Eritrean diaspora unites against abuse of Eritreans in Libya

Outraged by the scale of the suffering endured by Eritrean migrants trapped in Libya, 200 representatives of the Eritrean diaspora have called for the European Union (EU) to help release Eritrean asylum seekers stuck in Libya detention centres.

The diaspora came together on 12-14 December 2018 in the Belgian capital, Brussels, at the conference entitled “We the People: Peace in the Horn & the Safety and Future of the Eritrean People.” They drew attention to the abuse, extortion and unlawful detention that many Eritreans face in Libya. Improved cooperation with the EU and reform within Eritrea were among the proposals of ways to put an end to the suffering.

Abrahalei Tesfai, an Eritrean spokesperson who passed through Libya and now lives in Italy, described the situation of Eritreans in Libya: “I have seen horrific footage from Libya, of emaciated Eritrean refugees, starved, denied medical care, tortured, repeatedly abducted and held for ransom for thousands of euros.” Calling for an urgent response, he stated: “They must be evacuated immediately.”

Another prominent Eritrean human rights campaigner, Fr Mussie Zerai, made an explicit appeal to the EU, saying: “Europe can’t close its eyes to the refugees who are stranded in Libya’s detention centres, and who are at constant risk. A solution needs to be found to immediately evacuate the more than 10,000 Eritrean refugees, many of whom are unaccompanied children, and bring them to places of safety and dignity.”

A statement released after the conference underlined that “despite the rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia human trafficking of Eritrean refugees is still increasing.” Eritreans continue to flee their country in record numbers, crossing the border to Ethiopia in the hope of reaching Libya and crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. According to the Emergency Response Coordination Centre, 24,000 Eritreans have registered at the border since the reopening on 11 September 2018.

African leaders attending the conference have expressed their concerns over the situation in Eritrea and Libya. Chief Fortune Charumbira, the Vice-President of the Pan-African Parliament, said: “I have listened to many refugees, it has been shocking to hear their stories. Their testimonies reveal modern-day slavery in Africa.” He concluded: “We need to do all in our power to stop modern slavery on the African continent.”

Eritreans make up a substantial number of the almost 4,500 people who died while migrating around the world in 2018. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), some of the main causes of death on the journey through Africa and on the Mediterranean Sea are dehydration, starvation, vehicle accidents, excessive physical abuse, sickness combined with a lack of medicine, drowning, cardiac arrest and hypothermia.

TMP – 05/01/2019

Photo caption: Refugees migrating to Europe.