Reports are beginning to circulate that as part the deal President Isaias struck with Somalia in Ethiopia, he is preparing to deploy troops to support the government in Mogadishu.

There is no confirmation at the moment that this is about to take place. But, as Kjetil Tronvoll remarks, if it did take place it would mean an end to plans to reduce the length of National Service, which currently continues indefinitely.

Sending Eritrean troops to Somalia would – of course – solve one of President Isaias’s dilemmas: what to do with thousands of demobilised young men and women, for whom he has no work. Having them hang around towns, including Asmara, could prove very difficult. With nothing to do and all day to do it they might become restless and law and order could evaporate.

Eritrea’s forgotten wars

Far better to send them on another foreign adventure.

This would not be Eritrea’s first international intervention: it has had a number of forgotten wars since independence.

These include conflicts in:

  • Sudan
  • Somalia
  • Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Yemen

Back into Somalia

President Isaias invervened in Somalia in the past.

The previous occassion followed the re-location of Somalia’s Islamic Courts to Eritrea in 2007, after the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia.

Eritrea subsequently sent advisers and military equipment to the Islamist group, al-Shabaab, which arose out of the Islamic Courts.

As the UN Monitors put it in their 2011 report to the Security Council: “Asmara’s continuing relationship with Al-Shabaab, for example, appears designed to legitimize and embolden the group rather than to curb its extremist orientation or encourage its participation in a political process. Moreover, Eritrean involvement in Somalia reflects a broader pattern of intelligence and special operations activity, including training, financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups in Djibouti, Ethiopia, the Sudan and possibly Uganda in violation of Security Council resolution 1907 (2009).”

In President Isaias’s own words

Although the president later denied supporting Al-Shabaab, this was not always his position. As he declared in 2009: “We support all resistance from anyone in Somalia.”

This came in an interview with Channel 4 – the independent British news channel.

This is what he said:

In an interview with Channel 4 News Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki defended Somalia’s militants saying that as his country supported all Somalis it would be a “mistake” to limit this support to “one or two groups.”

“We support all resistance from anyone in Somalia,” he said.

“Somalis have worked with outside forces for money for fame for what have you. They have collaborated with outsiders, we are against collaborators – we are with Somalis.”

“You may not agree with the ideology of al-Shabaab, Somalis may not agree with the ideology of al-Shabab but it’s up to them to have their own ideology. You need to respect their choice.

“Categorising anyone political group as terrorist isn’t qualified as a common understanding of that qualification. Now, anyone in any government will call an opposition a terrorist organisation.”

Mr Afwerki claimed that the United States and its allies had “created a situation of chaos in Somalia by providing weapons” to warlords but that he didn’t think a culture of blame was the solution.

“I wish we had the resource and we had the ability to support Somali resistance in any way. Physically, it hasn’t been possible. Theoretically, we may want to see that happen.

“We don’t want to get into this cycle of accusations and counter-accusations on who’s being supplying this or that faction in Somalia for the last 20 years.

“We would like resistance to succeed in Somalia and Somalis to be left alone to find a solution for their own problems without an external intervention.

“If you agree to that, pull out from Somalia. Don’t supply weapons to warlords. Don’t divide and weaken Somalia. You leave Somalia to Somalis and Somalis will find a solution for themselves. As long as this conflict continues, we remain supportive of the resistance in Somalia in any form.”

Intervention in 2019

If the report quoted at the start of this article is correct, and the Eritreans go into Somalia again, it will be on the other side.

They will be backing President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” – not Al-Shabaab.

However this would not alter one fact: young Eritreans would be dying in a foreign land.

That has been the pattern of foreign policy followed by President Isaias since 1991: he is unlikely to change.

The past is not a sure means of predicting the future, but it is an important indicator. So what happened during the Ethio-Eritrea Common Market which existed between the effecive independence of Eritrea and the outbreak of the border war (1991-1998)?

Here is one assessment by Professor Worku Aberra, of Dawson College, Westmount, Quebec. If anyone has reached a different conclusion, please get in touch.

Below is the conclusion and the full paper can be found here: The Ethio-Eritrea Common Market (1991-1998)


“The decision of the transitional government to enter into a preferential trade agreement with the EPLF that benefitted Eritrea was not due to its carelessness, negligence, indifference, naiveté, hubris, or incompetence. It was a rational political decision that the TPLF leadership made to consolidate its grip on power in the early 1990s, but it resulted in a net economic loss for Ethiopia and a net economic gain for Eritrea.

The common market allowed the EPLF to transfer a large amount of Ethiopia’s resources, worth billions of dollars, to Eritrea over eight years. The transferred resources generated income, foreign exchange, and employment for Eritrea. Khadiagata (1999, p. 43), for example, asserts that the common market produced some 300,000 jobs in Eritrea.

Beyond the common market, the strategic alliance that the two fronts forged in the early 1990s, in part based on their shared negative attitude if not outright enmity towards Ethiopia, enabled the EPLF to acquire Ethiopia’s physical assets in Eritrea and to forego Eritrea’s share of Ethiopia’s national debt without any compensation or obligation to Ethiopia.

The preferential treatment of Eritrea at the expense of Ethiopia by the TPLF-controlled government is emblematic of its resolve, even today, to stay in power by pursuing policies that undermine Ethiopia’s economic interests, national unity, and political transformation to democratic governance.”


By Petros Tesfagiorgis 11-22-18


The amazing peace campaign by the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahamed (PMAA) is one of the key moments in the history of Ethiopia. When PMAA signed peace with Eritrea, I was over the moon with happiness. I wrote an article on an Eritrean and Ethiopian websites encouraging my fellow Eritreans to be part of this remarkable initiative. For us, Eritreans, peace is priceless. However, for the people of Eritrean peace is not only with Ethiopia but more important internal peace that ends repression which is destroying the fabric of the Eritrean society.

However, President Isaias has failed to take advantage of this wind fall momentum. He has not released all prisoners of conscience, ended repression and become part of the movement bringing democracy to Eritrea. If he did adopt these win-win policies Isaias could have resigned with dignity and live the life of an elder, until his creator recalls him. For his part PMAAi s ignoring the repression in Eritrea. Yes the people of Eritrea are being sacrificed in order to appease his soul mate Isaias.

But Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has missed the point, it is in Isaias DNA to thrive and rejuvenate through conflict. He is already creating a problem. Questions are being raised by Ethiopians about his interference in Ethiopian internal affairs. Indeed, he has become part of the conspiracy to isolate and weaken the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the vanguard of the people of Tigray. This is in support of the Amhara -who felt that their right to rule Ethiopia from the Centre Addis Ababa  came to end when in 1991 the TPLF army defeated the military regime and entered   Addis Ababa in triumph, forming a government with other groups that represented the Amhara, Oromo and Southern people. Since then those Amhara who were part of Emperor Haile Selassie’s regime, or the Military Junta, have hated the TPLF. This, despite the fact that TPLF/EPRDF transformed the country from an undeveloped, famine stricken country, into a country with the highest economic growth in Africa. They build the infrastructure of roads and services and more that 40 universities, which provide the oppressed nationalities the skilled man power to govern themselves. More than that, they introduced a federal system of government that helped the formerly oppressed nationalities to be confident in themselves and to affirm their rightful place in Ethiopia.  Because of that the Amhara hate the TPLF and they have to alley with a devil to destroy them.

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It is absolutely right   to bring some corrupt TPLF/EPRDF officials to court and persecute them. But to politicise it in such a way as to undermine the heroic struggle of the people of’ Tigray is wrong. Isaias’s outburst of: “Game Over” has said it all although I don’t like Johar’s extremist politics  his complaint that PM Abiy is getting orders from the Arabs and Isaias is beginning to make sense.

The people of Eritrea has nothing to do with the interference of Isaias in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. On the country,we want to see a united, strong and prosperous Ethiopia at peace with itself and its neighbours. That is why many of us “justice seekers” resent the unholy alliance between PMAA and Isaias in order to damage the TPLF. Also there are things unforgettable: that it is the TPLF and the people of Tigray who unequivocally supported the right of Eritreans to determine their future because they were clear about the colonial history of Eritrea. While the Amhara movements such as EPRP (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party) wavered. They sought armed struggle training in the liberated areas of Eritrea on the basis of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. It is dangerous game which does not serve the interest of the Ethiopian people including the ordinary Amhara, because they too were oppressed under the feudal repressive Amhara rule.

For us Eritreans, it is the welfare of the people that has to be central to the peace. Peace is meant to bring repression to an end; to allow people to freely build their shattered lives and engage in economic and social development. In peace Ethiopia can have an access to the sea and there will be economic cooperation between the countries of the region that may develop into a Horn of Africa common market. Many Ethiopian intellectuals accuse TPLF/EPRDF of repression at home but when it comes to Eritrea they maintain silence. It is a double standard devoid of principle. Their claim about our brothers/sisters to Eritreans is a fake. Some Ethiopian know that Isaias is abusing   the people of Eritrea, that he has side-lined them and impoverished them by mismanaging the society and the economy.  Also, he had undermined the struggle for independence that encouraged some Ethiopians to dismiss it as a failure.

In his article Mamo Muchie said “Moving from failed 1991 -1993 transition to the 2018 re-union transition. From his perspective the victory of 1991 and the referendum in which the people of Eritrea voted for independence is a failure and a disaster." Eritreans are conscious of their own history (our own) history, his remarks exposed his chauvinist mind set.

 For Eritreans who fought for 30 years, it was a victory against the illegal annexation of Eritrea to Ethiopia which resulted in the destruction of our democratic institutions, including our political parties, student organisations and trade unions. It resulted in the abolition of Eritrean languages (Tigrinya and Arabic) which was replaced by Amharic, the ruling class language. All this gave rise to the beginning of arms struggle: the rest is history that led to an extraordinary achievement:  independence. It was  an amazing victory.

For Mamo Muchie it is OK to see Eritrea an ex-Italian colony, ripe to be appropriated by repressive feudal rulers of Ethiopia, unaware of the loss to life and property through air raids bombing of villages, and burning houses in addition to the death of thousands of fighters.


This perspective is not unique to Ethiopian intellectuals. In history we find that those who benefited from a repressive system have a different perspective of history from their victims. Mamo may have short memory but under the Amhara feudal rule Ethiopia was labelled a “prison of nationalities”. The 1974 revolution, spearheaded by the Ethiopian University progressive students was designed to get rid of the feudal repressive system and to allow all nationalities to participate in the Government as equal partners.



Take the example of the Oromos.  The Oromos have different perspective of history to that of the Amharas. For them Menelik1I is a brutal colonizer.  I quote from a publication titled OROMIA- a brief introduction by Gadaa Melban.


The Oromos were colonized during the last quarter of the 19th century by a black African nation –Abyssinia.  During the invasion Menelik reduced the Oromo population by about half. After colonization, Menelik continued to treat Oromos with utmost cruelty. Many were killed by colonial settlers, died of famine and epidemics of vicious diseases, or are sold as slaves. Haile Selassie consolidated Menelik’s gain and with the use of violence obstructed the free operation of the process of natural and historical development of the Oromo society. The military junta headed by Mengustu Haile Mariam (believed to be a distant relative of Menelik) continued on the path of Menelik and Haile Selassie in the oppression of Oromos.


The Amhara have a different perspective of this history. For the Amhara, the Amhara king, Menelik 11 (17 August 1844 – 12 December 1913) is a legend.  From his seat, Addis Ababa- Shoa –) he invaded the South inhabited mostly by Oromo’s and other minorities and build a strong feudal Ethiopia.  He is a king warrior and a modernized opened modern schools and built roads.  He famously is known for defeating the Italian army at the battle of Adwa in 1906. (see picture)


 Mamo Muchie’s perspective is shared by many Ethiopians.  They think that there was no need for Eritreans to fight for their independence and that it is a failure. This is simply incorrect. Many leaders of liberation movements who took up arms against occupation and seize power ended up as dictators. But their right to fight for independence was not disputed.


Petros Tesfagiorgis article 2

The key question is this:  Are Ethiopians going to respect Eritrean sovereignty? The people of Eritrea expected the marking of the boundary on the ground to take place, since Prime Minister Abiy has accepted the outcome of the boundary commission. But Isaias says there is no need for this boundary.


The Eritrean people are being side-lined in the peace process.  Isaias refused to end repression, hence, the Eritreans have no choice but to wake up, and stand up against these injustices in order to bring democratic change in Eritrea. The Eritreans in Diaspora have already risen up to the challenge and are engaging in debates and conferences to build united resistance with their aim of “power to the people”.


An understanding of history and acknowledgement of historical wrongs are essential to any honest and accurate evaluation of the present.  To continue

The end






Aljazeera and other media report that Libyan security forces raided a ship, using rubber bullets and tear gas to force the refugees to disembark in the Libyan city Misrata. A commander of the Libyan coast guard said that some migrants were wounded during the operation, but were better “in good condition” after being brought to the hospital. Reportedly, two underaged Eritreans were among those seriously injured. The group had refused to leave the ship as they feared abuse and being sold to human traffickers.

A reporter for France24 said that the Libyan coast guard has extended the area it monitors and that migrants are brought back to Libyan ports, which might be contrary to the Geneva convention which requires ships with rescued persons to head for safe ports. The UNHCR earlier this year deemed Libyan ports unsafe in a report.

Having been intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea, a group of at least 79 Eritrean refugees had pledged not to leave the boat they boarded to reach Europe and were starving, said refugees in two videos posted on Facebook. The group was brought back to the Libyan coast by a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship. A young man who says he is 16 years old stated that he had lived in Libya since 2016 and had been sold three times, that he had been punished and that his brother died during his stay. He said that he did not care if he gets killed and that the whole group had decided that they would stay on the boat until they die. “If you saw this condition, I swear to you, even for a microsecond no one can live this life in this country.”

While they were still on the boat, the group said they had not gotten any food for a week and that they used plastic bottles as toilets. The people in the videos speak Tigrinya, Afar, Arabic and English.


Information | November 23, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Tags: Coast Guard, Eritrea, Libya, UNHCR | Categories: Immigration & refugees, Other, Top news | URL:

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Former Eritrea finance minister of finance Mr Berhane Abrehe. PHOTO/COURTESY


The Eritrean Law Society has joined the furore towards the Eritrean Government to release detained former finance minister of finance Mr Berhane Abrehe. The Eritrea Law Society applied and secured a grant of Provisional Measures, delivered by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Through this grant the Eritrean law society and the African Commission has adopted Provisional Measures, requesting the State of Eritrea to:

End the incommunicado detention of the victim by disclosing his location, providing him with access to legal representation  and unhindered access to his family

Inform the victim of the reason for his arrest, and bring him before a competent court of law within the shortest possible time, or alternatively if no charges are brought against the victim, to ensure his immediate release. The Eritrean state should provide Mr Berhane with regular and unhindered necessary access to medical and health care and guarantee Mr Berhane’s safety and well-being while in custody.

The Africa Commission Provisional Measures was communicated to President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea office in a letter dated 29 October 2018, with reference number: ACHPR/PROVM/ERI/704/18/1689/18.

Speaking from Sweden, Mussie Ephrem a lawyer and member of the law society of Eritrea says ‘This proves again the credibility of the regional human rights instrument we have in the continent. This is the new Africa where rule of law is the future’.

On September 13th 2018, a number of former and exiled Eritrean leaders issued a joint statement of support for Mr Berhane Abrehe saying, ‘We, the undersigned exiled members of the Eritrean National Assembly, would like to express our strong support to the courageous act taken by our colleague, Ato Berhane Abrehe Kidane, the former Minister of Finance, against the dictatorial regime of Ato Isaias Afwerki.


In a recent message, Ato Berhane Abrehe has outlined a process in which Ato Isaias Afwerki would surrender power to the Eritrean National Assembly in a “peaceful, legal, civilized and Eritrean manner.” We strongly support the call to end the reign of tyranny, hand power to the people and bestow legitimacy on the Government of the State of Eritrea.

The Eritrean office of the president is yet to reply and has remained silent on this matter and requests for comments on the matter from the president press secretary has been futile.

In a recent interview with Eri-tv President Isaias Afwerki only made comments on the lost 25 years of isolation and the need for cooperation with the African Union saying ‘Without going too far, if we look at our region–Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti–if we can create cooperative relationship, the tense situation would give way to joint infrastructure based on co-operation and mutual respect’.


Assistant Secretary Nagy Travels to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, and Germany

State Department
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 21, 2018

Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs Tibor P. Nagy will travel to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, and Germany from November 27 to December 8, 2018. During his trip, Assistant Secretary Nagy will focus on promoting stronger trade and commercial ties between the United States and Africa, harnessing the potential of Africa’s youth, advancing peace and security through partnerships, and underscoring the United States’ enduring commitment to the people and nations of Africa.

In all stops, Assistant Secretary Nagy will conduct bilateral meetings with government officials. In addition, in Addis Ababa, he will participate in the United States – African Union High-Level Dialogue and in Djibouti, he will meet with the Executive Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Throughout his visit, the Assistant Secretary will also engage with business leaders and alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The final stop on the trip will be Stuttgart, Germany, where Assistant Secretary Nagy will have meetings with the United States Africa Command.

Follow @AsstSecStateAF on Twitter for trip updates. For press inquiries, please contact .


Children tell of being starved and beaten in camps part-funded by British government

Migrants gather at the Tajoura detention centre in Tripoli.

Migrants found by Libyan security forces while waiting to be smuggled to Europe gather at the Tajoura detention centre in Tripoli. Photograph: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Child refugees are facing abuse and malnutrition in a network of 26 Libyan detention centres the British government is helping to fund, the Guardian has learned.

In the first accounts to the media from minors being held in the camps, the children described being starved, beaten and abused by Libyan police and camp guards. One said the conditions were like “hell on earth”.

According to documents seen by the Guardian, there are 26 active camps which are part-funded by the UK across Libya. While the existence of the camps had previously been reported, the scale of the network was not public. There are no exact figures available on the number of children being held but there are thought to be hundreds and possibly more than 1,000. There are at least 5,400 refugees and migrants being detained in total, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says.

Child refugees are facing abuse and malnutrition in a network of 26 Libyan detention centres the British government is helping to fund
Child refugees are facing abuse and malnutrition in a network of 26 Libyan detention centres the British government is helping to fund Photograph: Handout

The Department for International Development confirmed the government was contributing funds for the centres: “We continue to help fund the European Union Trust Fund’s work to improve conditions for migrants in detention centres.”

The government insists the funding is necessary as part of a humane effort to dissuade people from making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing. Arguing that migrant detention centres are the responsibility of the Libyan authorities, it is understood to have raised concerns over the treatment of detainees with the Libyan government.

But critics see the Libyan camps as a way for European countries to outsource their problem with migrants and asylum seekers and contend that they are implicated in the problems with a system they fund “to make sure they don’t get to Europe”.


The revelations from the children – who risk severe punishment if guards discover they have been speaking to the media – provide the most detailed account yet of life in the camps for minors. Earlier this month, Amnesty International said conditions in the detention centres were unsustainable and that torture and ill-treatment were rife.

“There is a callous disregard on the part of Europe and other states for the suffering of those languishing in detention centres,” the Amnesty report said.

A 16-year-old boy in one of the centres said: “I have been here for four months. I have tried to escape three times to cross the sea to Italy but each time I have been caught and brought back to the detention centre. We are dying here but no one is taking responsibility. We need to be taken to a place of safety but we are locked in here 24 hours a day. We do not see sunrise and we do not see sunset.”

The centres are designed to keep asylum seekers from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. The UK and other EU countries have spent tens of millions trying to prevent asylum seekers from conflict zones, such as Eritrea and Sudan, entering the region. Last year the UK government spent £10m in Libya on various initiatives, including the detention centres.

Critics see the work as part of the government’s former “hostile environment” migration policy, intended to deter people from seeking sanctuary in the UK as well as removing those who were already in the country.

A 13-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker in a Tripoli camp told the Guardian detainees got just one or two small portions of white pasta a day and many were starving and malnourished. Diseases such as TB were rife. Many possessed just one T-shirt and one pair of shorts and were freezing now temperatures were dropping.

“I am very scared and very hungry,” the boy said. “I want to reach the UK where I will be safe. We have nothing here, no food, no clothes, no phones. I miss my mother and father so much.”

A 30-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker in the camp said the boy had travelled from Eritrea via Sudan with a 16-year-old cousin.

“He cries all the time for his parents,” she said. “He is so sad I let him go to sleep with me. The conditions here are so bad. We are treated like donkeys, not like human beings. We are not allowed to have phones so we have to hide them when the police come.”

This week a 24-year-old refugee tried to hang himself in the toilet area of one of the camps, a 16-year-old in the same camp said. Three others saw him and quickly cut him down. He survived.

The teenager said his friend had lost hope because he was registered with UNHCR in January 2018 but was still languishing in the detention centres.

In a message sent late on Monday evening he said: “All the refugees are waiting to do like what our bro do cos they suffered long time. Libya is hell on earth. The world never help us and see our problem.”

There are believed to be hundreds and possibly more than a thousand child refugees in the camps Photograph: Handout

One 17-year-old Eritrean boy who escaped from a detention centre and reached the UK has claimed asylum. An expert medical report found almost 50 torture scars on his body, consistent with being beaten with batonsand sticks. In a witness statement the boy said some of the injuries were sustained in beatings from guards at the camp, and others from traffickers. Many of those in the camps are from Eritrea but there are also asylum seekers from Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

The policy to keep out as many asylum seekers as possible by holding them at key crossing points into Europe appears to be working. In the year ending March 2018, the number of asylum applications in the UK from main applicants decreased by 8% to 26,547. The falls are consistent with the wider trend across Europe, with a decrease of around 41% in applications to EU countries in the last year.

Giulia Tranchina, of Wilsons solicitors, who is representing the 17-year-old Eritrean boy in London, said: “What young men, women, children and babies are suffering in detention in Libya is one of the biggest failures of our human civilisation. European governments, in our name, with our taxpayers’ money, are paying Libyan authorities, militias and army generals to continue detaining and torturing refugees on our behalf, to make sure they don’t get to Europe.”

A spokeswoman for UNHCR said: “We remain incredibly concerned about the plight of detained refugees and migrants. Conditions in detention are extremely dire.”

She said the current figure of 5,409 refugees and migrants being detained in Libya did not include those being held captive by smugglers.

A DfID spokeswoman said government funding was also used to encourage migrants to return to their home countries, for emergency evacuations of refugees, and for healthcare. UK government officials had raised with their counterparts in the Libyan Government of National Accord the need to respect the human rights of migrants, ensure the provision of basic services and explore alternatives to detention centres, she said.


Source: European Council on Refugees and Exiles

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 262 migrants detained in Libya were evacuated to Niger on November 12- the largest evacuation from Libya carried out to date. In addition to a successful airlift of 135 people in October this year, this brings the total number of people evacuated to more than 2000 since December 2017. However Amnesty International describes the resettlement process from Niger as slow and the number of pledges inadequate.

The evacuations in October and November were the first since June when the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) centre in Niger reached its full capacity of 1,536 people, which according to Amnesty was a result of a large number of people “still waiting for their permanent resettlement to a third country.”

57,483 refugees and asylum seekers are registered by UNHCR in Libya; as of October 2018 14,349 had agreed to Voluntary Humanitarian Return. Currently 3,886 resettlement pledges have been made by 12 states, but only 1,140 have been resettled.

14,595 people have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and taken back to Libya, however it has been well documented that their return is being met by detention, abuse, violence and torture. UNHCR recently declared Libya unsafe for returns amid increased violence in the capital, while Amnesty International has said that “thousands of men, women and children are trapped in Libya facing horrific abuses with no way out”.

In this context, refugees and migrants are currently refusing to disembark in Misrata after being rescued by a cargo ship on November 12, reportedly saying “they would rather die than be returned to land”. Reuters cited one Sudanese teenager on board who stated “We agree to go to any place but not Libya.”

UNHCR estimates that 5,413 refugees and migrants remain detained in Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) centres and the UN Refugee Agency have repetedly called for additional resettlement opportunities for vulnerable persons of concern in Libya.

For further information:

An authoritative report published in the Orthodox Handbook on Ecumenism describes the government interference and repression against members of Eritrea’s Orthodox church, including Abune Antonios. Full chapter Orthodox Church Eritrea.

A portion is reproduced below.


“Even though the Eritrean Orthodox Church enjoys the status of an officially recognized religious group, it faces a great deal of restrictions. In May 2002, the desire of the Eritrean government to control the oldest and the most influential institution in the country brought the installation of a political appointee as the General Administrator of the Church. This position, similar to that of the Ober-Prokurator of the Russian Orthodox Holy Synod in Tsarist times, has full control over the decisions of the Synod. Besides this, in order to weaken the position of the Church and to reduce its role to a mere arm of the Department of the Religious Affairs, the government either arrested or unfrocked a great number of the leading clergy who could oppose the new course of the government.

Yet this was not all: the finances of the Church fell under the control of the government, 26 the most precious artefacts and manuscripts were declared to be “the property of the Eritrean people” and confiscated. But what makes the religious policy of the government even more dangerous for the future of the Eritrean Orthodox Church is that presently all deacons and priests below the age of fifty are obliged to undergo an indefinite military service. During the last several years, more than 1,500 Orthodox priests were forced to join the army and as a result of the shortage of clergy, Orthodox churches – and first of all in rural areas – are being shut down at an alarming rate in Eritrea.

However the head of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Patriarch Antonios, took an uncompromising stand against all encroachments by the government in the affairs of the Church and demanded the release of the imprisoned Christians. The reaction followed quite soon, and Patriarch Antonios was removed from his office by the Holy Synod which sided with the government. He was soon arrested and became one of around 2,000 Christians detained without trial or charge by the Eritrean government.

Since then, he has neither been seen nor heard from. In order to justify this uncanonical action, representatives of the Synod even sought the support of the Coptic Pope Shenouda III to excommunicate Abune Antonios, but the Pope refrained from this and expressed his support for the persecuted Patriarch.

The religious policy of the Eritrean regime found its anticipated turn on 27 May 2007 when a pro-government bishop Dioscoros of Mendefera was installed as a new Patriarch. Although all other Oriental Orthodox Churches still continue to recognize Abune Antonios as the genuine and canonical patriarch of Eritrean Orthodox Tweahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Community in Diaspora is divided into two groups: one (more numerous) supporting Abune Antonios and the other, Abune Dioscoros.

The severe restriction of religious freedom in Eritrea gained attention all around the world and this situation became a major concern not only for various NGO’s, but also for Churches and ecumenical bodies worldwide. As the matter of fact, General Secretary of the WCC Konrad Raiser accompanied by an ecumenical team visited Eritrea in July 2002 and met there with Church leaders as well as government officials in order to advocate for the believers, whose fundamental human rights of freedom of religion, conscience, worship and organization had been violated.

Intensive work in this direction is being done also by the Eritrean Orthodox Church in Diaspora. Its recent appeal from May 2013 to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon could serve as an example of its activity. In this letter the Archdioceses of the Eritrean Orthodox Church in North America, Europe and Middle East once again called upon the world community to help to release His Holiness Patriarch Antonios and all those who are in prison because of their faith.”

Lantos HR Commission

Co-Chairs Ask Secretary Pompeo to Press for Human Rights in Eritrea

Nov 19, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to ensure that any reset in diplomatic relations between the United States and Eritrea be tied to verifiable human rights objectives. The Co-Chairs emphasized four key benchmarks for Eritrea, including the release of civil and military conscripts, an end to religious persecution, the release of prisoners of conscience, and freedom of movement for Eritrean citizens. The letter follows a hearing convened by the Commission earlier this year on human rights in Eritrea. The signed letter is available here, and the full text is reprinted below.

The bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was established by unanimous consent in the United States House of Representatives to promote, defend and advocate for international human rights. The Commission undertakes public education activities, provides expert human rights advice and encourages Members of Congress to actively engage in human rights issues.


Dear Secretary Pompeo,

As Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we write to urge you to ensure that any reset in relations between the United States and Eritrea, or any easing of sanctions imposed on Eritrea by the United Nations, be tied to concrete human rights objectives that are in the best interest of the Eritrean people as well as the international community.

We welcome the groundbreaking peace measures initiated by the leaders of both Ethiopia and Eritrea in recent months. Like the rest of the world, we were gratefully surprised to see the countries’ twenty-year conflict resolved with the signing of peace accords and the opening of diplomatic relations. Eritrea’s entry into the regional and global community is a welcome development with the potential to bring significant benefits to the Horn of Africa. These recent advances also present an important opportunity for the warming of the U.S.-Eritrean relationship, including strengthening security and economic partnerships that benefit both nations.

However, though President Isaias Afwerki and the Eritrean government have made great strides engaging with other countries in the region, we remain deeply concerned by the ongoing gross human rights violations that the government perpetrates against its own people. In a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Eritrea earlier this year, we heard testimony from individuals who described, or who had themselves experienced, torture as a systematic policy of the government, and the brutal suppression of their most basic rights. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are non-existent in Eritrea. Indefinite conscripted military and civil service is a fact of life for Eritreans and has created a mass exodus of people trying to leave the country. For these reasons, the small nation of Eritrea has disproportionately contributed to the global refugee crisis, particularly in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Since the signing of the peace agreement there has been no evidence of human rights reforms.

As Eritrea normalizes relations with the world, we ask that you continue to address these concerns in your ongoing diplomacy with the Eritrean government. In support of human rights and norms of international behavior, we ask that you specifically press for four concrete steps.

First, Eritrea should immediately release all military and civil conscripts who have served for more than 18 months and officially proclaim that new conscripts will not be required to serve for more than 18 months. The Eritrean people should no longer be subjected to indefinite national service that amounts to forced labor on behalf of the government.

Second, Eritrea must end religious persecution against all religious faiths in the country, particularly against those who do not belong to one of the four permitted religious groups. Jehovah’s Witnesses should again be granted full Eritrean citizenship along with the opportunity to fully participate in the country’s institutions and worship freely according to their conscience. In addition, at least 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses are reported to be incarcerated. Eritrea should provide explanations for the charges against these individuals and others in prison, release any who have not been criminally convicted, and ensure due process for all detained persons.

Third, President Afwerki should release the many hundreds of prisoners of conscience including Patriarch Abune Antonios and journalist Dawit Issak. At the very least, the United States should be allowed a visit with Patriarch Antonios as the U.S. Embassy has repeatedly requested. In addition, family members should be allowed to visit prisoners of conscience including those incarcerated for their religious beliefs, and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be given access to provide humanitarian aid and medicine to prisoners.

Lastly, Eritrean citizens should be granted the freedom to travel in and out of their own country. In the past, those seeking to leave the country were often shot at the border, or were captured, imprisoned, and tortured in underground prisons.

On September 17, 2018, only a day after President Afwerki signed the peace accord with the Ethiopian government, Berhane Abrehe, a former minister in the Eritrean government, was arrested in Asmara for writing a book critical of Afwerki. His family reports that he remains incommunicado. We find the Eritrean government’s discourse in support of peace and economic development inconsistent with its ongoing human rights violations which we believe will continue to destabilize the region. The government’s actions are not in-line with its stated intention to rejoin the international community.

We ask that you convey this message in your discussions with the Eritrean government and ensure that any lifting of sanctions is tied to these clear and measurable outcomes.


Randy Hultgren, M.C.                                    James P. McGovern, M.C.

Co-Chair, TLHRC                                          Co-Chair, TLHRC

CC:      The Honorable Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

115th Congress