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Riots erupt among the Eritrean community in south Tel Aviv over the support of Eritrea's brutal regime, with supporters of the Eritrean dictator attacking their countrymen, who in turn called for them to be deported.
Amir Alon, Itay Blumenthal|Published:  06.07.18 , 11:48

After four days of violent protests in south Tel Aviv, which left several people injured and arrested, hundreds of Eritreans gathered Wednesday in the Levinsky Park, to demonstrate against Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki but also call for an end to violence in the Eritrean community in Israel.

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Some even called for those Eritrean asylum seekers who support Afwerki to be deported. Towards the end of the event, some Afwerki supporters arrived at the scene equipped with rocks and sticks and began rioting, which resulted in a brawl. The police securing the event did not intervene.
  (Photo: Amit Huber)

(Photo: Amit Huber)

The protests are a result of clashes which broke out Saturday, when thousands of Eritreans living in Israel gathered under heavy police presence near the Kanot Junction to celebrate the Eritrean Independence Day. This has angered those in the Eritrean community who oppose the oppressive regime in their country.
Every single day ever since has been marked by protests involving hundreds of Eritreans in south Tel Aviv, pelting each other with rocks, smashing windows of cars and nearby stores, and even using cold weapons.
This isn’t the first year clashes of this kind have broken out, yet this year has been marked by the increase in violence.
Violence at the protest   (Video: Amir Alon)

The demonstration on Wednesday was led by a group containing dozens of women holding signs that read “Stop the Violence,” “Stop Dictatorship” and “Our Lives is Israel,” among other slogans.
The women condemned the riots. “We don’t want the blood of our brothers to be spilled here. We want peace rather than chaos,” one woman said. 
She went on to further condemn the Afwerki supporters. “They disturb us. We came to Israel to live rather than just work. We left our home because of the dictatorship, which made our country a dangerous place to live in. We came to seek asylum.”
“We have friends who call themselves refugees, but they are actually work migrants who pay two percent of their monthly salary to the Eritrean government in taxes,” raged Etkili Abraham Michael, an asylum seeker who opposes his country’s regime.
“They terrorize Neve Sha'anan. Some of our friends have been assaulted, stabbed and are now in hospitals. Over the last few day, we’ve been scared to go to work ... we just stay home,” he lamented.
  (Photo: Amit Alon)
(Photo: Amit Alon)
 Etkili claims that around 3,000-4,000 supporters of the regime are the ones who initiated the violence. “We ask the Israeli government to deport them back to Eritrea. If they celebrate the Eritrean Independence Day–they might as well just go there ... the chaos in Eritrea is more than enough for us, we don’t need it here in Israel as well.”
“After they assaulted me, I can’t stay silent. Rocks are being thrown at us, and we’re defending ourselves. We didn’t start this mess,” he insisted, referring to those protesters who oppose the regime.
Snait Zerbrock, another asylum seeker, added, “We’re all Eritreans and I can’t go against my brothers, but if they’re rooting for the dictator, that’s an issue. We didn’t come here to beg for food but to save our lives. I cannot go back to my country, but if they don’t have a problem with it, they’re free to go back.”
Sheffi Paz, one of the leaders of the fight against Eritreans being granted asylum, also came to the demonstration on Wednesday. “We’re dealing here with an Intifada of the asylum seekers," she asserted.
“We can’t differentiate between those who support the regime and those who oppose it. We’ve been talking about this problem for a while since it didn’t start this week but has been happening for a long time.”
Paz claims the situation has worsened over the recent days. “There’s a surge of violence day after day. Dozens of people with rocks in their hands that you’re constantly worried might strike you ... these people have brought their diseases with them, while old local women are dying of fear and can’t leave their homes.”

In the meantime, over 20 Eritrean citizens, accused of being involved in the riots in south Tel Aviv, have been arrested by the police. They will be transferred to the Saharonim facility once the police proceedings are finished.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy has begun sketching out a plan for prosperity in the Horn.
“All that we have achieved from the situation of the last 20 years is tension,” Abiy said.
Meanwhile, no response yet from Eritrea

Source: Reuters

Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Wednesday that ending war and expanding economic ties with neighboring Eritrea is critical for stability and development in the impoverished Horn of Africa region.

Abiy Ahmed’s remarks followed the announcement on Tuesday by his ruling coalition that Ethiopia would fully implement a peace deal signed in 2000 and meant to end a two-year war that devolved into a stalemate resulting in huge military build up by both countries.

The pledge would entail ceding a disputed town to Eritrea. There was no sign on Wednesday that Ethiopia had begun withdrawing its troops from the town of Badme.

It is one of many policy shifts announced since the 41-year-old took office in early April, moves that could reshape Ethiopia’s relations with its neighbours and have equally dramatic impacts inside the country of 100 million people.

Whether the new measures, including liberalization of the state-controlled economy, end up addressing critical challenges from high youth unemployment to rising government debt remain to be seen. But they are shaking the country up.

“All that we have achieved from the situation of the last 20 years is tension,” Abiy said.

“Neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea benefit from a stalemate. We need to expend all our efforts toward peace and reconciliation and extricate ourselves from petty conflicts and divisions and focus on eliminating poverty.”

Ethiopia’s move is a “drastic departure” from its longstanding – and failed – policy, said Ahmed Soliman, Ethiopia analyst at Chatham House, a London-based thinktank.

“To see some movement is extremely positive. This is the most important latent conflict within the Horn and its resolution is important for peace and security in the region.”


Eritrea used to be a part of Ethiopia and waged a 30-year struggle for independence. The war on their shared border between 1998 and 2000 killed tens of thousands of people, caused significant displacement and the splintering of families.

Eritrea’s government has not responded publicly to Addis Ababa’s offer of an olive branch late on Tuesday. The two nations cut ties during the war.

Asmara’s Information Minister told Reuters on Tuesday evening he had not seen the Ethiopian government’s statement so could not immediately comment. He did not respond to phone calls on Wednesday.

Eritrea has long said it wants Ethiopia to pull its troops out from the disputed territory before normalizing ties, citing a decision by a boundary commission at The Hague which awarded the village of Badme to Eritrea in 2002.

Asmara has long felt betrayed by world powers, who they say failed to force Ethiopia to abide by the commission ruling.

Ethiopia says the row over border demarcation can only be resolved through a negotiated settlement.

On Tuesday, an Ethiopian foreign ministry official told Reuters that there were “at least 61 attempts” to mediate between the two nations, but that Asmara had rejected all requests.

Russia, the European Union, and Qatar were among those that proposed to mediate in the last two decades, he said.

Abiy said Ethiopia needed to resolve what he seemed to view as a costly and pointless dispute.

“Putting an end to this situation and finding peace is necessary beyond anything else not just for Ethiopia but for the wider Horn of Africa,” he said in a speech in Addis Ababa.

“Every Ethiopian should realize that it is expected of us to be a responsible government that ensures stability in our region, one that takes the initiative to connect the brotherly peoples of both countries and expands trains, buses and economic ties between Asmara and Addis Ababa.”

Diplomats say punitive measures taken against Eritrea may prevent an immediate conclusion to the dispute.

The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea in 2009 on charges that Asmara provided political, financial and logistical support to militant groups in Somalia. Eritrea has long dismissed the claims, saying they are concocted by Addis Ababa in a bid to isolate the country and divert attention from Ethiopia’s reluctance to hand over the disputed areas.

“The Eritrean government has always proclaimed its innocence and will demand that the sanctions are promptly lifted. This could be a sticking point for now,” said a Western diplomat in Ethiopia.

(Additional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Toby Chopra)


Algiers Peace Agreement, 2000

First Phase DigitalIt came like a bolt from the blue, but perhaps we should have been ready for it.

On  Tuesday Ethiopia’s governing party – the EPRDF – accepted the peace deal that ended its border war with Eritrea.

Ethiopia will “fully accept and implement” the agreement with Eritrea that was signed in 2000, its ruling coalition announced.

The signs that this was coming had been there since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s inauguration address in April.

Prime Minister Abiy said: “With the government of Eritrea, we want from the bottom of our hearts that the disagreement that has reigned for years to comes to an end. We would also discharge our responsibility. While expressing our readiness resolve our differences through dialogue, I take this opportunity to call on the Eritrean government to take a similar stand not only for the sake of our common interest but also for the common blood relations between the peoples of the two countries.”

Then, in May, Prime Minister Abiy went to the northern region of Tigray, which has been most effected by the closure of the Ethiopia-Eritrean border. The Prime Minister had this to say to his audience.

“When asked about the Ethio-Eritrea issue, he said, he understands Tigrai is the most affected region and he will do everything in his power to bring peace to the region. He said while in Saudi Arabia he has asked the crown prince to help to bring peace between the two countries. PM Abiy told the participants, after he promised the crown prince that Ethiopia will abide by the Algiers Agreement if the regime in Asmara can sit down to talk on other issues, the crown prince tried to call Isaias Afeworki. The call was not returned but he is hopeful with Saudi and US help the issue will be resolved soon.”

Now the EPRDF has formally called on their Eritrean neighbours to respond to their peace offer.

“The Eritrean government should take the same stand without any prerequisite and accept our call to bring back the long-lost peace of the two brother nations as it was before,” the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) wrote on Facebook.

Eritreans glued to their televisions and radios

Ethiopia’s promise to accept in full the Algiers peace agreement and the Boundary Commission’s ruling on where the border should be has electrified Eritreans. “They are glued to their televisions and radios,” an Eritrean friend told me.

The underground resistance movement Abri Harnet (Freedom Friday) has welcomed the Ethiopian statement.

Speaking from Asmara a member of Team Arbi Harnet said “this gives us a golden opportunity to mark the forthcoming June 20-Martyr’s Day, in a meaningful way restoring the dignity of our people.

We call for an end to the indefinite national service and the release of all political prisoners, we call for a positive response from Eritrea and thank EPRDF and Dr. Abiy Ahmed for taking the lead in ending this dark history of our sisterly countries.”

Echoing the call from activists inside Eritrea, Team Arbi Harnet in the diaspora say they will be carrying out a series of initiatives calling for

“1. An end to the indefinite national service and
2. The release of all political prisoners by June 20, 2018, the day Eritreans across the world mark Martyr’s Day to pay tribute to the thousands of freedom fighters who gave up their lives to liberate Eritrea. We ask upon all Eritreans to pressure the regime with the above to calls.”

The Eritrean government’s response

So far the Eritrean government has offered no official response to the Ethiopian announcement.

There is no statement on the Eritrean Ministry of Information website.

The Minister of Information, Yemane Gebreab’s latest tweet is a book review.


This is hardly surprising. The Ethiopian government’s move is a major development: one that has been anticipated, and hoped for, for years.

In reality it is no more than was required by its signature of the Algiers Peace Agreement in 2000 that ended the border war.

Both governments then made this promise:

The parties agree that the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Commission shall be final and binding. Each party shall respect the border so determined, as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other party.
This should have been the end of the matter, but Ethiopia called for further talks before implementation: a position the Eritrean government refused to accept.
Now this obstacle appears to have been removed.
But this move has been long delayed and Asmara is probably right to wait until it is formally informed by the Ethiopian government and sees the small print.
If the Ethiopian offer is genuine, and has no strings attached, then the United Nations is required to intervene.
The Algiers agreement said this:
Recognizing that the results of the delimitation and demarcation process are not yet known, the parties request the United Nations to facilitate resolution of problems which may arise due to the transfer of territorial control, including the consequences for individuals residing in previously disputed territory.
The UN should seize this opportunity by sending a high level delegation to both Addis Ababa and Asmara to immediately iron out any difficulties; to “facilitate” the resolution of any problems that may arise, as required by the Algiers agreement.
Only one response would be a catastrophic mistake: for Eritrea to do nothing.
President Isaias has allowed previous diplomatic opportunities to slip between his fingers. This must not happen again.
Caution is one thing. Prevarication is quite another.

Around 200 Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis tried to escape from one of 20 detention centres in the town of Bani Walid, approximately 180 km (110 miles) southeast of the capital Tripoli. Traffickers, who run the centres, killed those trying to flee.

UNHCR 1 June 2018

Human traffickers in Libya reportedly killed more than a dozen people and wounded many others after a group of some 200 Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis, being held captive, attempted to escape. The incident happened on Wednesday, 23 May in Bani Walid, approximately 180 kilometres southeast of the capital Tripoli.

According to the survivors, people were shot while trying to escape and during attempts to recapture them. The survivors spoke of torture abuse and exploitation at the hands of traffickers – some being held in captivity for up to three years.

The local Libyan authorities have transferred 140 people who managed to escape from the traffickers to an official detention centre in Gaser Ben Gashir, 28 kilometres south of Tripoli.

In Gaser Ben Gashir, UNHCR has been distributing relief items, providing psychosocial support and undertaking protection screening to identify and register those in need of international protection. Following this, UNHCR has identified a large number of unaccompanied children among the group. We are currently identifying the most vulnerable cases in order to find appropriate solutions for them. UNHCR believes that many refugees and migrants may still be hiding or in captivity in or near Bani Walid.

This latest deadly incident demonstrates, once again, the huge challenge of providing protection to refugees in Libya, where many people fleeing war and persecution fall prey to criminal networks who exploit and abuse them or later often perish at sea while searching for safety in Europe.

UNHCR advocates for legal pathways for refugees to travel safely. We continue to call on resettlement countries and the international community to step forward, open more resettlement places and identify ways to protect vulnerable refugees in Libya, and beyond, who need international protection.


by Martin Plaut

‘Trust and the Triggers of Trauma. Exploring experiences of the trust between Eritrean unaccompanied minors and their caregivers in The Netherlands’

New report 1There is nothing natural or automatic about trust. Trust grows and develops in every individual and is shaped by the environment in which a person interacts with other people’ (Eisenhower &Blacher, 2006)

Recently, Tilburg University and EEPA published their latest report for the Dutch unaccompanied refugee minor organization Nidos Foundation investigating the situation of unaccompanied Eritrean minors in The Netherlands.

The research focuses on the high incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress in relation to the lack of trust between unaccompanied minors from Eritrea and their caregivers.

The purpose of this report has been to present findings and conclusions as well as to give a set of practical recommendations.

As the report reads, lack of trust results from ongoing and untreated Post-Traumatic Stress, through the negative feelings that systematically bias the information processing.

Healing trauma and building of trust between refugees and caregivers is critical to protect the Unaccompanied Minors of Eritrea in The Netherlands.

The report looks at to what extent the lack of trust is recognised as a critical issue between the minors and care-givers and what can be done to relief such issues of trust.

The following overall question guides this research: What are the experiences that undermine trust-building between Unaccompanied Minors of Eritrea and their caregivers in The Netherlands and how do they strategize to overcome such obstacles?

Recommendations that are suggested by the authors to help the efforts of building trust between Eritrean minors and their caregivers include exploring options to change the perception of the way the Dutch asylum system works, such as the requirements for documentation, addressing feelings of misunderstanding, providing adequate information on the background of the Eritrean minors for caregivers, addressing trauma with appropriate tools, and reducing triggers of trauma.

As a conclusion, the report analyzes that trust has cultural and social dimensions and experiences shape notions of trust and what is considered as trustworthy.

Post-Traumatic Stress impacts on the experience of trust in that depressed feelings negatively shade information and therefore enhances feelings of distrust.

The deeply traumatizing experiences of the Eritrean unaccompanied minors put trust on trial.

Zehaie 24.05.2018 2


On 24 May 2018, the Eritrean-Swedish Solidarity Association (Eritrean in Our Hearts) colourfully celebrated the 27th anniversary of Eritrean Independence Day and the second anniversary of the association's founding congress. Association President Tomas Magnusson warmly welcomed Swedish and Eritrean participants at the anniversary and wished good days ahead for Eritrea and its people.


Mr. Magnusson then invited Association Board member Zehaie Keleta to the podium to speak about Eritrea since its independence. At the occasion, the Hon. Shadiye Haidari, Swedish Parliament member from the Swedish Social Democratic Party, and her spouse presented the Eritrean speaker with a bouquet of red roses to congratulate all Eritreans on this historic day. Also presenting white roses to Mr. Zehaie Keleta was a representative the women's wing of the Swedish Peace Society.


In his speech, Mr. Zehaie Keleta mentioned some of extraordinary sacrifices of the Eritrean people in their prolonged 30-year struggle and the tragic experiences of this heroic people in the past 27 years under the dictatorial regime.

Zehaie 24.05.2018 1

The keynote speaker narrated in great detail the human rights abuses in the country which is keeping thousands in its 364 prisons, including 29 journalists, 11 members of parliament and most senior government officials. He also explained the horrible experiences in the Sinai and Sahara deserts by young Eritreans fleeing from the limitless violations of political and human rights by the criminal regime in Eritrea.

Swedish MP Shadiye Haidari acknowledged her full awareness about the 2% tax and related extortions of Eritrean regime agents in Sweden and said their viewpoints on the matter have been passed to the Swedish Foreign Minister.

Following a reception accompanied by the anniversary cake plus Eritrean himbasha and kicha, the Eritrean-Swedish Association held its regular congress and at the end elected a seven-person committee to lead the solidarity groups for 2018-2019.



by Martin Plaut

Bosses of the trafficking operation that smuggles refugees through Libya have now been officially named by the United Nations. They are on a planned sanctions list, which was proposed by the Dutch government.

Among the six on the proposed blacklist are:

  • Ermias Ghermay of Eritrea, described as a leader of a network responsible for "trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants" from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Libya and onwards to Europe and the United States, according to the sanctions request obtained by AFP. [See below]
  • Fitiwi Abdelrazak of Eritrea
  • Libyan militia leader Ahmad Oumar al-Dabbashi
  • Libyan Musab Abu-Qarin, described as a "central actor" in migrant smuggling in the coastal area of Sabratha
  • Libyan Mohammed Kachlaf, head of the Shuhada al Nasr brigade in Zawiya, western Libya
  • Abd al Rahman al-Milad, who heads the Libyan coast guard in Zawiya.

Their operations were previously flagged up by Mirjam van Reisen and Munyaradzi Mawere in their pathbreaking book'Human Trafficking and Trauma in the Digital Era: the Ongoing Tragedy of the Trade in Refugees from Eritrea" (2017)

This book identified key Eritrean nationals at the top of the human trafficking networks through the Central Mediterranean Route.

The book explains the connection of trafficking networks with the Eritrean military in the country's dictatorship. It highlights the role of General Manjus who was in charge of border control and has been identified many times as the facilitator of the smuggling routes used to flee Eritrea. These facilitators are profiting of smuggling of people while maintaining a shoot-to-kill policy at the border.

Two of the traffickers described by the UN Security Council were identified as organisers of the trafficking route through Sudan and Libya. The book emphasises the need to combat trafficking from the top down by tackling the organisations behind it and ending the impunity of the most senior officials and operators.

UN weighs first-ever sanctions on Libya migrant smugglers


A group of migrants wait to be transferred from the Spanish war ship Santa Maria to a ship run by a non-governmental organization.


The sanctions blacklist was presented on May 1 and Russia put a hold on the request a week later

The UN Security Council is considering imposing the first-ever sanctions on migrant smugglers in Libya, targeting six leaders of trafficking rings, but Russia has requested more information, documents obtained by AFPon Monday showed.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley told a council meeting on Libya that "there is strong regional support for these designations and the evidence showing the involvement of the six people is clear."

"Failing to move forward would be a travesty," she added.

Presented by the Netherlands, the proposed sanctions blacklist includes two Eritrean nationals described as top operators in transnational smuggling networks and four Libyans including a the head of a regional coast guard unit.

The six individuals would face a global travel ban and assets freeze if the council agrees to blacklist them. France, Germany, Britain and the United States support the Dutch sanctions request.

Russia however told the council's sanctions committee that "we need more information to better understand the value of the said proposal, how efficient it might be if approved", according to a letter obtained by AFP.

Russia called for a committee meeting to examine the evidence on the involvement of the six individuals and noted that the criminal networks "stretch to many European countries and the United States."

The sanctions blacklist was presented on May 1 and Russia put a hold on the request a week later.

- Smuggling of tens of thousands of migrants -

Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants, but smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the years that followed the 2011 ouster of Moamer Kadhafi.

The fate of migrants has come under UN scrutiny since film footage emerged last year of Africans auctioned off as slaves in Libya, drawing outrage from African governments.

Among the six on the proposed blacklist is Ermias Ghermay of Eritrea, described as a leader of a network responsible for "trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants" from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Libya and onwards to Europe and the United States, according to the sanctions request obtained by AFP.

The other five are Fitiwi Abdelrazak of Eritrea, Libyan militia leader Ahmad Oumar al-Dabbashi, Libyan Musab Abu-Qarin, described as a "central actor" in migrant smuggling in the coastal area of Sabratha, Libyan Mohammed Kachlaf, head of the Shuhada al Nasr brigade in Zawiya, western Libya and finally, Abd al Rahman al-Milad, who heads the Libyan coast guard in Zawiya.

Al-Milad was cited for running an operation in which he and other coast guard members would open fire on migrant boats, causing them to sink and would then pick up refugees at sea who were sent to detention centers and beaten, the documents said.

Ghermay and Abelrazak were cited for organizing countless perilous journeys across the Mediterranean that ended in shipwrecks and for running private detention camps in Libya.

During the council meeting, Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov did not specifically mention the sanctions request but said the migrant problem should be not be tackled with "half-measures."



by Martin Plaut

It began with Eritrea. The Ministry of Information accused Ethiopia and Sudan of agreeing to extend support to "Eritrean armed opposition groups." [See below]

Now Ethiopia has responded, with a denial. Meles Alem, Spokesperson for Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the accusation as "baseless." [See below]

This is not the first time such accusations have been traded. We will have to wait to see whether they signify anything.

Statement from Eritrea Ministry of Information

In the past two weeks during the visit of the new Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia to the Sudan, both governments have reportedly agreed “to extend support to what they termed as Eritrea’s armed opposition groups in order to enable them to properly execute their objectives”.

To this end, both governments “have agreed to provide these groups with material support inside their respective borders as well as to extend to them requisite facilities for enhancing their free and unhindered, cross-border, movements in the two countries”.

To ensure the effective coordination of these operations, the Ethiopian side has appointed the Consul in its Embassy in Khartoum, a certain Mr. Burhan, who has also been acting as the principal supervisor of the operations of Qatari funded Jihadist groups.  The Sudan has similarly appointed General Hamid Al-Mustafa, as a counterpart for the Ethiopian appointee, for the coordination task.

This scheme, launched at a time of intense and pretentious PR campaigns, is in essence, neither new nor surprising.  We hardly need to emphasize its futility.

Ministry of Information
14 May 2018

Story from Xhinua

Ethiopia denies accusations by Eritrea of supporting rebel movement
Source: Xinhua   2018-05-20 18:38:32  
 ADDIS ABABA, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said on Sunday accusations by Eritrea of its supporting Eritrean rebel movements as "baseless."

The Eritrea Ministry of Information (MoI) issued a press statement on Wednesday accusing neighboring nations, Sudan and Ethiopia, of conspiring to support Eritrean rebel groups.

The statement from Eritrea further said Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed to deploy Eritrean armed opposition groups along the two countries' borders with Eritrea to facilitate hit and run attacks on the Red Sea nation.

Speaking exclusively to Xinhua, Meles Alem, Spokesperson of Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), said the allegations by Eritrea that Ethiopia is working together with Sudan to support Eritrean rebel movements are totally false.

He further said Ethiopia's offer to have unconditional negotiation and dialogue with Eritrea still stands despite the two countries' current bitter standoff.

Eritrea and its southern neighbor Ethiopia fought a blood border war from 1998 to 2000, which killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Since then, the two countries have been engaged in a state of armed standoff along their common border punctuated occasionally by sporadic small-scale clashes.

Eritrea has tense relationship with its eastern neighbor Sudan, with both countries accusing each other of supporting rival rebel groups.


Eritreans protest in Bern against tough new asylum rules
Protesters carried banners with messages such as “Eritrea is one huge prison”. Photo:
14:27 CEST+02:00
Over a thousand Eritreans protested outside the Swiss national parliament on Friday against tough new rules that could see as many as 3,200 people returned to the autocratic African country.

After the demonstration, which Swiss People's Party politician Natalie Rickli filmed on her mobile phone, protesters handed authorities a petition signed by 12,000 people and addressed to Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. The document called for the increasingly tough asylum rules targeting the group to be relaxed.


Friday’s protest comes after Bern announced in April it planned to review the status of 3,200 of the 9,400 Eritreans granted temporary residence in Switzerland.

That decision came after the Federal Administrative Court ruled in August last year that it was reasonable to return Eritrean citizens who had already previously performed military service to the African country as they were unlikely either to be required to re-join the military or to face other punishment.

Read also: Switzerland's tough stance on migrants criticised by Amnesty International 

Swiss authorities stressed in April that all people affected by the new rule changes would have the right to a judicial hearing and that cases would be dealt with on an individual basis.

But on Friday, protesters carried banners with messages such as “Eritrea is one huge prison”, “Stop negotiations with the dictator” and “We did not flee for fun”.

Annelies Djiellal-Müller, one of the organisers of Friday’s protest, stressed that the act of returning to Eritrea was highly dangerous. She told Swiss daily Der Bund that all people who left the country did so illegally, risking being shot when they did so then facing a dangerous journey to Europe across the Sahara Desert.


When people did choose to return, the Eritrean embassy then demanded the names of family members and friends. Once back in Eritrea, returnees faced possible punishment for having left the country illegally.

“Would you take that risk for yourself and your loved ones?” Djiellal-Müller said.

Switzerland currently has no treaty with Eritrea regarding the return of migrants but State Secretary for Migration Mario Gattiker said in April that this did not mean such returns were not possible.

Switzerland only has a returns treaty with every second country, he said, and while Eritrea does not accept the forced return of migrants, voluntary returns were possible, he told Switzerland’s Le Temps newspaper.


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