by Martin Plaut

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

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

Martin


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

Source: The Guardian

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

 Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

Wednesday 1 February 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Martin Plaut and Leonard Vincent

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

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

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

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

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

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

The route through the Sinai and Israel has been closed.

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

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

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

Libya: the final brick in the ‘wall’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Germany’s aid threat

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

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

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

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

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

Europe and Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

A legal route into Europe

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

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

EU and Eritrea

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all this for what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human rights abuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Expedited’ immigration process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Canada help Eritreans in Israel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source=http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/refugee-pushes-canada-help-asylum-seekers-israel-821337504

Hundreds of African refugees have held a protest rally in front of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to voice their anger at the Tel Aviv regime’s policy of mass detention and deportation against them.

Israeli media reported that some 1,000 protesters, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese, gathered outside the legislature as well as the Supreme Court in Jerusalem al-Quds on Thursday.

Some were holding up banners reading, “Black lives matter,” and “Don’t force us to leave and look for refuge elsewhere.” Others were carrying pictures of the refugees, who had been deported.

More than 10,000 African asylum seekers, mainly Sudanese and Eritreans, have been held at the Holot detention facility in the Negev, with officials there allowed to keep them for a maximum of 12 months.

Tel Aviv has sought to strike deals with other African nations to take in some of the African refugees.

However, the organizers of the Thursday march say asylum seekers who have been deported to third-party African states face the risk of being repatriated back to their homeland.

In a letter addressed to the Supreme Court justices, the organizers of the march denounced the deportation policy as “coercive”, saying, “This policy is cruel, illegal and unacceptable. We should not be imprisoned or thrown to other countries in Africa that are not ours and don’t accept us.”

Less than one percent of the asylum seekers have had their pleas recognized by the Israeli authorities since the regime signed the UN Refugee Convention around six decades ago.

African asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, hold up placards showing migrants whom they say were killed after being deported from Israel during a protest in Jerusalem al-Quds, January 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

During the march, Tekle Negash, a 21-year-old Eritrean refugee who came alone to Israel in 2012, said he has been kept in Holot for the past three months under “horrid” conditions.

“It’s very crowded, and there is only one shower and one toilet for us,” he said. “The food there is very bad, and in the summer it’s very hot, and in the winter it’s very cold. We can leave for 12 hours, but we are not allowed to work.”

Media reports in the past years have suggested that a number of African states have reached secret agreements with Tel Aviv, in which they accept unwanted refugees in return for arms, military training and other aid from Israel.

Read more

Last July, Benjamin Netanyahu went on a four-nation tour of sub-Saharan Africa, the first such visit by an Israeli prime minister to the continent in almost 30 years.

During the visit, Netanyahu reportedly discussed the eviction of thousands of migrants and refugees from Sudan and Eritrea who entered Israel through Egypt.

In 2015, The Washington Post reported that Israel had spent more than USD 350 million to build a fence along its entire border with Egypt to block the entry of Africans.

There are some 45,000 African asylum seekers in Israel. Ninety-two percent of those are from Eritrea and Sudan. 

Source=http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/27/507939/Israel-Knesset-Jerusalem-Eritrea-Sudan

Refugees from Eritrea and other countries wait to be rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, north of Libya.

Refugees from Eritrea and other countries wait to be rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, north of Libya. Photograph: Santi Palacios/AP

 Documents cited in the Guardian on Monday showing that the UK governmentdownplayed the risk of human rights abuses in Eritreain an attempt to reduce asylum-seeker numbers are the latest indication of Britain’s determination to reduce African immigration. But this is a Europe-wide initiative, co-ordinated in Brussels.

WithFrench, German, Dutch and Italian elections later this year, there is intense pressure across the European Union to cut the flows of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean. European plans to deal with the question have been veiled in secrecy, since they involve close cooperation with some of Africa’s most notorious dictatorships.

The German magazine Der Spiegel revealed a warning from the European commission that “under no circumstances” should the public learn what was said during talks held in March last year. A member of staff working forFederica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, warned of the risk to Europe’s reputation.

Plans are being formulated under arrangements agreed between theEU and African leaders in Maltain November 2015. These called for close cooperation between European security services and those of African states. Among those around the table at Valletta were representatives of repressive regimes in Sudan (whose president,Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes) and Eritrea, which has been accused of crimes against humanity.

The Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
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The Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

European civil servants are fully aware of just how dangerous these proposals are, and the document includes in a list of risks the possibility that resources and equipment could be diverted “for repressive aims”.

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The Sudanese authorities have already begun what is technically termedrefoulementof Eritreans – the forcible return of asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution. In May last year hundreds were arrested in Khartoum and returned to Eritrea.

Eritrean human rights organisations suggest this process has continued.Refugeesin the Sudanese capital are fearful of leaving their homes, afraid they will be picked up by the authorities.

In Europe, these efforts are paying off: the number of people arriving from Africa is falling. The latest statistics fromFrontex– the EU-wide border agency – show that two routes have almost been sealed. There is next to no transit by sea from west Africa through the Canary Islands, and only a limited number of people arriving in Spain via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. A total of 2,162 Africans made it to Spain in the second quarter of 2016.

The second route, via the Sinai and Israel, has effectively ended. A hi-tech system of fences and detection devices, constructed by Israel in December 2013, sealed the border.

This leaves available to Africans just the central Mediterranean route through Libya and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. It was used by 51,450 people in the second quarter of 2016. But the EU is now attempting to cut this final route intoEurope. Earlier this month Italy’s interior minister, Marco Minniti, was dispatched to Tripoli to broker an agreement with Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed government of national accord, on fighting irregular migration through the country.

Minniti and Sarraj agreed to reinforce cooperation on security, the fight against terrorism and human trafficking. “There is a new impulse here — we are moving as pioneers,” Mario Giro, Italy’s deputy foreign minister, told the Financial Times. “But there is a lot of work to do, becauseLibyastill doesn’t yet have the capacity to manage the flows, and the country is still divided.”

Such initiatives are developing rapidly, with civil servants using aid and security co-operation to crack down on this African exodus. And while we can all recognise the domestic, political pressures that EU governments face, and which are leading them to seek to halt the flow of migrants across their borders, we must also recognise that those affected are some of the most vulnerable people from some of the most repressive countries in Africa. There must be a legal route for refugees to escape persecution.

Source=https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/26/europe-crackdown-africa-immigration-vulnerable-refugees-sudan-eritrea

A study of the North African country lays bare a ruler at war with his own people, says Joanna Lewis

January 26, 2017

·         By Joanna Lewis

President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
President Isaias Afewerki

President Isaias Afewerki
Chairman of the State Council
Chairman of the Transitional National Assembly
C-in-c of the Armed Forces
Chancellor of Institutes of Higher Learning
Chairman of the PFDJ [the sole political party]
Vice-President – vacant since 2001

There have been no elections in Eritrea since 1993. Instead, as the above extract from Martin Plaut’s masterful account perfectly illustrates, this tiny state in North Africa is ruled by dictatorship. In 2015, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry concluded that Eritreans endure “systemic widespread and gross human rights violations” and “a total lack of the rule of law”.

“Eritrea was born a one party state”, as Plaut, an Institute of Commonwealth Studies scholar and former BBC World Service Africa editor, makes clear. After its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, the rot set in. Like many African nationalist movements forced to engage in military struggle to gain power, making the adjustment to civilian rule and accepting even a murmur of opposition or a flicker of criticism was just all too much. Eritrea’s long, bitter David and Goliath-like battle against Ethiopia marked its leadership with an especially strong sense of sacrifice and entitlement.

During the years of struggle, many outsiders saw the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) as a beacon of hope. I remember reading its upbeat pamphlets in the 1980s. It was committed to rejecting ethnic difference, promoting secular socialism and progressive attitudes to women. In 1993, women made up one-third of the EPLF fighters; rape was a capital offence.

How times change. Plaut’s extensive evidence shows how the regime’s repressive stance in power is a consequence of its ruler. Known simply as Isaias, Afewerki grew up in a poor district of Asmara. In the 1960s, he went to China. Schooled in Maoist ideology, he is, however, no fan of the personality cult. His official photograph may festoon shops and cafes, but he looks nice and normal. He prefers open-necked shirts, comfortable slacks and sandals. This is no mad, swivel-eyed Idi Amin-type figure, nor the psychotic school bully meets James Bond baddie look of Kim Jong-il; nor is there a sparse ginger ferret atop his head…

But make no mistake, the absence of journalists and a free press, and the emphatic presence of a network of prisons, detention centres and labour camps are the result of rule by an “austere and narcissistic dictator; thin-skinned and hot-headed”, according to a profile compiled by a recent US ambassador. He’s also vindictive. After independence, when demobilised soldiers complained that they’d not been paid for years, many were thrown into indefinite detention. So severe is the current repression that 5,000 Eritreans try to flee across the Sahel every month. Many risk their lives to escape military conscription, which for women can include sexual abuse. Isaias is still at war, but against his own people. Even the Eritrean diaspora cannot fully escape, bullied into paying an illicit 2 per cent tax to the regime, under the watchful eye of a network of spies and informants.

Plaut has put himself at some risk by writing this book. Mirjam van Reisen, a Dutch academic who criticised the regime, was physically threatened and abused on social media. The president’s so-called Youth Wing brought a lawsuit against her in the Netherlands, accusing her of libel and slander. The accusations were thrown out. Let’s hope that this regime and its cronies will be next.

Joanna Lewis is assistant professor of imperial and African history in the department of international history, London School of Economics, and author of Empire of Sentiment: David Livingstone and the Myth of Victorian Imperialism (in press).

 

Source=https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/review-understanding-eritrea-inside-africas-most-repressive-state-martin-plaut-hurst

THEY are raped, tortured, beaten, shot and murdered but no one can help them.

Some of the world’s worst wars and conflicts are so dangerous that not even supplies or aid workers can get to the millions of citizens subjected to violence and other atrocities as they are trapped within them.

According to a new report by CARE International, many international horrors go under-reported and unnoticed because journalists and photographers are also unable to access the areas without extreme risk to their own lives.

Eritrea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Korea are among several countries that can’t be reached by aid workers or media, according to CARE International.

Children scrape for food in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Children scrape for food in the Democratic Republic of Congo.Source:Supplied

Little is known about Eritrea, a country almost completely cut off from the outside world.

Journalists and aid workers have no access to humanitarian data and many major aid organisations are not allowed to provide relief to affected people, according to the new report. According to UN estimates, about two million people are without adequate food supplies in the semi-arid country.

Ongoing conflict, slow economic growth and lifelong mandatory military service force many people to flee Eritrea.

The UN estimates that 5,000 Eritreans leave their country each month, many of them so desperate for a better life, they risk taking the perilous route across the Sahara and the

Mediterranean Sea. Eritreans constitute one of the largest groups of refugees in Europe and Africa.

 
 

Half of all children in Eritrea are stunted and cannot achieve their full mental and physical potential, because of acute malnutrition.

According to the CARE International report, Eritrea is home to one of the 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2016’.

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CONGO

It is extremely difficult for aid workers and journalists to get access to the Democratic Republic of Congo and help refugees.

It is extremely difficult for aid workers and journalists to get access to the Democratic Republic of Congo and help refugees.Source:Supplied

The report also reveals that reaching people in need in the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo is challenging as the security situation varies widely and certain areas are virtual ‘no-go’ zones for aid workers.

More than seven million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and struggling to survive amid violence, epidemics, malnutrition and natural disasters.

The country has been in a state of humanitarian crisis for more than two decades and the recent upsurge in violence in 2016 has left little hope for a peaceful transition in the near future.

Many children and adolescents living in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) know nothing but conflict after 20 years of war.

A toxic cocktail of constant fighting between numerous armed groups, droughts due to the El Niño climatic cycle and the influx of refugees from neighbouring countries such as Burundi, the Central African Republic and South Sudan have exacerbated the dire living conditions for many families.

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA / NORTH KOREA

According to CARE International, very few international organisations are allowed to provide relief in North Korea and international journalists are rarely granted access to report from inside the country.

“Very little information is available about the 18 million people — 70 per cent of the population — who do not have enough to eat,” the report read.

“Among them are more than two million children and pregnant and lactating women who are at risk of malnutrition, a severe threat to the survival of mothers and children under five.”

North Korea is prone to recurring disasters such as droughts, floods and storms. The previous two years were “abnormally dry, decreasing crop production by over 20 per cent from 2014

to 2015”. Typhoon Lionrock wreaked havoc in August, causing destructive floods and affected more than 600,000 people.

Source=http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/living-in-hell-countries-locked-in-conflict-that-no-one-can-get-to-and-help/news-story/b339ec705b834bc0e0bba0c807948aa6

Eritrea Travel Warning

Monday, 23 January 2017 10:37 Written by

 

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea due to the unpredictable security situation along Eritrea’s borders and restrictions imposed by local authorities on travel within the country. All foreign nationals, including U.S. government employees, must obtain permits to travel outside of the capital Asmara. This restriction limits the ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular/emergency services anywhere outside of Asmara. This replaces the Travel Warning dated May 6, 2015.

Avoid travel along all border regions. In June 2016, fighting in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border region reportedly caused several deaths.  Continued political and military tensions between Eritrea and the neighboring countries of Djibouti and Ethiopia pose the threat of possible renewed conflict. Due to regional sensitivities, the State Department also recommends against travel to the border region with Sudan.

For further information:

Source=http://military-technologies.net/2017/01/22/eritrea-travel-warning/

Information downplayed rights abuses and meant some Eritrean children in Calais were refused entry to UK

The Calais camp
The Home Office used the lower grant rates as a reason for excluding almost all Eritrean children in the Calais refugee camp aged 13-15. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

 

The government downplayed the risk of human rights abuses in one of the world’s most repressive regimes in an attempt to reduce asylum seeker numbers despite doubts from its own experts, internal documents have revealed.

Home Office documents obtained by the Public Law Project detail efforts by the government to seek more favourable descriptions of human rights conditions in Eritrea, an east African country that indefinitely detains and tortures some of its citizens as well as carrying out extrajudicial executions and operating a shoot-to-kill policy on those caught trying to flee the country.

The notes relate to a high-level meeting that took place in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in December 2014, between senior Eritrean government officials and a UK delegation led by James Sharp, the Foreign Office’s director of migration, and Rob Jones, the Home Office’s head of asylum and family policy.

A diplomatic telegram written by the then UK ambassador to Eritrea, David Ward, says the meeting was held to “discuss reducing Eritrean migration” and sought to find evidence on human rights “to evaluate whether we [the UK] should amend our country guidance”.

The discussions focused on how to reduce the number of Eritrean asylum seekers granted refugee status in the UK and how to deter more Eritreans coming to the UK to claim asylum. UK officials were concerned that the UK’s high grant rate to Eritrean asylum seekers of about 85% would attract more Eritreans to the UK.

UK officials agreed to look at giving Eritrea aid in exchange for Eritrea agreeing to soften some of its human rights abuses. The Eritrean government appears to have agreed to limit forced military conscription to 18 months but said it would do this informally rather than by making a formal announcement. Reports from human rights watchdogs this month found that the problem of enforced and prolonged military conscription is as bad as ever.

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The documents also reveal that UK officials warned that they still had concerns after the meeting about the human rights situation in Eritrea. One of the documents disclosed to the Public Law Project, entitled Informal Report of UK Visit to Eritrea 9-11 December 2014, states: “If [Eritrean] government representatives are to be believed the risk of persecution or mistreatment in Eritrea is lower than our country guidance suggests. But independent verification of their description of the situation in Eritrea is difficult to find. Further evidence is likely to be required before a significant reduction in that rate [of grants of asylum] can be supported.”

A partially redacted email sent on 17 December 2014 states: “The story on the penalties for those returning to Eritrea for evading national service or illegal exit was less clear. Non-governmental interlocutors acknowledge the possibility of extrajudicial detention on an arbitrary basis.”

A parliamentary answer in the House of Lords in January 2015 confirmed that the visit to Eritrea had taken place and said that discussions had involved “topics including the current drivers of irregular migration, ways to mitigate it, and voluntary and enforced returns”.

Lord Bates, a Home Office minister, added: “We are now considering how best to use the information gathered during the visit to develop our approach to managing migration from Eritrea.”

But despite the doubts about a real improvement in the human rights situation expressed by UK officials in the internal documents, the Home Office went ahead in March 2015 with issuing new guidance to those making decisions on asylum seekers stating that the human rights situation in Eritrea was not as bad as previously thought.

Country guidance issued by the Home Office is highly influential on both ministry officials and judges making decisions on asylum claims. This guidance is expected to contain independently verifiable evidence.

As a result of the new guidance the levels of grants of asylum to Eritreans plummeted from 85% to 60%. However, 87% of those refused under the new guidance had their refusals overturned by judges on appeal.

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The 2015 guidance impacted on Eritrean children in Calais who hoped to come to the UK at the end of last year. The Home Office used the lower grant rates as a reason for excluding almost all Eritrean children in Calais aged 13-15 – the initial grant rate for Eritrean asylum seekers between March 2015 and June 2016 was below 75%.

However, a significant case in the upper (immigration) tribunal last October, known as a country guidance case, found that the new Home Office guidance on Eritrea was not credible. The Home Office has acknowledged the reality of the human rights situation and withdrawn its flawed guidance.

Alison Pickup, the legal director of the Public Law Project, said: “It is of fundamental importance to the integrity of the UK’s asylum system that decisions on refugee status are based on fair, objective and informed assessment of conditions in their country of origin. The Home Office has a legal duty to ensure that the information given to decision-makers is as accurate, up to date and complete as possible. This disclosure suggests a troubling lack of impartiality and objectivity in the selection of information to be provided to asylum decision-makers about one of the most secretive and repressive regimes in the world.”

In relation to the Home Office exclusion of Eritrean children in Calais, she said: “The Home Office’s exclusion of Eritrean refugee children on the basis of a statistic which is the result of its own flawed guidance is a tragedy.”

Safe Passage, part of Citizens UK, was working with refugee children in Calais before the camp was closed last November. The Citizens UK leader, Jonathan Clark, the bishop of Croydon, said: “It is hugely concerning that the Home Office appeared to have been willing to set aside their own concerns that they were not being told the truth about ongoing human rights violations because of a policy to reduce numbers. This faulty evidence contributed to many vulnerable children from the Calais refugee camp [being] denied sanctuary in the UK through the Dubs scheme.

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“As the government considers its policy towards unaccompanied children in Greece and Italy we urge them not to rule out children from countries such as Eritrea, but help the most at risk.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a proud history of offering asylum to those who need it. Each application is carefully considered on its merits against background country information, ensuring only those with a genuine claim for asylum receive a grant.

“We continually review our country information and guidance to ensure it is up to date, accurate and relevant, so that staff can make fair and considered decisions. The most recent update to the guidance on Eritrea was made last year as a result of a fact-finding mission in 2016. We work closely with countries such as Eritrea to discuss migration matters.”

The Guardian has approached the FCO for comment.

Source=https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/22/home-office-eritrea-guidance-softened-to-reduce-asylum-seeker-numbers

Gambia’s Jammeh leaves power after 22 years

Sunday, 22 January 2017 13:49 Written by

Jan 22, 2017

 
 
Former President Yaya Jammeh the Gambia’s leader for 22 years, looks through the window from the plane as he leaves the country on 21 January 2017 in Banjul airport © AFP / STRINGER

Banjul, Gambia, Jan 22 – Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh flew out Saturday from the country he ruled for 22 years to cede power to President Adama Barrow and end a political crisis.

Jammeh refused to step down after a December 1 election in which Barrow was declared the winner, triggering weeks of uncertainty that almost ended in a military intervention involving five other west African nations.

The longtime leader boarded a small, unmarked plane at Banjul airport accompanied by Guinea’s President Alpha Conde after two days of talks aimed at hammering out a deal for his departure.

He landed in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, around an hour later, an AFP journalist at the scene said, with his final destination unknown.


Former president Yaya Jammeh (C), the Gambia’s leader for 22 years, waves from the plane as he leaves the country on 21 January 2017 in Banjul © AFP / STRINGER

“I call on President Barrow to come in immediately and take over the supreme responsibility of President, Head of State, Commander in Chief and first citizen of our republic,” Jammeh said according to remarks read out on state television before he left the country.

It would be improper not to “sincerely wish him and his administration all the best,” he added.

Jammeh took power in a 1994 coup from the country’s only other president since independence from Britain, Dawda Jawara, making this The Gambia’s first democratic transition of power.


The Gambian political crisis © AFP/File / Aude GENET

Waving to a small gathering of supporters on the tarmac dressed in his habitual white flowing robes, Jammeh, a devout Muslim, kissed a Koran before boarding.

Conde and Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz had urged Jammeh to peacefully give up his office to Barrow, who is waiting in neighbouring Senegal for the strongman to leave.

He finally said he would step aside in the early hours of Saturday morning. Barrow is expected back in The Gambia imminently.

– The Guinea question –

Earlier Guinean state minister Kiridi Bangoura had said Jammeh preferred “to come to Guinea, to stay in Conakry, before he decides, along with the Guinean authorities, where to move for good.”


People celebrate in the streets after hearing of the confirmed departure of former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh in Banjul on January 21, 2017 © AFP / CARL DE SOUZA

The agreement that finally saw the strongman give in to pressure to step down “foresees the departure of Yahya Jammeh from The Gambia for an African country with guarantees for himself, his family and his relatives,” Mauritania’s Aziz said.

Diplomats said late Saturday that Equatorial Guinea was emerging as the most likely option for his exile.

This would address concerns that Jammeh might interfere in his nation’s politics if he stayed in Guinea, whose border is not far from The Gambia’s eastern region.

Scenes of jubilation broke out almost immediately on streets near Banjul, the port capital, after the news filtered out that Jammeh had gone.

“We are free now. We are no longer in prison. We do not have to watch our back before we express our opinions,” said Fatou Cham, 28, who was celebrating with her friends.


Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh was the country’s leader for 22 years © AFP/File / ISSOUF SANOGO

Activists will be keen to see Jammeh — who controlled certain sections of the security forces — refused amnesty for crimes committed during his tenure, which was marked by systematic rights abuses.

Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, called Jammeh’s departure “the chance to usher in an era based on respect for the rule of law and human rights.”

– Weeping supporters –

Jammeh attempted to build a personality cult over and has left behind a small minority of diehard supporters, some of whom wept as his plane departed.


This photo taken on December 1, 2016 in Banjul shows incumbent Gambian president Yahya Jammeh (C) gesturing before casting his marble in a polling station in a presidential poll © AFP/File / MARCO LONGARI

“We wanted to be behind this man for a century or more,” said Alagie Samu, speaking on the tarmac. “He is the most successful, visionary leader in the entire world.”

Dressed in green, the colour of his political party, some were loyal to the end.

“No human being is perfect, but for 22 years in the country here he has tried hard for Gambians,” said a woman with cheeks wet from tears, who did not wish to be named.


People celebrate the inauguration of new Gambia’s President Adama Barrow at Westfield neighbourhood on January 19, 2017 in Banjul © AFP/File / STRINGER

The Gambia is one of the world’s poorest nations and although education and health standards have lifted in recent years, poverty remains endemic.

With Jammeh gone, all eyes will be on the Barrow administration as they make their first steps as a government of reform and development.

“The will of the people has come to be at last,” said Isatou Touray, a key official in the government-in-waiting. “Democracy is back, you can’t stop the people.”


A handout photo released by the Senegalese Presidency shows Adama Barrow speaking during his swearing in as president of Gambia at the Gambian embassy in Dakar on January 19, 2017 © SENEGALESE PRESIDENCY/AFP/File / Handout

Army chief Ousman Badjie, a former Jammeh loyalist, has pledged allegiance to Barrow along with top defence, civil service and and security chiefs.

The first priority will be to help the tens of thousands who have fled in recent weeks fearing a bloody end to the crisis to return safely, Touray said earlier Saturday.

Source=http://newsafricanow.com/2017/01/gambias-jammeh-leaves-power-after-22-years/

The Israeli government must not withhold information from the public about the dangers faced by Eritrean asylum seekers it is planning to deport.

By Sigal Avivi

Eritrean asylum seekers protest in front of the European Union embassy in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, calling for the EU to try the Eritrean leadership for crimes against humanity, on June 21, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Eritrean asylum seekers protest in front of the European Union embassy in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, calling for the EU to try the Eritrean leadership for crimes against humanity, on June 21, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Emanuel, an Eritrean asylum seeker whom Israel deported to Uganda half a year ago, agreed to take the risk of being interviewed on camera for one reason: he wanted the Israeli Supreme Court justices to look into his eyes as he told them what happens to asylum seekers who succumb to Israel’s policy of pressuring them to “voluntarily” leave the country.

Emanuel’s desire to do this overcame his fears that should his filmed testimony fall into the wrong hands and he is identified, both he and his relatives in Eritrea would be in grave danger. He was aware that it was too late for his testimony to help him. However, he hoped that we would succeed in bringing his testimony before the justices, who were considering an appeal against the policy of deporting asylum seekers by force that the Israeli government is preparing to adopt.

Emanuel’s hopes have yet to be fulfilled and, to the best of our knowledge, the Supreme Court justices have no idea what is happening in Eritrea or what the implications of deporting Eritrean asylum seekers are.

Now, five justices will now decide on the fate of the Interior Ministry’s plans to force asylum seekers from Eritrea to choose one of three heinous options:imprisonment in Israelfor anunlimited time;returning to Eritrea; or leaving Israel forone of the “third countries.”

Crimes against humanity

Crimes against humanity have been perpetrated in Eritrea for decades, but until recently have attracted very little attention around the globe. This began to change over the last few years, above all with the UN’s establishment of a special committee to investigate human rights violations in Eritrea. Reportspublished by the committee, along with those from various international organizations and states, have revealed the severity of the situation.

The reports confirm widespread human rights violations in Eritrea such as murder, disappearance, torture, rape, mass and arbitrary imprisonment,forced labor, forced indefinite conscription, lawlessness, the reign of terror and the persecution of anyone who dares oppose the regime. The UN committee also formulated recommendations for states that provide asylum and suggested bringing Eritrea’s ruler, Isaias Afwerki, to trial for crimes against humanity.

Eritrean asylum seekers, wearing white masks, protest in front of Israel's Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv demanding refugee status [archive photo]. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Eritrean asylum seekers, wearing white masks, protest in front of Israel’s Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv demanding refugee status [archive photo]. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Accordingly, Eritrea is considered a dangerous state that persecutes its citizens; therefore, those who have managed to escape should not be sent back. Most countries in the world, rather than deporting them, have been granting refugee status to a large percentage of asylum seekers from Eritrea for many years.

In Israel, the situation is completely different. Israel routinely rejects Eritreans’ requests for asylum. A special tribunal in Jerusalem, which was established to address migration issues, recently ruled against this policy. The tribunal ruled that Israeli authorities must not as a matter of course reject asylum applications from Eritreans who fled their country to escape forced conscription.

We feel that this information should be at the center of discussions on deporting those who are without doubt asylum seekers. The Israeli government, however, prefers to identify them as “infiltrators” who entered the country illegally, even enacting a series of laws to prosecute them.

In an attempt to facilitate informed public discourse on the deportation policy, we filed a request for the public disclosure of Israel’s agreements with the Eritrean dictatorship regarding asylum seekers currently in Israel and their repatriation, along with expert opinions and other relevant government documents, such as those on human rights in Eritrea. The request was filed with the assistance of attorney Eitay Mack and in accordance with the freedom of information legislation.

To date, the deportation apparatus in Israel has adopted the policy of “making life miserable” for asylum seekers in the hope this will convince them to leave. As a result, the state has set up what may be one of the worst systems in the Western world for persecuting asylum seekers.

Israel is not just the only state in the world publicly declaring its intention to repatriate refugees — it has also openly repatriated many asylum seekers to Eritrea and Sudan. So far, the Israeli government has sent more people back to Eritrea — over 2,000 — than have all of the states in the Western world put together.

Asylum seekers are not only being sent back to their countries of origin. Over the past three years, Israel has also employed force and deception to deport thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers to “third countries,” knowing full well that they will have no legal status on their arrival and be will forced to leave,at great risk to their lives.

A representative of the UN special investigative committee on Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, has discussed this policy, warning that these “third countries” deport the asylum seekers directly back to Eritrea.

In most cases, all contact with the deportees is severed once they leave. No country in the world has real data about the fate of asylum seekers sent back to Eritrea. Our request for information contains testimony from senior U.S. officials who emphasize the lack of knowledge about the deportees’ fate, while Britain and other countries have made similar statements.

But according to the little reliable evidence that has been obtained, those who are repatriated to Eritrea are interrogated and sometimes imprisoned. Israel, which has an embassy in Eritrea, is actually one of the few sources of information. Israel has presented an expert opinion stating that the Eritreans sent back to their country will be “lined up and shot or thrown into torture chambers.” To the best of our knowledge, both of these have indeed happened to Eritreans deported from Israel.

Diplomatic ties between Israel and Eritrea

Israel is one of the few states that maintains full diplomatic relations with Eritrea, despite the weapons embargo on Eritrea. There are also reports of military ties between Israel and Eritrea, something that was known to exist in the past. It is the Israeli public’s right to know the full extent of these ties.

We were not surprised to discover, in the initial response to our request for information, that Israel and Eritrea maintain a dialogue and have signed agreements about the asylum seekers in Israel. We were informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs possesses documentation of these agreements, as well as expert opinions about the state of human rights in Eritrea.

The ministry, however, refused to reveal this information, claiming that doing so would damage Israel’s foreign relations. This is ridiculous in light of the revelation that these documents exist. Their concealment is a crime against both the Israeli and the Eritrean public. Furthermore, agreements with dictatorships and the violation of human rights should not be concealed with the claim that revealing the crimes would harm the criminals.

An Eritrean Asylum seeker cleans, after spending the night in Levnisky park, South Tel Aviv, on their eighth day of an on going protest, on the early hours of February 9, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Eritrean asylum seeker cleans, after spending the night in Levnisky park, south Tel Aviv, on their eighth day of an on going protest, on the early hours of February 9, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

It was recently revealed that the expert opinion regarding Eritrean asylum seekers was shelved because it did not serve the agenda of the current Israeli government. A report from the Population and Immigration Border Authority unit that processes asylum requests, which concluded that non-Arab asylum seekers from Darfur should be granted refugee status, was ignored in a similar manner to other recommendations presented to the officials. In other words, the Israeli government is concealing information it possesses regarding asylum seekers from the public and the courts.

The requested information regarding Eritrea and Israeli-Eritrean relations is vital to legal and public discourse regarding the fate of Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel. In its desire to deport them, the Israeli government is attempting to hide from the public and the Supreme Court the fate that awaits the asylum seekers in their own country and the “third countries” following their removal as well as Israel’s role in this process. The requested information also is vital to the international struggle against the Eritrean dictatorship and to the rights of Eritrea refugees worldwide. Last, but not least, it is vital to public discourse within Israel in order to cease our support of dark dictatorial regimes.

The truth which Emanuel wished to share with the Supreme Court concerns not only the future of his fellow asylum seekers who face deportation from Israel, but also the entire Israeli public: the five justices’ decision on deportation policy will have a decisive impact on the nature of the State of Israel.

Sigal Avivi is a human rights activist based in Tel Aviv.

Source=https://972mag.com/what-will-happen-to-eritrean-asylum-seekers-after-israel-deports-them/124475/