Refugees say they were forced to wear bands at all times in accommodation provided by Home Office contractor
A coloured wristband on the arm of an asylum seeker, which indicates that they are entitled to meals at Lynx House. Photograph: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Agency
Sunday 24 January 2016 15.14 GMT Last modified on Monday 25 January 2016 00.50 GMT
Asylum seekers in Cardiff are being issued with brightly coloured wristbands that they must wear at all times, in a move which echoes the “red door” controversy in Middlesbrough and has resulted in their harassment and abuse by members of the public.
Newly arrived asylum seekers in the Welsh capital who are housed by Clearsprings Ready Homes, a private firm contracted by the Home Office, are being told that they must wear the wristbands all the time otherwise they will not be fed. The wristbands entitle the asylum seekers, who cannot work and are not given money, to three meals a day.
David Cameron considering calls by charities as Jeremy Corbyn, who on Saturday visited refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, urges emergency steps
It follows the news that asylum seekers in Middlesbrough had complained their houses were targeted after people realised all front doors were painted the same colour red by the private firm responsible for housing them, G4S.
Eric Ngalle, 36, spent a month in Lynx House in Cardiff, where initial accommodation is provided for asylum seekers, before he was granted refugee status in November 2015. He is now working as a writer and making a theatre production with the Arts Council of Wales.
He said: “My time in Lynx House was one of the most horrible experiences in my life. I hated wearing the wristbands and sometimes refused to wear them and was turned away from food.
“If we refused to wear the wristbands we were told we would be reported to the Home Office. Some staff implemented this policy in a more drastic way than others. I made a complaint about the wristbands to Clearsprings but nothing was done. We had to walk from accommodation about 10 minutes away to Lynx House to get food and sometimes when we were walking down the street with our wristbands showing.
“On the road we had to walk down there is often heavy traffic. Sometimes drivers would see our wristbands, start honking their horns and shout out of the window, ‘Go back to your country.’ Some people made terrible remarks to us.
“If you take off the wristband you can’t reseal it back onto your wrist so if you want to eat you have to wear it all the time. Labelling them on a daily basis with silver, red or blue tags only serves as a reminder that they are still wearing the garments of an outcast.”
Photograph: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Agency
Maher, 41, who recently stayed at Lynx House but has now been granted refugee status, said he was very angry about being forced to wear the wristband.
“When you walk down the street all the local people who see this brightly coloured band know who we are and where we live,” he said. “We feel we are not equal with this community. All the time I tried to hide the band so people could not see it.”
Asylum seekers in the UK are not allowed to work or claim mainstream benefits. Some receive a small amount of money or an Azure card to use in supermarkets.
But newly arrived asylum seekers placed in what is known as initial accommodation by the Home Office receive neither money or an Azure card. They are placed in hotel-style accommodation and given three basic meals a day.
Mogdad Abdeen, 24, a human rights activist from Sudan, spent three months in Lynx House at the end of last year. He has now been moved to different accommodation in Cardiff while he waits for a decision on his claim.
“This wristband is discrimination, clear and simple. No band, no food. We are made to feel that we are second-class humans. People in Lynx House are scared of meeting new people in case they see the wristband and give them problems.
“Sometimes when we are standing outside Lynx House queueing for food people shout out of their car windows ‘refugee, refugee’. When we complain about the wristbands nobody listens to us.”
When some of the occupants of Lynx House were asked if they were willing to be identified, all refused saying they were scared that they might be punished for speaking out. Instead they agreed to have their hands photographed wearing the bands.
Chloe Marong, coordinator of the Trinity Centre in Cardiff, which supports asylum seekers and refugees, has expressed concern about the wristbands.
“We have raised concerns about these wristbands with the Home Office and Clearsprings but so far nothing has been done. These wristbands mark asylum seekers out and further stigmatises them in an already very hostile environment,” she said.
Adam Hundt of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors said: “Concerns about this practice have been raised with us and we have been looking at it. Asylum seekers are a very scared and vulnerable group and the last thing they want to do is stand out from the crowd.
Report says Home Office guidance that it was safe to send Eritreans home is based largely on discredited Danish report
“In some areas it can be dangerous for them to do so, so it is easy to understand how asylum seekers feel they are being branded with these brightly coloured wristbands which draw unwelcome attention to them and make them feel ashamed. It is particularly concerning that wearing the wristbands is linked to whether or not they get food or go hungry. It should be possible to come up with a system to ensure that people are fed without publicly humiliating them and undermining race relations.”
Photograph: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Agency
The operations director of Clearsprings Ready Homes, said: “The UK has, over recent months, seen a larger population of asylum seekers. In turn volumes of people in initial accommodation sites, including Cardiff increased quickly.
“Clearsprings has taken steps, agreed with the Home Office to increase capacity in line with this demand in the form of additional self-catering accommodation.
“Those clients in the self-catering units receive a weekly allowance in the form of supermarket vouchers and those in full-board accommodation are issued with a coloured wristband that bears no other logo or text identifying its use or origin. Full-board clients are required to show their wristbands in order to receive meals in the restaurant.”
The company said it had been operating the system since May 2015 because of the increased numbers of asylum seekers.“As well as being subject to regular Home Office inspections we are contractually required to undertake stringent monthly inspections of the initial accommodation provision and rectify any defects within contractual timescales,” Clearsprings said.
The Home Office declined to comment.
Aid agencies call for collective European approach to migrant crisis
Some 700 migrants rescued by Italy and the EU are undergoing health and identity checks in Sicily.
Among them are 20 pregnant women and 29 unaccompanied children.
Most are said to be of African origin including from Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia. Rescue crews say they will be passed on to Italy for processing.
Commander of the Norwegian Ship Siem Pilot, Lise Dunham: "Yes, we always talk to the migrants we of course try to get some information out of them, from where they come and how the journey was, and everything. And then our task, we are a Frontex ship, is to get them safe ashore, to the Italian coast and then the Italian government first will do the rest of the work."
The mass arrival comes as aid agencies call for a collective European approach to the migrant crisis. Some leaders warn the huge influx of people means the EU's passport free Schengen zone is under threat.
Friday 22 January 2016 14.04 GMT
Report says Home Office guidance that it was safe to send Eritreans home is based largely on discredited Danish report
Eritrean migrants in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, France. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA
The Home Office is using misleading and biased information to decide the fate of Eritrean asylum seekers, an independent report has found, as its author claims the government distorted evidence to make it easier to reject them.
The report, published on Friday, analysed two Country Information Guidance (CIG) documents issued by the Home Office last year. The advice says that it is now safe to return asylum seekers to the east African country.
But an inquiry by the Independent Advisory Group on Country of Origin Information, has concluded the policy recommendations made in the documents are “completely divorced from relevant objective evidence”. Its report adds that unless the CIG advice is completely rewritten, the Home Office unit responsible for producing them will be “viewed as totally lacking credibility”.
Dr John Campbell, the author of the report, said the findings were damning. He alleges the documents rely heavily on a discredited Danish report, misquote sources, blur policy and “facts”, and fail to acknowledge significant human rights issues in the country.
He said: “The Home Office report does not conform to the professional standards which country information reports are expected to meet. Instead it is based on a highly selective use of information and it deliberately distorts information to support its own conclusions, namely that it is now safe for the UK to return Eritrean asylum seekers to their home country.”
There remain significant international concerns over human rights breaches in Eritrea, including the forced conscription of children and elderly people into military service and the rape of female conscripts.
“An undergraduate would be failed for this sort of thing,” said Campbell, a reader in the anthropology of Africa and law at the University of London, who has been a country expert on asylum claims from Eritrea and Ethiopia since the mid-1990s.
The report concludes that “the only possible way forward for the Home Office is to completely rewrite both CIG reports”, including recommending that approximately 20% of one of the reports should be deleted.
Eritreans account for the largest group of people applying for asylum in the UK, with 3,726 Eritrean nationals applying in the year ending September 2015.
The Home Office advised it was not safe to return most asylum seekers to Eritrea until it controversially updated its country advice in March 2015, claiming that citizens who left Eritrea without permission – many of them to escape its infamous indefinite military service – would not face persecution if they returned. The advice resulted in the number of Eritreans granted protection in the UK plummeting from a 73% approval rate in the first quarter of 2015 to 34% in the second quarter.
The Home Office guidance also stated that Eritrea’s indefinite national service had been shortened to between 18 months and four years. However the independent report released on Friday is scathing of this claim, saying it is based upon assurances from the Eritrean government that have not been supported by any policy announcements or evidence.
Campbell’s report was critical of the Home Office for basing its guidance largely on a 2014 report commissioned for the Danish government, from which the researchers involved and the Danish government have since distanced themselves.
“The CIGs have a total over-reliance on one source [the Danish report] which bucked the trend of all objective evidence on human rights in Eritrea,” said Campbell.
“I’ve looked at each of the arguments [the Home Office] have made and the forms of evidence they used. Not only have they misquoted sources but they’ve disregarded a whole range of material that bears on the question of whether it’s safe to return, such as: are there independent courts in Eritrea?”
The report also says the Home Office guidance ignores well substantiated evidence from various sources that children are forced to participate in the country’s indefinite military service and have been sent to war as child soldiers.
“Making decisions about whether or not to grant refugee protection is often a matter of life or death, yet the government’s own statistics reveal it gets a staggering number of decisions on Eritrean cases wrong,” said Maurice Wren, the chief executive of the Refugee Council.
“The government should not let its obsession with controlling immigration override its legal and moral responsibility to protect refugees.”
Campbell said: “There are roughly 2,000 Eritreans a month who are leaving their country. We’re talking about a lot of human lives. A lot of human suffering is being caused by this policy.”
According to Campbell, unless the Home Office revises its guidance, it will be left with a “dead policy”, which the asylum claims tribunal will not be able to use.
“They will have to revise it, absolutely. Increasingly the evidence I use is going to be used by other immigration lawyers and the sector will have a dead policy because the tribunal will not be upholding the guidance,” he said.
The Home Office has not responded to requests for comment.
Eritrea is losing its youth through mass migration. But what is everyone fleeing, asks Mercedes Sayagues.
There is something odd in the camps hosting Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan. Generally, refugee camps in Africa burst with women and children - but mostly young men cram the Eritrean camps.
Equally odd is that tiny Eritrea (population around 4.5 million) ranks, along with Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, among the world’s five top source countries of asylum-seekers. Some 5 000 young Eritreans flee every month, by UN estimates.
Up to 10 percent of the population has left. The majority of Eritrean migrants take the deadliest route to Europe, across Sudan, Egypt and Libya. Throughout their desperate journey, they may fall prey to vicious human trafficking.
In eastern Sudan, the Rashaida militias kidnap migrants until relatives pay ransom, then pass them along the trafficking chain. Sinai trafficking is especially cruel. Smugglers torture migrants by open cellphones so their relatives hear their screams. Over the years, it is estimated they have killed between 5 000 and 10 000 Eritreans. Closer to Europe, hundreds of Eritreans have drowned in the Mediterranean.
Yet Eritrea is not at war. What are the refugees fleeing?
“A totalitarian state bent on controlling Eritreans through a vast security apparatus to control, silence and isolate individuals, depriving them of their fundamental freedoms,” says a 2015 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.
In 483 pages of grim reading, it describes a nation living in fear of forced labour, arbitrary imprisonment, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), inhumane jails, spies, arbitrary land expropriations, and restrictions on freedom of expression, conscience and movement - human rights violations on a scope and scale seldom seem elsewhere.
The 1997 constitution was never implemented and national budgets never tabled. A census is forever delayed. There are no independent NGOs or media. Internet is scarce and slow. Reporters Without Borders ranked Eritrea last among all countries in press freedom last year.
Only four religions are allowed: Eritrean Orthodox, Sunni Islam, Roman Catholic and Lutheran. Pentecostals and Jehovah Witnesses are persecuted and jailed unless they recant their faith.
UN researchers trying to document Eritrea’s success achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals have been denied entry.
So were members of the UN Commission of Enquiry, which had to rely on 550 interviews with Eritreans abroad.
Eritrea’s repression and isolation have earned it the nickname of Africa’s North Korea - a closed country where people need a pass to travel between towns and a hard-to-obtain exit visa to leave.
The worst is open-ended military conscription lasting up to a decade. Conscripts as young as 15 and as old as 50 work as indentured labourers in mining, infrastructure projects and farms, often owned by the military. They are poorly fed, abused, exploited and enslaved, says the report.
Those caught trying to escape or deported back to Eritrea are considered traitors, tortured and jailed.
For these reasons, Eritreans are automatically granted asylum in many European countries. The government argues that this is a pull factor. In any case, Eritrea is suffering “drastic depopulation”, warned the Catholic bishops in a rare letter of protest in 2015.
Migration levels are becoming “unsustainable”, says the International Crisis Group.
“Ending the exodus requires greater engagement with Eritrea - potentially ending a decade of isolation that has been both self-imposed and externally generated.”
Only Eritrea's latest betrayal
Constant betrayals. This phrase sums up Eritrea’s sad history.
Colonised by the Italians at the end of the 19th century, it was freed of Mussolini’s fascist rule by British troops in 1941. The Brits plundered port and factories, then handed the country over to the UN.
Disregarding Eritrea’s wish for independence, in 1950 the UN set up a federation with Ethiopia. The Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, promptly annexed Eritrea. The UN kept shamefully quiet, and in 1961, a 30-year-long liberation struggle began.
As the Cold War gripped the Horn of Africa in the 1980s, Americans and Soviets successively aided and dropped Eritrea, in a deadly game of shifting military alliances. Throughout these vagaries, Eritrea continued to fight pretty much alone.
Holed up since mid-1970 in a vast underground complex in the harsh, northern Sahel Mountains, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) eventually overran Mengistu Haile Miriam's army and achieved independence in 1993.
The EPLF was the Western media’s darling: an egalitarian, progressive, communal, frugal guerrilla force united over tribal, religious and gender fault lines. It was big on gender equality, for women’s education and against child marriage and genital mutilation. A third of its fighters were women.
Underground factories produced munitions as well as sanitary pads.
Twenty-three year later, the UN reports that Eritrean woman prisoners are not given sanitary pads, can't shower for months and are crowded in filthy cells without proper toilets.
This shift from liberation to oppression is the work of guerrilla leader-turned-president-for-life, Isaias Afwerki.
In 1998, Isaias provoked a two-year war with Ethiopia. Afterwards, Eritrea plunged into dictatorship.
Eritrean meddling in Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, supporting rebels and al-Shabaab, led the US to threaten to declare it a state sponsor of terrorism.
The UN imposed sanctions and began scrutinising its shadow economy. It found an illicit financial system based on money-laundering, arms trafficking and payouts from patrons like Libya, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Generals shared kidnapping ransoms with the Rashaida militia and exploited conscript forced labour.
The government exacts a 2 percent tax from Eritreans working overseas in exchange for consular services. The newest revenue is gold mining. In 2011, the Canadian company Nevsun, 40 percent owned by the state, started exporting gold. Another profitable asset is Eritrea’s location on the Red Sea. Its closeness to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt brings opportunities for funding and leverage with Saudis, Iranians, Houthis and Russians.
A small coterie of generals and advisers benefits from business and patronage but running the country is tightly controlled by Isaias.
“Eritrea is a personally owned political-business corporation which risks disintegrating when its founder-owner dies or is removed,” writes Alex de Waal in his book, The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa.
A heavy drinker, Isaias is in poor health and lacks a succession plan. Yet his absence might bring more turmoil.
Eritrea could become “an oligarchic system run by a cartel of generals and party fund managers, or a deregulated and violent political marketplace”, writes De Waal.
This would amount to yet another betrayal to Eritreans’ hopes for democracy.
Testimonies of brutality
A former prison guard recalled: “They cannot wash or shower. There is no health care. The men get to the point that their testicles are infected. They are screaming with pain. They are not allowed to wear shoes, their feet are swollen from the bruises.”
One detainee reported: “It is called the butchery because there is blood everywhere. I saw one pregnant girl lose her baby from the beating. She was caught trying to go to Sudan. I was in the queue after her to be punished. I could see her getting hit with a thin stick… all over her body by four men. She began bleeding.”
Mother of a toddler detained because her husband left the country: “I was handcuffed, very tight, an iron stick placed between my hands, a stick behind my knees and attached to my hands. Then, hung upside down, placing the stick between two tables, and beaten. I was beaten for 17 days with a stick or a whip, sometimes also slapped. They were bringing my baby in front of me and then they were beating me. When my child became sick, they asked me to bring 50 000 nakfa and I was released.”
A man jailed: “We were beaten every other day. My friend was beaten on the testicles with a stick. When he came back, everything was bloody. He could hardly walk, his testicles swelled to bigger than the size of a fist. He was in a lot of pain… He died shortly after.” - UN Commission of Enquiry
36 000 registered by UN
In Ethiopia: 130 000
In Sudan: 126 000
In Israel: 37 000
Mercedes Sayagues is a Knight International Journalism Fellow
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Media.
Posted on January 14, 2016
Personal reflections on the refugee camps at Calais and Dunkirk
The sun shone last Friday. It was warm. For once it was not tipping down with rain. For the refugees it must have been a relief, yet it only underlined just how bleak the situation really is.
Late on Friday evening, I got off the Eurostar at St Pancras, made my way home, looked in on our young children (fast asleep in warm beds) and went to bed.
But I could not sleep.
I had just returned from Calais and Dunkirk where thousands of migrants have set up temporary homes.
The conditions in both camps, but particularly Dunkirk, are so bad that describing them (even with accompanying photographs) cannot capture the squalor.
You have to smell conditions like these, and feel the squelch of mud mixed with rain water, urine and much else through your boots to appreciate the true horror.
No one should have to live in such conditions and the fact that I saw children the same age as my own (and younger) settling down for yet another freezing, damp and hopeless night in a tent pitched in the muck kept playing on my mind.
Their lives so different to those of my family for no reason other than their place of birth.
What makes the conditions in Calais and Dunkirk so troubling is not just that the camps are just one hour by Train from central London; it is also that they don’t need to be so bad.
British volunteers are doing extraordinary work across these sites.
Joe Friday - who helped set up A Home for Winter – has been constructing hundreds of wooden homes in Calais to provide a minimum level of warmth and comfort.
If the French authorities allowed volunteers to erect temporary shelters, toilets and water taps in Dunkirk, the situation could be improved within days.
But until very recently they have refused; for fear that to do so will encourage others to arrive.
If our government put as much emphasis on humanity as it does on security in its joint working agreements with the French authorities, things would be better. But it doesn’t.
Within both camps are mums, dads and children who are entitled to reunify with their families in the UK if the processing system worked.
But it doesn’t. And in both camps there are unaccompanied minors - children, without help or guidance.
I sat in Calais and listened as a mother, with her four children, explain why she had to flee from Afghanistan. I won’t name her, for her safety.
‘I have a brother and a nephew in the UK,’ she told me. She had applied for family re-unification under asylum rules accepted by the Home Office under the EU’s Dublin convention, but had heard nothing.
‘I have skills. I worked at the British Council in Kabul,’ she explained. Her English is fluent and she would have little trouble in fitting in, if only she could cross the Channel.
‘I came by car, by truck and by walking. We are so tired. We are like a butterfly looking for somewhere to nest.’
The emphasis of the authorities – French and British – is symbolised by the high security fencing and the CRS riot police, who patrol the area day and night.
I returned to London and the warmth and security of my family and our community. But my thoughts were in Calais.
Any human being making the visit I made last Friday would come away, as I did, uneasy with themselves and clear that, on all fronts, more needs to be done; and fast.
12 January 2016
The Ad Hoc Contact Organ established at the end of the National Consultative Conference of Eritrean Political organizations in Nairobi, Kenya between 27 and 29 November 2015, held its first meeting on December 22, 2015 that was followed by several successive meetings and has now laid out its plan of work on the basis of the tasks that were entrusted to it by the participating organizations. The tasks as stipulated in the Nairobi Declaration are to:
1. Draft a common vision and program of action, in close consultation with political organizations, for a smooth transition to a democratic order.
2. Prepare for the next all-inclusive meeting of opposition organizations to discuss ways and means to accelerate democratic transition.
The Ad Hoc Contact Organ has:
• Extensively deliberated on its action plan;
• Assigned tasks to its members;
• Decided on mechanisms that would enable it to effectively communicating with the political opposition organisations as well as the general public, implement its plan of action, increase awareness of the outcomes of the National Consultative Conference and publicise the efforts being made to convene the next all inclusive conference.
Towards this goal, the Ad hoc Contact Organ shall reach out to all political organizations that did not participate in the Consultative Conference, with the aim of explaining the outcomes of the conference so they can be a part of the upcoming all-inclusive conference and its due preparation.
The Ad Hoc Contact Organ
National Consultative Conference of Eritrean Opposition Organizations
Members of the Ad Hoc Contact Organ:
1. Mohamed Ahmed Safar
2. Bashir Eshaq
3. Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga)
4. Negash Osman
5. Semere T. Habtemariam 6. Suleiman Hussein
A response to the Disinformation Campaign Being Waged by the PFDJAgainst the Commission of Inquiry’sMission to Uncover the TruthAbout Human Rights Violations Occurring in EritreaWednesday, 06 January 2016 00:00 Written by Eritrean Civil Associations
The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (COI) is a UN commissioned body with a mandate to shed light on the human rights violations being perpetrated by the Eritrean government against its people. It is carrying out its mandate by collecting oral and written testimonies of ordinary Eritrean citizens. Most Eritrean households, both at home and abroad, can bear witness to the level of brutality and inhumanity of this regime.
The Commission‘s mission is to document the horrific, widespread and systematic human rights violations that are currently taking place in Eritrea. It is an absolutely necessary endeavor because it will help to bring the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) to justice.
The PFDJ’s reign is a tyrannical one and continues to hold the Eritrean people hostage for no other reason except to maintain power. The threat of arbitrary arrest and detention is very real in Eritrea and has been for a very long time. This regime is ruling Eritrea with impunity. It has imprisoned and tortured all those that it deemed to be a threat to its hold on power, among them journalists, former high-ranking government officials and their family members.
There are over 300 prisons in Eritrea and conservative estimates state that there are about 35,000 political prisoners languishing in Eritrea. Never before seen footage smuggled out of Eritrea’s Adi Abeto prison shows images of 500 or so prisoners crammed into dangerously over crowded, unsanitary halls. It is worth mentioning that these prisoners are ordinary Eritrean citizens who have been denied legal due process.
Furthermore, under the guise of military service, tens of thousands of Eritrean men and women have been subjected to forced labor and indefinite military service. In a 2015 Amnesty International report, the following was stated about Eritreans fleeing national service:
“These people, many of them children, are refugees fleeing a system that amounts to forced labour on a national scale and that robs them of choice over key aspects of their lives”
The situation in Eritrean can be best described as a form of slavery that deprives Eritreans of the basic human right to live their lives free from exploitation and abuse. These inhumane conditions have left Eritreans with no other option but to flee in order to save their lives.
The PFDJ usually responds to the mass exodus out of Eritrea by implementing an inhumane shoot to kill policy on its borders; as a result, Eritrean men, women and children are being met with a barrage of bullets as they seek to escape the open-air prison that is Eritrea today.
Sadly, Eritreans feel that they would have a far greater chance of survival if they risked the wrath of human traffickers, militants or even the sea as opposed to staying at home and continuing to suffer abuse at the hands of their government.
It is of no surprise that the PFDJ is seeking to level a smear campaign against the COI and the sincere individuals assisting them in their efforts to give a voice to millions of subjugated Eritreans. This same regime would like to have us believe that the tens of thousands of Eritreans escaping the country (an estimated figure of 5,000 a month) are doing so purely for economic gains and not because of the PFDJ’s tyrannical policies.
As advocates for human rights in Eritrea, we are extremely concerned about the PFDJ’s mounting efforts to pressure Eritreans living in the diaspora to attend its meetings and fill out forms designed to undermine the COIE’s work. The regime and its agents are doing this with the intention of delaying the inevitable, the prosecution of criminal government officials at the International Criminal Court.
As a moral obligation, we urge all Eritrean refugees in their respective host nations to remain vigilant and steadfast in the wake of such aggressive disinformation campaign. We request that you stand in solidarity with your oppressed people and to extend your hands to the COI. Only with your support can we solve our problem and make the dream of a prosperous and thriving Eritrea a reality.
Eritrean Solidarity Movement for National Salvation
Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change – North America
Eritrean Law Society
Freedom Friday Project (Arbi Harnet)
Stop Slavery in Eritrea Campaign
By Petros Tesgagherghis
There is persistent talk that the Eritrean political parties should hand over leadership to the youth. But it is not possible to hand over leadership in a silver plate. Leaders emerge or evolve in the process of organised activities.
So my New Year resolution is “Don’t agonize, organize”. This was a slogan of a ground breaking conference of South African Students in Diaspora during Apartheid South Africa. The concern of the South African youth – is to search an effective tool to carry out their struggle. That is to identify an effective organisation.
Youth movements are not to grap power. They are not political parties – They are agents of change. Their ideology, their vision are geared to raise the level of consciousness of the youth. They preach the values of justice, freedom of expression, freedom of worship and association. They empower the people with these values. Once they are empowered they can join or support political parties that stood up for these values.
While South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was into direct politics, Steve Biko belongs to the youth (student) movement. He tried to empower the oppressed black people by preaching “Black Consciousness”. To fight the prevailing white supremacy by first believing in self. Once they realize that they are not inferior to the white man, then they can use their discovered power to transform the South African Society into a democratic society that belongs to all people. In this mind-set to divide the people on the basis of race has no place.
When it comes to the Eritrean reality the challenge for the youth is to find an effective organisation that the youth can easily relate to and be members or staunch supporters. There is no need to expect some old generation fighters to hand them political power.
But first few committed individuals can draft the constitution or manifesto. Then it can be circulated to all chapters or towns for discussion in the course of which they put down working notes to clarify the character and activity of their organisation and the necessity of its relationship to the Diaspora political parties. It means they must maintain their independence to any political parties or any organs of a government even if PFDJ is ousted.
The youth manifesto or constitution can bring into focus – what the youth movement is all about: understanding the depth of the gross violations of human rights that is destroying the fabric of the Eritreans society, so they can stand up and fight for justice. Also understanding the political, economic and social changes reshaping our world – in particular – the interference of PFDJ in the civil war in Yemen that ushered in geo-political change in the Horn. And also the implication of the EU and others to prop up the PFDJ regime and the activities to paint PFDJ a humane face.
They need to come up with transparent structure that enables the organisation capable of acting in a politically centralized manner, with speed and effectiveness, as they are confronted with the unpredictable challenges created daily as the interest of the West is growing because of huge mineral, gas and oil deposits in Eritrea.
The resolution of the New Year is to live up to the challenges: Get organise and not agonize.
A New Year's Resolution is a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something better than the past. I will here deal with The properties( both physical and chemical) we have failed in the past and start act to improve.
1. Building cooperative relations: ምሕናጽ ሓባራዊ ዝምድና/ To be successful you must build a cooperative network among a diverse set of allies. The Eritrean Opposition forces in Diaspora failed in the past to build a cooperative relationship among different groups both locally, regionally and globally. Let us renew our relations with special attention and devotion that we missed in the past.
2. Building Trust:ምሕናጽ እምነት/ The absence of trust in the opposition has been seen many times in their actions. The concept " trust" is difficult to define but one way to understand trust is to see it through character and competence. Character focuses on personal motives ( i.e, does he or she want to do the right thing?), While competence focuses on skills necessary to realize motives ( i. e., does he or she know the right things to do?). Stephen Covey has clarified in his book ( Seven habits of highly effective people)
The traits of character are consistency, openness and purpose.
Consistency/ምእዙዝነት is when people are guided by a core set of principles, they are naturally more predictable because their actions are consistent with these principles.
Openness/ ግሉጽነት when people have a clear sense of who they and what they value, when they are more receptive to others. This trait provides us with the capacity to emphasize and the talent to build consensus among divergent people.
Purpose/ናይ ሓባር ዕላማታት is when leaders are driven not only by personal ambitions but also for the common good. Their primary concern must what is best for the people not the organization. This willingness to subordinate personal and organizational interests to higher purpose, in our case saving the Eritrean people from the oppression of the dictatorship garners the respect, loyalty, and trust of the people.
3. Creating A shared Vision:ምፍጣርናይ ሓባር ራእይ-What is a vision? A vision is a dot on the horizon at which all subsidiary actions and efforts are directed. In the Eritrean opposition forces what is that dot in the horizon? Are all have the same understanding about this dot? Have we directed our main actions towards this dot? No, not at all. A vision is not simply sloganeering but it must be effective. There are four essential qualities of creating a common vision. A vision must be communicated. A vision must have a strategic sense. A vision must have passion. A vision must inspire others. The opposition lacks a shared vision that fosters the common good. Let us promise to act build a shared vision by working together instead of negation and defamation of each other.
4. Managing conflicts:/ ኣፈታትሓ ግርጭታት/ Disagreements and conflict emerge at any time in the life of any work. The Eritrean opposition have been disagreeing over solving problems internally and externally. The Eritrean opposition has been pursuing an adversarial conflict management in the past years. Let us change this trend and adopt an integrative conflict management that fosters trust and mutual respect.
5. Partnering:/ ምሕዝነት Partnering is a state of mind, a philosophy on how to conduct business with others. Partnering represents a commitment from all the participants working on the project to respect, trust, and collaborate. Let us promise this new year to have a mind and philosophy that can help us build respect, trust and collaboration.
6. Learning to separate the people from the problem:- ምምሃር "ጉዳያት ካብ ሰብ" ፈሊኻ ምርኣይ What is learning? Learning is commonly associated with a change in how we understand and interpret the reality that surrounds us. We have been focusing on personalities instead of focusing on issues. Let us promise this new year to focus on issues instead of personalities. Our life is always learning. Those who think they already know will never learn. Some elements in the opposition specially in the social media think that they already know and never learn their real surroundings and the issues that need to be focused. Let us promise to create a learning environment. Positive lessons can be best derived from an environment free of suspicion and mistrust. Let us create an environment that is free of suspicion and mistrust.