U.S. Diplomat In Asmara elobrates on Travel Warning to Eritrea
The following is Mazel's statement:
Recently several people have commented on the State Department Travel Warning for Eritrea so I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify for our Facebook followers why we maintain this warning.
First, I want to say that we revised the Travel Warning on May 6, 2015 because we felt that the earlier travel warning issued in September 2014, did not accurately portray the situation on the ground. If you read and compare the two Travel Warnings, you will find that there are major differences.
As an Embassy, our first duty is to protect American citizens. And to protect and provide services to American citizens, we must have unfettered access to them at all times. Unfortunately, that is not the case here in Asmara. Because the Eritrean government restricts the movement of American diplomats to within 25 kilometers of Asmara, if an American gets into trouble or has an accident or a serious medical issue outside of Asmara, we cannot send Consular officers to assist that person without first getting permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which we must apply for 10 days in advance. Obviously, this prevents us from serving American citizens quickly in the event of an emergency.
In addition, under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which both the United States and Eritrea are signatories, when an American citizen (even if he or she was originally an Eritrean) is arrested or detained on criminal or immigration charges, the detainee must be advised by the Eritrean government of his or her right to notify the U.S. Embassy and have regular consultation with U.S. Embassy Consular officials during detention and any trial. In almost all countries in the world, U.S. Embassy Consular officials are provided notification by the host government and visit Americans detained in prison within one or two days of their arrest or detention. Unfortunately, the Eritrean government does not abide by this convention, does not inform us when American citizens are arrested, and does not grant us access to visit the detainees in prison. This is an important issue for us that necessitates keeping this Travel Warning.
Asmara is a very safe and beautiful city and my experiences with the people of Eritrea have been very pleasant and warm. I believe that Asmara and all of Eritrea could be a terrific tourist destination for viewing remarkable Italian colonial architecture, hiking or cycling in spectacular mountainous terrain, and enjoying Eritrea’s 1200 kilometers of unspoiled coastline and exotic islands in the Red Sea. It is my hope that Eritrea will develop its massive tourism potential that can bring jobs and economic development.
We are not trying to discourage travel to Eritrea. Rather, we are simply warning our fellow American citizens that we are unable to provide normal Consular services in the event of an emergency. That is a responsibility we take very seriously.
- Louis Mazel,
Chief of Mission
U.S. Embassy, Asmara
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