Source: Sunday Mirror

Refugee from Eritrea, now 29, tells of his fear he will end up being sent to Rwanda for a second time under UK deportation scheme, years after he says Israel sent him there ‘to get rid of us’

Kidane paid smugglers to help him travel by dinghy from Calais to the UK (
Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Kidane was 18 when he fled his home country of Eritrea to seek asylum in Israel. But, in a cruel scheme which experts say inspired the UK’s deportation plan, he was flown to Rwanda with the promise of a new life.

Kidane – not his real name – crossed Africa and Europe to get here but could now be sent back to Rwanda.

Speaking from his asylum centre in Cardiff, Kidane, 29, said: “To be deported to Rwanda would be a huge threat to my life. I’d do the whole journey again and I might not survive it again. We’ve been treated like cattle, not humans. The UK wants to get rid of all refugees and asylum seekers.”

Kidane is one of more than 60,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees who fled dictatorship and war in their homelands to start a new life in Israel.

In 2016, after months in a desert prison camp, he was told he would be deported back to Eritrea or ­imprisoned indefinitely unless he went to Rwanda. He was flown to Rwandan capital Kigali via Turkey with a $3,500 settlement grant.

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Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has condemned the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

Israeli officials said he could apply for asylum in Rwanda, where he could get a job and be protected.

He says: “When we arrived in Kigali, we had our permits and visas taken away before being sent to a hotel surrounded by security.

“We stayed there for three weeks not knowing what was happening, when immigration officers arrived to take us over the border to Uganda. We had to pay them $150 for the trip and a further $150 to get to Kampala.

“The Israeli government knew what they were doing and used this as a way to get rid of us – and that is exactly what the UK government is doing.”

Accommodation in Kigali, Rwanda, where migrants from Britain are expected to be taken Image: REUTERS)

From Uganda, Kidane fled to South Sudan, where militiamen attacked his convoy, killing four of his friends. He was then held in a South Sudanese jail, where he narrowly avoided being shot as civil war raged around him.

Kidane decided to bribe his way out after seeing those who couldn’t pay being killed, beaten and raped. From Libya, he went by boat to Italy, spent four years in Germany, then paid smugglers to take him in a dinghy from Calais to the UK to try to reach his brother – his only family in Europe.

Kidane said our Rwanda policy will not deter migrants like him “who are so full of hopelessness”.

Professor Galia Sabar, of Tel Aviv University, who worked with Eritrean refugees like Kidane, called it “cruel, dangerous and truly racist”. “It is based on ignorance,” she said. “You cannot justify it. This policy is like sending this man to his death. I see no difference between Israel’s policy and the UK’s.”

A view of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, which is expected to take asylum seekers from the UK 

Image: REUTERS)

Israel axed its scheme after sending 4,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda between 2013 and 2018. Martin Plaut, of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, said: “The way Israeli refugees were treated by Rwanda indicates it is a completely unsuitable place to send refugees.

“The authorities simply trade people across the border. The UK’s scheme will mean they have to do the whole journey again, through smugglers, human trafficking, incarceration and potentially a death sentence. It’s a ruthless, vicious cycle.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The disturbing stories show why Israel abandoned this policy. We have said from the beginning the Rwanda deal is unworkable, unethical and extortionately ­expensive. This is more evidence why the Government should ­concentrate on stopping the ­criminal gangs who operate in the Channel instead.”

The Home Office said: “Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers, a thorough assessment is undertaken to ensure no one would be transferred there if it was not safe.”

Mr. Conny Reuter,

Global Coordinator, Progressive Alliance                                                                  

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                                                                                                                       06.22.2022

Dear Mr. Reuter,

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) to congratulate the Progressive Alliance on convening its in-person post-Covid-19 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on June 25-26, 2022. I would also like to express our party’s solidarity and cooperation with members of the Progressive Alliance and extend our wishes for the success of this conference.

We highly regret that we won’t be able to attend this important event and we recognize we’ll miss the opportunity to physically meet esteemed friends from various countries attending it.  As you know, we in the EPDP actively attended and greatly benefited from several eventful PA conferences in Stockholm, Rotterdam, Brussels, Berlin and a few others since our founding Leipzig conference in the spring of 2013.

 With a strong belief in peace, democracy and rule of law, we in EPDP have the confidence that the conference will discuss the means to overcome the current challenges of peace and democracy including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Horn of Africa and other war-torn societies in different corners of the world today. It is also the expectation of all peace-loving peoples to see the conference adopt ways and means to attain sustainable growth and development, tackle despotic regimes, and to that end ensure enhanced unity of progressive forces internationally.

EPDP, as an Eritrean party in exile, is playing a very substantial role in the Eritrean people’s struggle for freedom from the rogue regime in Eritrea that also is notoriously known for destabilizing the neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa. Once again, I congratulate you for this special conference that is taking place for the first time after the lockouts for the pandemic.

I wish you a successful conference. We will continue to work together.

Sincerely,

Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga)

EPDP Chairman

Eritrea Hub
Jun 22

Eighteen Eritrean mutineers interned in a refugee camp in Afar

Source: Africa Intelligence


With the agreement of the Eritrean general staff, 18 of the 52 soldiers who had fled from Eritrea to Ethiopia were transferred to the Asaita refugee camp. 

Issue dated 22/06/2022


On 16 June, 18 mutineers from the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) were presented to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) in Semera, the capital of the Afar region. They were transferred to Asaita refugee camp, 55km south-east of Semera.


The 18 were part of a group of 52 soldiers involved in a mutiny at the end of May in the 67th EDF division based in Badda, Eritrea, 25km from the Ethiopian region of Tigray, and less than 15km from the border with the Ethiopian Afar regional state (ARS). They had crossed the border with the ARS and taken up position at Badda Admurug in Dallol district. The soldiers had taken up arms and mutinied as a result of Eritrean military leaders' decision to prohibit Muslim soldiers from observing prayer.


Karikare, a favoured interlocutor


Eritrean Afar elders were sent to attempt to talk with them, and to try to make them reconsider their decision, but this move was in vain. On 2 June, Asmara finally sent Major General Houmed Mohamed Ahmed, known as "Karikare", himself an Afar, accompanied by two officers to the mutineers. The latter reportedly promised the soldiers that the issue of prayer would be reviewed and that no proceedings would be taken against the mutinous soldiers. Thirty-four of them agreed to return to Eritrea.

The remaining 18 were apprehended, with Karikare's agreement, by local militas and taken to Semera. Karikare, the highest-ranking Afar in the Eritrean security organisation, is the privileged interlocutor of the LRA authorities in Semera, and makes frequent trips to the region (AI, 08/04/22).

 

UNCATEGORIZED

Discussions are due to get under way in Brussels today (Monday) which could shape the relations between the EU and the Horn of Africa for years.

Below, Human Rights Watch’s Laetitia Bader lays out what is at stake. The meeting comes after a visit to Eritrea by EU representatives at a higher level than has taken place for years.

It would appear that the EU is attempting a “reset” after abandoning its disastrous road building programme that used National Service conscripts in what amounted to slave labour. The EU promised to end the programme in September 2020.

EU and UK Ambassadors inspect Ethiopia-Eritrea Road, 2020

Today’s Brussels talks have got Ethiopia worried and they mobilised their diaspora, who have appealed to the EU not to increase sanctions against the Addis government.

Twelve Ethiopian Organizations wrote a letter to the European Parliament  objecting to draft resolution (2021/2206 INI). [See below] They rejected the use of “Western Tigray” arguing that it is a Tigrayan term. And they are particularly worried about suggestions that there should be “an urgent deployment of an AU-led international peacekeeping force with a robust civilian protection mandate to Western Tigray,” to help end the war.

Clearly there are major sensitivities for all concerned, but the EU has been silent on the war in Tigray for far too long. Brussels needs to come up with a robust proposal that will support the AU/Kenyan mediation efforts to bring this tragic conflict to an end.  


EU Should Press Ethiopia for Tangible Rights Progress

Today’s Brussels talks have got Ethiopia worried and they mobilised their diaspora, who have appealed to the EU not to increase sanctions against the Addis government.

Twelve Ethiopian Organizations wrote a letter to the European Parliament  objecting to draft resolution (2021/2206 INI). [See below] They rejected the use of “Western Tigray” arguing that it is a Tigrayan term. And they are particularly worried about suggestions that there should be “an urgent deployment of an AU-led international peacekeeping force with a robust civilian protection mandate to Western Tigray,” to help end the war.

Clearly there are major sensitivities for all concerned, but the EU has been silent on the war in Tigray for far too long. Brussels needs to come up with a robust proposal that will support the AU/Kenyan mediation efforts to bring this tragic conflict to an end.  

Government Should Ensure Access to Aid; End Arbitrary Detentions

Laetitia Bader

Laetitia Bader

Tigray crisisEthiopians wait for food distribution in a small town north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, May 7, 2021. © 2021 AP Photo/Ben Curtis © 2021 AP Photo/Ben Curtis

The future of European Union engagement in Ethiopia will be high on the agenda of EU foreign ministers gathering next Monday in Brussels. This meeting takes place 19 months into an armed conflict originating in the northern Tigray region that has been devastating for the civilian population.

The Ethiopian government in February lifted a state of emergency used to arbitrarily arrest thousands of Tigrayans, and since April has permitted greater numbers of aid convoys to enter Tigray. Still, abuses and suffering remain rife in northern Ethiopia. For nearly a year, the government has maintained an effective siege of Tigray, limiting food, fuel, and other critical supplies while also shutting off communications, banking, and electricity. While more aid has been allowed in, the amount remains far less than the population’s needs. The lack of drug supplies and services in particular means that people with chronic illnesses, along with survivors of abuses, including wartime sexual violence, do not have essential care.

Human Rights Watch in April released a report with Amnesty International documenting an ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans by officials and security forces from the neighboring Amhara region. While the authorities restrict access to rights monitors and aid agencies, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Tigrayans are arbitrarily detained there in life-threatening conditions.

In a May 26 letter to the EU and member states, Human Rights Watch called for clear human rights benchmarks to underpin relations with the Ethiopian government. These include ending mass arbitrary detentions and allowing independent monitors’ access to detainees, the restoration of basic services, and unhindered and safe humanitarian access throughout conflict-affected areas.

There has been no meaningful accountability for war crimes and other serious abuses committed in Amhara, Tigray, and neighboring Afar regions. Government investigative processes and outcomes lack transparency, and international investigations continue to be hampered.

Federal authorities have for years conducted mass arrests and prolonged arbitrary detentions in Oromia, and have more recently detained thousands in Amhara.

For EU pressure to carry weight, the focus needs to be on ending harm to civilians. Diplomatic engagement and access with Ethiopia’s government should not be an end in itself, but a tool to achieve tangible progress in protecting civilians countrywide.

As the world watches the EU take robust measures against those responsible for war crimes elsewhere in the world, it shouldn’t settle for less in the Horn of Africa.

 

Jun 19

Source: UN News

UN Eritrea

A young man in Eritrea works with wood to make furniture.

A young man in Eritrea works with wood to make furniture.

Listen to the testimony of the UN Special Rapporteur Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker here
 
June 14, 2022

June 14, 2022

Human rights

The giffa, or raids for the purpose of military conscription, have intensified "dramatically" throughout Eritrea, especially following the conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray, denounced Monday in Geneva an independent expert from the UN.

“Thousands of conscripts have been forced into the Tigray conflict, with men, women and children taken and sent to fight on the front lines,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker on the first day of the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Previously documented patterns of child recruitment by Eritrean forces have worsened, with witnesses referring to "roundups of children as young as 14".

Refugees who were abducted from Hitsats and Shimelba camps in Ethiopia in late 2020 have also been detained, punished and conscripted. Over the past year, the UN independent expert says he heard from dozens of Eritreans whose relatives had been forced to fight in Tigray. Their families have received no official information about their fate or whereabouts, and live in fear that they will never return.

Officially, military service is limited to 18 months. But the power in place in Asmara believes that it must be able to count on its population in the event of war.

Evading military service is synonymous with degrading imprisonment

“Since taking office in November 2020, I have not received any evidence of progress in the human rights situation in Eritrea. In fact, I have observed a deterioration in several areas,” he said, noting that Asmara's involvement in the armed conflict in Ethiopia has highlighted the continuing human rights violations.

These abuses are linked to the indefinite national/military service system, and have further aggravated the already dire internal human rights situation in Eritrea.

Those who attempt to evade military service are imprisoned in "inhumane and degrading conditions for indefinite periods". Authorities also punish defaulters by proxy, for example by imprisoning a parent or spouse in order to force them to surrender themselves. "I also received information about conscripts who were killed while trying to escape from Tigray or from military training centers in Eritrea," Babiker said.

Under these conditions, the “deplorable” human rights situation in Eritrea continued to drive thousands of people to flee. At the same time, Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers face increasingly restrictive asylum and migration policies in both transit and destination countries.

The Challenge of Humanitarian Access in Ethiopia's Tigray Region

"Eritrean asylum seekers are still detained, turned back and are denied access to the asylum procedure in many countries", regretted the UN expert, recalling that Eritrean asylum seekers are faced with violations and untold hardship in their search for safety. In this regard, he considers that the situation of unaccompanied children is particularly alarming.

On the fate of these Eritrean refugees, he was particularly concerned about the situation of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, where thousands of them are "still in great danger". "I continue to receive reports of Eritrean refugees being killed in attacks, as well as preventable causes related to lack of access to food, water and medicine in Tigray," Babiker said. .

For the Special Rapporteur, this is an urgent issue that requires immediate action to protect refugees and other vulnerable populations. While he commended the efforts made by the Ethiopian Refugee and Returnee Service and UNHCR to register and assist Eritrean refugees, he expressed concern about the difficulties faced by humanitarian actors in operating in the Tigray region.

"The role played by the Eritrean forces, which for several months has prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid to refugees and other populations in need in Tigray, is very worrying", detailed the Special Rapporteur.

NOTE :

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what are called the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations human rights system, is the general name for the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that deal either with country-specific situations or thematic issues in all regions of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

 

 

The Eritrean government has criticised the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed in a series of Tweets.

The Eritrean authorities have used TesfaNews for this purpose - one of the media outlets the government controls. The Tweets are reproduced below.

"Since the Tweets are not officially from the government, they are deniable, but no-one who knows Eritrea, and the vice-like grip the regime maintains over its media, will fail to see through this.

Tigray separatist rebels leader (TPLF) vows to maintain and even strengthen its armed forces and will never negotiate about "disarmament" under any circumstances with the ??central gov't. Hoping to attain "peace" in Northern Ethiopia through "negotiation", without first achieving military superiority over the Tigray rebelious groups (i.e weakening them militarily) will be PM Abiy's next biggest mistake.

"Disarmament and/or Demilitarizing TPLF/TDF are non-negotiable in our current or future talks with the  Ethiopian Federal gov't as our military strength is our only security." - TPLF Chairman, Debretsion. (Source: Tigray TV)

PM Abiy's gov't will soon transfer the 12 billion birr annual Tigray budget to TPLF and there is no guarantee that the rebel group will not misuse a chunk of the money to arm itself further."

These remarks are the strongest criticism yet of PM Abiy and an indication of the split that appears to be widening between Asmara and Addis.

The TesfaNews Tweets were followed by a quote Tigray's Debretsion saying that Tigray had a direct contact with the US State Department and this comment: "(FYI) Unconfirmed reports indicates that the town of Kobo today witnessed mobilization of thousands of Western Amhara Fano fighters to fend off the encroachment of their territories by the criminal TPLF separatist group."

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)
20 May 2022


Excellencies,


Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s 50th session (13 June-8 July 2022), we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, are writing to urge your delegation to support the adoption of a resolution that extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. Moreover, we highlight the need for the Council to move beyond merely procedural reso- lutions and to enshrine the “benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights” by incorporating them into Eritrea-focused resolutions.


In July 2021, the UN Human Rights Council maintained its scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. Considering that monitoring of and reporting on the situation was still needed, the Council extended the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. This was vital to address both Eritrea’s domestic human rights violations and atrocities Eritrean forces have committed in the neighbouring Tigray region of Ethiopia.


In October 2021, Eritrea was re-elected for a second term as a Member of the Council (2022-2024). Yet the Government shows no willingness to address the grave human rights violations and abuses UN bodies and mechanisms have documented or to engage in a serious dialogue with the international community, including on the basis of the benchmarks for progress the Special Rapporteur identified in 2019. Despite its obligations as a Council Member to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council,” the Government refuses to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur or other special procedure mandate holders. As of 2022, Eritrea remains among the very few countries that have never received any visit by a special procedure.1


Furthermore, Eritrean forces have been credibly accused of grave violations of international law in Tig- ray, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, since the conflict started in November 2020.
The concerns expressed in joint civil society letters released in 2020 and 2021 remain valid. Key human rights issues in Eritrea include2:

  • Widespread impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations;
  • Arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention;
  • Violations of the rights to a fair trial, access to justice, and due process;
  • Enforced disappearances and lack of information on disappeared persons;
  • Conscription into the country’s abusive national service system, including indefinite national ser-
    vice, involving torture, sexual violence against women and girls, and forced labour; and
    1 See https://spinternet.ohchr.org/ViewCountryVisits.aspx?visitType=all&Lang=en. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea has conducted official visits to neighbouring countries, namely Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as to other countries, and met with members of the Eritrean diaspora, including refugees, in these countries. All visit requests to Eritrea have been denied. Other special procedure mandate holders have requested, but were systematically denied, visits to Eritrea. They include special procedures on extrajudicial executions, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to education, the right to health, arbitrary detention, torture, freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion or belief, and the right to food (data as of 7 April 2022).
    2 See DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: maintain Human Rights Council scrutiny and engagement,” 5 May 2020, https://defenddefenders.org/eritrea-maintain-human-rights-council-scrutiny-and-engagement/; DefendDefenders et al., “Eritrea: renew vital mandate of UN Special Rapporteur,” 10 May 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/eritrea-renew- vital-mandate-of-un-special-rapporteur/; CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide), “Eritrea: General Briefing,” 22 March 2022, https://www.csw.org.uk/2022/03/22/report/5629/article.htm (accessed on 7 April 2022).
    1
  • Restrictions on the media and media workers, as well as severe restrictions on civic space.
    In 2019, when the former sponsors of Eritrea-focused resolutions, Djibouti and Somalia, discontinued their leadership, civil society welcomed the initiative a group of six States took to maintain multilateral scrutiny of Eritrea’s human rights situation. However, while welcoming the adoption of Human Rights Council resolutions 41/1 (2019), 44/1 (2020), and 47/2 (2021),3 many civil society organisations cau- tioned that any shifts in the Council’s approach should reflect corresponding changes in the human rights situation on the ground. Civil society also emphasised the need for the new core group, and for the Euro- pean Union (which subsequently took over sponsorship of these resolutions), to be ambitious.
    We believe that it is time for the Council to move beyond merely procedural resolutions that extend the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, and to clearly describe and condemn violations Eritrean authorities com- mit at home and abroad.
    We also believe that the benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights,4 which form a comprehensive road map for human rights reforms, should be incorporated into this year’s resolution. These benchmarks5 include:
  • Benchmark 1: Improvement in the promotion of the rule of law and strengthening of national justice and law enforcement institutions;
  • Benchmark 2: Demonstrated commitment to introducing reforms to the national/military service;
  • Benchmark 3: Extended efforts to guarantee freedoms of religion, association, expression and
    the press, and extended efforts to end religious and ethnic discrimination;
  • Benchmark 4: Demonstrated commitment to addressing all forms of gender-based violence and
    to promoting the rights of women and gender equality; and
  • Benchmark 5: Strengthened cooperation with the United Nations country team.
  • Associated indicators outlined in paragraphs 78-82 of UN Doc. A/HRC/41/53, as well as all recommendations pertaining to the benchmarks formulated in successive reports of the Special Rapporteur, should also be referenced in the resolution.
    The Human Rights Council should allow the Special Rapporteur to pursue his work and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to deepen its engagement with Eritrea.
    At its upcoming 50th session, the Council should adopt a resolution:
    (a) Extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea;
    (b) Urging Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur by granting him access to
    the country, in accordance with its obligations as a Council Member;
    (c) Welcoming the benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights and associated indicators and recommendations, and emphasising the need for Eritrea to in- corporate these benchmarks in its institutional, legal, and policy framework. The resolution
    should enshrine the five benchmarks and associated indicators;
    (d) Calling on Eritrea to develop an implementation plan to meet the benchmarks for progress,
    in consultation with the Special Rapporteur and OHCHR; and
    (e) Requesting the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur to present updates on the
    human rights situation in Eritrea at the Council’s 52nd session in an enhanced interactive dialogue, and requesting the Special Rapporteur to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s 53rd session and to the General Assembly at its 77th session.
    3 Resolutions available at: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/41/1; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/44/1 and https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/RES/47/2
    4 See Human Rights Council resolution 38/15, available at:
    https://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/RES/38/15
    5 See reports of the Special Rapporteur to the Council, UN Docs. A/HRC/41/53, A/HRC/44/23, and A/HRC/47/21.
    2 We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as needed.
    Sincerely,
  1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
  3. Amnesty International
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  6. Cercle des Droits de l’Homme et de Développement – DRC
  7. CIVICUS
  8. Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform – Liberia
  9. Coalition Burundaise des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme (CBDDH)
  10. Coalition des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CDDH-Bénin)
  11. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  12. Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
  13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  14. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
  15. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  16. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  17. Eritrea Focus
  18. Eritrean Law Society
  19. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
  20. Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC)
  21. Eritrean Political Forces Coordination Committee (EPFCC)
  22. Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC) – Burundi
  23. Freedom United
  24. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme (GHR)
  25. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
  26. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone (HRDN-SL)
  27. Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network – HRDS-NET
  28. Human Rights Watch
  29. Independent Human Rights Investigators – Liberia
  30. Information Forum for Eritrea (IFE)
  31. Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH)
  32. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  33. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  34. Network of Human Rights Journalists – The Gambia
  35. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH AFRICA) 36. One Day Seyoum
  36. Protection International Africa
  37. Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP) – Burundi
  38. Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (RNDDH)
  39. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) 41. West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN) 42. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    3

Today North Korea has finally admitted that its policy of a strict lockdown without a vaccination programme against Covid-19 has failed.

North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, had vowed to eradicate the outbreak, which it called a “severe national emergency” that had breached the country’s “quarantine front”. But observers believe the virus has long been present in the country.

Outsiders say the nation’s 25 million population is vulnerable as North Korea has declined to administer a Covid-19 vaccine programme, even rejecting offers from the international community to supply millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made Sinovac jabs last year.

Eritrea mirrors North Korea

President Isaias Afwerki is the only African leader who – echoing the North Koreans – has turned down vaccinations.

Eritrea has yet to start vaccinating its population against COVID-19, the head of the African Centres for Disease Control said in December.

“Eritrea is the only country now that has not joined the family of 55 member states (of the African Union) that are moving forward with vaccination, but we are not giving up,” John Nkengasong told an online media briefing.

Even Tanzania, which used to refuse vaccinations under its former President John Magufuli, is now promoting vaccinations to protect its people from Covid.

Eritrea’s status as a vaccine denier is confirmed in the latest World Health Organisation Covid briefing.

Forty-six countries out of the 47 in the African region are rolling out COVID-19 vaccination. Eritrea remains the only country in the region that has not yet introduced COVID-19 vaccination in the national response to the pandemic.

Eritrea’s failure to vaccinate has left the country’s people vulnerable to the virus and they have been dying.

Covid-19 Eritrea

The only factor that is preventing Eritrea from an even worse pandemic is its isolation. But this has not stopped deaths.

Until President Isaias reverses his policy and welcomes the offers of Covid vaccines, this is certain to continue.

Martin Plaut 12 May

By Gilad Liberman

Israel Rwanda Agreement 2

Following the recently announced trafficking in persons agreement between the UK and Rwandan strongmen Paul Kegame’s government, it is useful to be reminded of the similar scheme between Israel and Rwanda.

What happened to refugees deported by Israel to Rwanda?

The deportees were given only a paper document by Israel. Upon landing in Kigali, they would be approached by a person who introduced himself as “John”, without uniform but in what appeared to be a semi-official capacity, took the papers from them, and led them to bypass the passport control. Then, they’d be driven to a villa in Kigali, where they’d stay up to a few days. Sometimes it was guarded, sometimes the guard was armed. At some point, they’d be taken by cars to the border with Uganda and be smuggled over there, by foot. A car on the other side would take them to a hotel in Kampala. They’d have to pay separately for the Rwandan and Ugandan side. In Kampala, left without any documents, they’d be pushed to continue, to South-Sudan, Sudan, Libya, and Europe. This scenario has been repeated almost perfectly, in many testimonies, over years of deportations. Many have perished in the sea, and many more have died on the way, in the Sahara and Libya, abused harshly by the traffickers. Many have also survived and arrived in Europe. The immigration authorities in Europe, and most probably in the UK too, have heard such testimonies many times, again and again, from the refugees themselves.

(Reports and interviews have shown this procedure to continue repeatedly and systematically over several years, with virtually no exceptions: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 )

Similarities and differences between the Israeli and the UK’s agreement

In contrast to the Israeli agreement, the UK’s agreement at least names Rwanda publically. It is still very vague, opaque and half-baked. The home office has indicated that the deportees will be housed in “Hope Hotel”, still to be leased by the government, containing only a few rooms. The low number of rooms indicates a mechanism for slowly disappearing small groups of people at a time, in a similar way to what was done to the deportees from Israel.

No mechanism for ensuring the safety of the deportees has been discussed.

We do not know what Israel gave Rwanda, but arms deals have been publically discussed, and reports show hacking and persecution of dissidents using the pegasus software shortly afterwards, guaranteeing that Rwanda is now an even more repressive society than it was a few years ago.

The plan fundamentally relies on disappearances

The streamlined process of disappearances is not a peculiarity of the situation or of individual action. The UK agreement, as the Israeli one, cannot be conceived but to rely on the disappearance of deportees. Their continued stay as free persons, with free access to media, would put enormous pressure on the UK and the Rwandan governments. Basic human rights and respectful living conditions do not constitute useful deterrence. Deterrence means deporting people to misery and death, a term that is understood by anyone involved. While statements such as “I will make their life miserable until I could deport them” (Eli Yishai, Israel’s former interior minister) might not be to the taste of British audiences, appeals to Rwanda’s “safety” and “dynamic economy” take a similar approach. And as we would like not to know about what exactly happens to the people we send to misery, and provide a comforting sphere of denial, the role of Rwanda as a disconnection unit is required.

Lessons learned

As the agreement relies on disappearances, any continuous communication with the deportees will weaken the scheme. The British government must be held accountable for their survival. The Australian-Cambodian agreement, in which journalists and activists followed the few people who were deported, collapsed at the cost of dozens of millions for Australia. The Israel-Rwanda deal was broken mostly by exposing it. The Rwandan government has many ways to discommunicate a person, beyond technological means. Fear of reprisal is ubiquitous, and preserving communication channels with people under threat of arbitrary and extreme violence is difficult. People further pushed from Rwanda to Uganda and elsewhere, and survive, also live in fear, and have very little faith and trust in media and activists.

 

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