBakhet (078.618.38.90), M. FilmonAbraha (076.389.39.82)

Lausanne: Mme SenaitAlmedom (079.625.20.63), 

Fribourg: M. Siem Haile (076.382.86.06)

Bern : M. Michael Rezene Haile (

Basel: Mme AlmazZerai (0049.177.552.94.77), M. George Drar 

Lucerne: M. Samson Kidane (076.443.14.86)

More Eritreans filed for asylum in the UK in the year to June than any other nation. They face "systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations" at home, says the UN.


Around 6 per cent of Eritrea’s population lives outside the country, and thousands more flee every month. But why?

On the one hand the Eritrean government has much to be proud of. The country is achieving “unprecedented” success in meeting its Millennium Development Goals, particularly in the field of healthcare.

But the other side of Eritrean society is a dark and shocking place.

A recent United Nations report found that "systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the government".

Eritreans make up a large number of those fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe - around 15 per cent of the total reaching Europe’s sea border are from the country.

And the reason commonly cited for the dangerous journey to Europe - Eritrea’s national service, which though legally compulsory for 18 months, in reality amounts to "indefinite enrollment in the military where conscripts are used as "forced labour", according to the UN.

The history

Modern day Eritrea emerged from a war of independence fought over the annexation of the former Italian colony by Ethiopia. In 1993, at the end of a thirty-year military campaign carried out by the Eritrean Liberation Front and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, the country's people voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in a UN-monitored referendum.

Isaias Afewerki, leader of the EPLF, was appointed president and promised elections - but in 1997 these elections were postponed indefinitely. They have never taken place.

A constitution was also drawn up - based on the principles of equality, social justice, democratic principles and human rights. It has never been implemented.

In June, the UN's Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea reported its findings.

"The struggle for the independence of Eritrea is recorded in history as a major feat of a people's fight for self-determination," the report reads.

"The commission finds that the current situation of human rights in Eritrea is the tragic product of an initial desire to protect and ensure the survival of the young state that very quickly degenerated into the use of totalitarian practices aimed at perpetuating the power of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front."


A migrant from Eritrea simulates what she says is a torture technique during a protest outside the European Union delegation in Israel, in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv June 25, 2015


The UN report, which has been rejected by the Eritrean government as an effort to undermine the government, describes a country where people live in fear and officials and security forces carry out gross human rights violations with impunity.

Extra-judicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrest all take place, the report says.

A former Eritrean interrogator told the UN: "Torture includes beating with whips, plastic tubes and electric sticks, standing [under the sun] on a very hot sunny day at noon, tying the hands and feet like the figure of eight, tying the hands and feet backwards (known as "helicopter"), tying to trees, forcing the head down into a container with very cold water, beating the soles of the feet and the palms.

"In addition, the interrogator is allowed to use whatever fantasy comes to his mind."

Civilians live in a climate of fear created by "extensive spying and surveillance" and there is a "constant fear" that the security services are monitoring people's activities.

"The existence of such a pervasive control system generates a general climate of fear and mistrust in communities and even within families," the commission found.

The Eritrean government has dismissed the findings of the reports, saying: "Country-specific resolutions and mandates are in breach of the United Nations principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity."

With regards press freedom Eritrea is often considered to be on a par with North Korea, and the Committee to Protect Journalists list Eritrea as the most censored country in the world.

But the reason cited by many for leaving the country, and facing the perils of human-trafficking gangs and dangerous sea crossings, is national service.

Indefinite military service

National service was brought in in 1995 in Eritrea. It is intended to last for 18 months, including six months training at Eritrea's military academy SAWA, for all 18-year-olds.

The reality, according to the UN, "children are often forcibly recruited and conscripts end up serving for an indefinite period of time".

Conditions in military service, the UN commission found, includes inadequate access to food, water, hygenic facilities, accommodation and medical services.

Violence is reportedly regularly used as punishment, in some cases amounting to torture.

And for women and girls conscripted, the abuse does not stop there. Officials pick out the prettiest military trainees to serve them domestically, and these conscripts are often sexually abused or raped, the UN said.

The UN commission heard from conscripts who said that the abuse of females during military training was "normal".

"Over 70 per cent of the girls were violated like that," one said.

"Students are not allowed to go to the officers' rooms, but sometimes the officers ask them to come to their house.

"The girls cannot say no because they know what will happen in training if they say no. When they enter the room, the officers tell them to take off their clothes and they abuse them. The girls do not report it."

Military service often entails manual work, called "forced labour" by the UN. Conscripts spend their time doing agricultural work or constructing roads, buildings and mine infrastructure - all for meagre pay.

The indefinite nature of military service prevents people from starting families, the report said. Conscientious objection does not exist in Eritrea, and those who desert or try to avoid service are said to be dealt with harshly.

The Eritrean government denies that military service is indefinite and at the end of 2014 is reported to have declared that service would be limited to 18 months, though this announcement was reportedly not made to the Eritrean public.

UK's tougher asylum controls for Eritreans

The UK Government has been accused of closing the door to thousands of asylum-seekers from Eritrea in an attempt to hit its discredited immigration target.

In March, the Government announced a new policy towards Eritrean asylum-seekers, saying that conscription is no longer automatic grounds for granting asylum because Eritrea has stopped the practice of indefinite military service.

However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticised the UK's policy, saying it is based "almost exclusively" on a "discredited" Danish Government report.

The Danish document released this year claimed that Eritreans returning to their home country would not face punishment providing they signed a "letter of apology". It also said that Eritrea had stopped the practice of indefinite military service.

HRW said there is "no evidence" that the Eritrean Government have made these changes on the ground. "The reliance on a weak and discredited report suggests the Home Office is more interested in keeping asylum seekers out than in protecting people in danger," said Senior Researcher Gerry Simpson.

Diaspora tax in the UK

Even for the Eritreans that manage to claim asylum in the UK, freedom from the influence of the Eritrean Government is not a given.

In 2012 the UN Security Council banned the Eritrean Embassy from collecting a 2% tax from its UK diaspora by illcit means.

But despite the ban, complaints have been made that embassy is continuing to collect the tax from Eritreans resident in the UK by coercion and other illicit means. In March, a group of Eritreans presented the Met Police with a dossier of allegations that the tax was being extracted illegally.

The Met Police confirmed that had been contacted by members of Eritrean community about the issue. "Officers are assessing the information provided to them to establish whether any offence has been committed.", it said.

The Etrirean ambassador told the Foreign Office at the start of the year that it does not collect the tax, though it provides advice to those that wish to pay it voluntarily. It is understood that the embassy issues receipts for taxes paid on behalf of the diaspora in Asmara.

"The government of Eritrea requires all non-resident citizens to pay a 2 per cent diaspora tax in order to access services inside Eritrea. Many other countries, such as the US, levy a similar tax on their non-resident citizens.", an FCO Spokeswoman said.

Millennium Development Goals

Amidst this darkness, however, there is a positive story to tell about Eritrea.

The United Nations Development Programme praises the "remarkable progress" Eritrea has made in achieving its Millennium Development Goals - especially in health care.

Infant and child mortality rates in the country have reduced dramatically, as has maternal mortality.

Incidence of HIV/AIDS has plummeted from 45 per 100,000 people in 2001 to eight in 2012.

Since 1999, Eritrea's malaria mortality rate has fallen by 90 per cent.

However, the UN says more needs to be done - specifically in relation to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and universal primary education.

Despite the development progress, between 3,000 and 4,000 people leave the country every month. The UN's refugee agency estimates that more than 33,000 Eritreans live outside the country - around 6 per cent of the country's population.

Embargoes and sanctions

As a member of the UN and the EU, the UK observes an arms embargo on Eritrea. It is an open-ended ban on the export of arms and related military material to and from the country.

The UN sanctions were imposed in 2009 in response to findings by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia that Eritrea had provided political, financial and logistical support to armed groups in Somalia.

The UK is one of Eritrea's main export partners for non-military goods.

Eritrea does not receive aid from the UK.




The UK Government is paving the way to begin returning asylum seekers to Eritrea, despite the UN recently condemning the country’s government for ‘gross human rights violations’ which could be tantamount to ‘crimes against humanity’.

New statistics published today show there has been a dramatic rise in the number of Eritrean asylum applicants being refused refugee status in Britain. Between April and June this year, just 34% of decisions on Eritrean asylum claims were grants of protection, compared to 73% in the first quarter of 2015.

The drop has been attributed to new, flawed guidelines on Eritrea introduced by the Home Office. Since March 2015 these have been relied upon by civil servants when making decisions on asylum claims.

The Home Office’s updated Country Guidance Information is largely based on the findings of a report commissioned for the Danish Government in late 2014, which had suggested that the Eritrean government may be carrying out reforms that would allow Eritrean asylum seekers fleeing Eritrea’s abusive, indefinite national conscription program to be safely returned to the country.

However, the Danish government has subsequently distanced itself from the report following widespread condemnation including from the report’s only named source and human rights groups. The Danish government has since acknowledged that most Eritreans would still receive protection in Denmark.

The UK Government has also apparently failed to acknowledge the damning findings of a UN report released in June, which accused the Eritrean government of what could be tantamount to crimes against humanity.

The UN report strongly urges continued international protection for Eritrean refugees fleeing human rights violations, and warns against sending them back to danger in a country that punishes anyone who tries to leave without permission.

Despite the UN’s findings and the U-turn from the Danish government, the UK’s new guidelines remain unchanged and have led to a significant rise in the number of Eritreans in Britain faced with possible return to the tyrannical regime.

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: "The cynicism of the Home Office in denying protection to Eritreans fleeing a regime accused by the UN only two months ago of systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations is truly shameful.

"The number seeking safety in Britain is small and entirely manageable, yet we slam the door in their faces by basing life and death decisions on dodgy, discredited reports which fly in the face of all credible evidence.

"If the Government is serious about protecting refugees, it must urgently change its guidelines to reflect the UN’s findings, and review immediately the cases of Eritreans who have been refused asylum since March on the basis of deeply flawed guidelines."

Eritreans are the only other group apart from Syrians eligible for relocation from the EU’s bordering states across the rest of Europe as they are deemed ‘persons in clear need of international protection’.

The UN estimates that thousands of Eritreans are fleeing the country every month, driven by the prospect of indefinite national service. Everyone from the age of 17 can be conscripted into the military, and UN investigators say "slavery-like practices" are widespread in Eritrea, with conscripts subjected to hard labour, with poor food, bad hygiene and wretched pay.

Most Eritreans are unable to get the visas they need to leave the country legally. Once they have fled, those who return risk being arrested as ‘traitors’. The UN documented some Eritrean returnees suffering detention years and being mistreated “to the point of torture”.

Eritreans form the third largest group of migrants risking their lives to reach safety crossing the Mediterranean after Syrians and Afghans. Eritreans are currently the top nationality of people seeking safety in Britain.


Fedpol ermittelt gegen eritreische Botschaft

Thursday, 27 August 2015 23:39 Written by


Aktualisiert um 09:15


    Eritrea sei ein sicheres Land, so der Befund eines dänischen Berichts, auf den sich Europas Politiker oft stützen. Doch jetzt ermittelt sogar das Fedpol gegen die Botschaft in der Schweiz.

  • Basler Zeitung
  • Flucht vor dem Regime: Eritreische Asylsuchende in einer Zivilschutzanlage im Tessin.
    Bild: GABRIELE PUTZU/Keystone


    Das eritreische Regime versucht offenbar, von im Ausland lebenden Landsleuten eine sogenannte «Diaspora-Steuer» einzutreiben. Entsprechende Hinweise von Eritreern in der Schweiz führten nun dazu, dass das Bundesamt für Polizei (Fedpol) gegen die eritreische Botschaft in der Schweiz ermittelt. Eine Sprecherin des Bundesamts bestätigte das gestern in der SRF-Sendung «Rundschau». Die Steuer betrage zwei Prozent des Einkommens, sagen Betroffene. Oppositionelle mutmassen, dass das Geld in die Taschen der Funktionäre fliesst.

    Die «Diaspora-Steuer» wurde von den Schweizer Behörden bisher lediglich zur Kenntnis genommen. 2013 hatte SP-Nationalrätin Jacqueline Fehr eine Interpellation eingereicht, die unter anderem danach fragte, wie die Schweiz gegen «die Schutzgelderpressungen durch die Regierung Eritreas vorzugehen» gedenke.

    Der Bundesrat antwortete daraufhin: «Wenn sich herausstellen sollte, dass Eritrea ohne Bewilligung der Schweiz aktive Massnahmen zur Eintreibung von Steuergeldern vornimmt (...)», könnte die Schweiz strafrechtlich dagegen vorgehen. Dieser Fall ist jetzt offenbar eingetroffen. Das Fedpol sammelt nun «harte Fakten».

    Bericht ist «komplette Fehlleistung»

    Die eingeleiteten Ermittlungen des Fedpol rütteln auch an der Aussage, Eritrea sei ein sicheres Land, seine Staatsbürger würden nicht verfolgt und könnten ohne Weiteres zurückkehren, wie es als Fazit eines Berichts der dänischen Immigrationsbehörde heisst. Geht es um die Verschärfung der Asylpolitik gegen Eritreer, bedienen sich Politiker in ganz Europa, auch in der Schweiz, gern des Dokuments als Beleg für eine problemlose Rückführung.

    An dem Papier übt nun ausgerechnet der ehemalige Chef-Berichterstatter der dänischen Immigrationsbehörde und Leiter der jüngsten Fact-Finding-Misson nach Eritrea massiv Kritik. Der Bericht sei «eine komplette Fehlleistung», sagt Jens Olesen in der «Rundschau». So seien etwa Zitate aus dem Kontext gerissen worden. Kritische Quellen wie die Uno-Berichterstatterin habe man ignoriert.

    «Unsere Arbeit wurde politisch missbraucht»

    «Ich kann nicht hinter diesem Bericht und der Mission nach Eritrea stehen. Unsere Arbeit wurde politisch missbraucht, um die Asyl-Politik gegenüber Eritreern zu verschärfen», sagt der 63-Jährige, der 20 Jahre lang Fact-Finding-Missionen und Länder-Berichterstattungen für die Behörde durchgeführt hat. In der SRF-Sendung beschreibt er das Zustandekommen des Dokuments als höchst ungewöhnlich.

    So sei sein Vorgesetzter entgegen der Gewohnheiten mitgereist und habe von den befragten Quellen nur hören wollen, dass Eritrea für Rückkehrer sicher sei. «Er war so davon besessen, dass er uns sogar eine Lohnerhöhung versprach, falls die Gerichte in Dänemark die neue Asylpolitik stützen würden», sagt Olesen. Früher als geplant wurde der Experte dann abgezogen.

    Als er und ein Kollege sich schliesslich weigerten, den Bericht zum Schluss zu bringen, Eritrea sei ein sicheres Land und diese Kritik immer wieder öffentlich äusserten, waren sie ihren Job los. Die Verantwortlichen weisen die Vorwürfe ihres langjährigen Mitarbeiters zurück.(kko)

    Erstellt: 27.08.2015, 08:50 Uhr

  • Source=

Migrant destitution in Europe

Tuesday, 25 August 2015 10:39 Written by


Throughout Europe, thousands of migrants are deprived of their basic needs and denied their fundamental human rights. They have little or no access to education, social welfare, housing, healthcare and employment. They are left destitute as a consequence of state laws and policies. Their exclusion from society leads to new, invisible, borders that divide local communities, regions and countries.

For the last six years JRS has investigated the lives of destitute migrants in Europe, and the state policies that heave led to their situation. Its 2010 report, Living in Limbo, presents the reality of destitution in 13 countries.

Destitution affects many groups of migrants living in Europe, particularly individuals who have had their refugee application refused, or persons with an irregular legal status, but for valid reasons are unable to return to their country of origin. But destitution also affects those who already have a right to stay: persons in the process of applying for asylum, and person show have been officially recognised as refugees.

Who is affected by destitution?

Recognised refugees
Individuals and families who are granted international protection in an EU member state are not always as well taken care of as law requires. Throughout Europe there are refugees living in sub-standard conditions, and who are unable to receive treatment for injuries and trauma that have resulted from persecution.
In Italy, for example, there are no programmes to assist recognised refugees with housing, employment, or their social welfare needs. Many live in dilapidated shacks in Rome, unable to live a dignified life.

Asylum seekers
Many persons who apply for asylum protection in Europe do not have access to basic reception conditions during their determination procedure, or while they are in the appeals phase. Left without secure housing, medical care and employment, they are placed at a fundamental disadvantage at a time when they are extremely vulnerable.
Undocumented migrants
Many become undocumented due to serious livelihood pressures. They may have been refused asylum protection, or may have overstayed their visa, being unable to return home due to economic, social and political instability. They live in Europe without the most basic and fundamental rights.
Persons with a tolerated status
Throughout Europe there are persons who cannot return home for valid reasons. Their embassies may not come forward with necessary documentation, or the authorities may be unable to undertake removal. Many times these persons are given a ‘tolerated’ status. They can stay in the territory, but can do little else. In Germany, holders of ‘toleration’ hardly receive any social support. They remain stuck in a downward spiral of destitution, excluded from society.


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