Eritrea: A victim of Human Rights Charlatans
Textile factory in Asmara [Credit: Marilena Dolce]
Just hours after the Danish Immigration Service (DIS) released its fact-finding mission report on the real human rights situation in Eritrea last month, the so-called Eritrean opposition groups, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights charlatans were frantically trying to spin the news anyway they can.
Among the first to complain about the report was Professor Gaim Kibreab, who whined on various European news outlets claiming the Danish team had taken what he said out of context, even though immediately after reading the report, the aging intellectual had expressed to DIS via emails that it was a “well written and informative report."
But if there was a need to complain about the report, it would be DIS' decision to interview Professor Gaim. Seeing how the professor hasn't even been in Eritrea in over 30 years, and is actively involved in trying to bring a regime change to the country, Eritreans were left questioning why the Danish team even bothered to present him as an authority on the current human rights situation in Eritrea.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has one of the most extreme and biased narratives of Eritrea's human rights, dismissed the Danish report as being 'deeply flawed' in its short report. Predictably, it provided no evidence for such a bold claim. Instead, HRW did what it does best: it filled its report with more unsubstantiated claims and negative opinions on Eritrea's human rights record from the comfort of their cubicles in New York City.
Perhaps the most legitimate criticism against the DIS report came from one of its own members. Weise Olesen, who was part of the fact finding mission to Eritrea, complained they didn't do enough to interview Eritrean "refugees" in Ethiopia. But as Lene Vejrum, Vice president of HR at the Immigration Service, points out, "There is no evidence in the claim of disagreements over the content of the report."
So if there is no disagreements on the content of their report, then what is driving certain media outlets to use terms such as 'controversial', 'deeply flawed', and other weasel phrases to describe the report, especially when the report is mostly comprised of interviews with Western diplomats, International Organizations, NGOs and UN agencies based in Eritrea?
It seems the unwarranted attack on the DIS report is a classic example of shooting the messenger with the goal of negating the messages. After all, when a UN official based in Eritrea says, "Hardly any Eritrean leaves their country for political reasons", this is as credible as sources get in the region. This is probably why HRW, which blames Eritrean migration on "political repression", is attacking the messenger instead of challenging the UN official who actually made the statement.
What the DIS report unintentionally did was expose a decade-long narrative on Eritrea that is so perverse and extremely negative that any group reporting otherwise, no matter how credible their sources are, are attacked vehemently by a myriad of opposition groups, Ethiopian regime supporters, and human rights organizations who have invested a considerable amount of time and energy to make this extremely negative narrative stick.
In the case with human rights organizations, the reason why their reports on Eritrea are contradictory from the claims made in the DIS report is because they rely heavily on obscure Eritrean opposition websites that regularly fabricate, or exaggerate their stories. Even their most credible sources, which come from interviews with Eritrean "refugees", are unreliable sources of information as many investigative reporters on Eritrean migrants have come to find out.
In 2012, Danny Adino Ababa, an Israeli reporter who went undercover posing as a migrant in Tel Aviv, shed light on a popular false story Eritrean and African migrants like to sell to UNHCR and human rights agencies in order to stay in their host countries:
My cover story has not been finalized yet, but luckily I run into Jeremiah, who’s been in Israel for three years now. “What do I tell those who ask how I got into Israel?” I ask him. “Lie,” he says. “Don’t tell the whole story. The Israelis, and mostly the non-profit groups working with the infiltrators here, like to be lied to.”It is from these synchronized and rehearsed lies from Eritrean migrants that HRW and other organizations use to paint an extremely gloomy human rights situation in Eritrea that doesn't exist in reality. We know it doesn't exist because Eritreans, UN agencies and Western diplomats in Eritrea are saying it's not true, and that the reason why Eritrean migrants leave is for "economic reasons".
“Say you were a soldier, and that if you return to Eritrea you’ll get a death sentence. Keep in mind that you must be consistent with your story. The bottom line is that everyone uses the story I’m telling you here, and this way they fool everybody,” he says. “Almost none of them arrived on foot from Egypt to Israel. None of us crossed any deserts…it’s all nonsense.”
Indeed, a Western diplomat in Eritrea, who was given the alias "Western embassy (D)" in the Danish report, stated: “most people who leave Eritrea do so for economic reasons and because of lack of livelihood opportunities and not because of political repression”.
Another Western official in Asmara, who was given the alias "Western embassy (B)", took it a step further and claimed that 99.9 percent of Eritreans who leave their country are economic migrants, not refugees. This figure isn't the first time to be claimed, either.
In 2012, the former Israeli head of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, Mí. Yaakov Ganot acknowledged that “in our examinations, I would say that 99.9 percent of them [Eritreans] are here for work. They’re not asylum seekers: they are not at any risk.”
The Western embassy (B) diplomat went on to inform DIS that "only very few Eritreans have genuine reasons for claiming political asylum abroad." And warned: "If the Western European countries do not halt its policies of granting asylum automatically to more or less all Eritrean asylum seekers they will see a steady increase in the number of Eritreans coming to Europe."
This policy of granting automatic asylum for Eritreans in Western countries began in 2004, when UNHCR shifted its policy position on Eritrea by designating all Eritrean asylum-seekers with prima facie status (i.e. automatic recognition of Eritreans en masse). In essence, this controversial and politically motivated policy is arguably the biggest pull factor of Eritrean migration to Western countries. What this policy did was force the hand of Western countries to accept Eritrean economic migrants as refugees. Thus, by rewarding them with asylum statuses and removing the criminal aspect of their illegal migration, this induced more Eritrean migrants to head for wealthy Western countries, and made other African migrants pretend to be Eritrean when entering Western countries.
UNHCR said it shifted its policy due to Eritrea's alleged poor Human Rights situation, but Western officials and UN agencies working inside the country disagree with this claim. For instance, Western diplomat (B) informed DIS that the human rights situation in the country is "no worse than in most other African countries", and emphasized "There are no mass violations of human rights in Eritrea".
The diplomat went on to explain that,
Eritrea has fallen victim to a massive propaganda campaign from other countries, especially Ethiopia and its allies, as well as from the Diaspora and Eritrean asylum seekers. Human rights reports from international NGOs either lack knowledge of Eritrea or they are part of the propaganda against the country. The human rights situation in Eritrea is not as bad as it has been described.In the end, no matter how many times these aforementioned human rights groups attempt to dismiss the Danish fact-finding mission team, they can never dismiss what those Western sources working and living in Eritrea said in the report. After all, if they are saying these external human rights organizations' reports on Eritrea are false, then who are they to question them from their cubicles in the West?
1. Page 7, http://www.nyidanmark.dk/NR/rdonlyres/B28905F5-5C3F-409B-8A22-0DF0DACBDAEF/0/EritreareportEndeligversion.pdf
2. Page 7, Ibid.
3. Page 44, Ibid.
4. Page 42, Ibid
5. Page 42, Ibid.
6. Page 44, Ibid.
7. Page 44, Ibid.
8. Page 44, Ibid
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