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Impressions of Swiss Politicians Visiting Eritrea

Four politicians from Switzerland are making a fact-finding mission trip to Eritrea. These politicians, who are currently touring different parts of Eritrea, wanted to see the reality in the country. These are: Thomas Aeschi (SVP / ZG), Yvonne Feri (SP / AG), Claude Béglé (CVP / VD) and the Green Aargauer Councillor Susanne Hochuli.

The following article is one of the Swiss politician's eyewitness account:

By Thomas Aeschi

For years, asylum seekers from Eritrea occupy the top spot in the Swiss asylum statistics. Nevertheless, no one seems to be interested in Eritrea at large: Neither federal councilors, parliamentary delegations, and even high-ranking officials who visited Eritrea in recent years.

Africa travelers: Susanne Hanley, Yvonne Feri,
Thomas aeschi, Claude Béglé.
Since it was announced that Swiss politician traveling these days for meetings with Eritrean government officials, foreign ambassadors, the ICRC and locals inside Eritrea, the excitement is great. As one of the travelers, what can I [understand] after a week with of many discussions with different interlocutors?

Surprisingly, there is a large consensus among the interlocutors to rule that the vast majority of Eritrean arrivals in Europe can be described as "economic migrants". Even randomly addressed Eritreans on the streets of the capital Asmara know exactly which story they would use to be granted asylum in Europe, and even the different asylum practices of the various countries are known to them. And already they are looking forward to the summer season where thousands of Eritreans would return to the country for a few weeks with their families, including asylum seekers from Switzerland.

Asked about the reasons for this exodus (the Government puts it at a thousand emigrants per month), several reasons are given: the low wages of only 100 to 200 francs per month with high rent and cost of living, poor education or the lack of prospects of an attractive job. And so you save together a few thousand francs to a family member to finance the journey through Sudan and Libya to Europe, in the hope that this will soon be transferred monthly hundreds of dollars home.

Prior to our departure, we often heard the claim that Eritrea is the "North Korea of Africa". This assessment is clear to refute, since it lacks any basis. Every day - and night-time - we were able to move freely, take pictures and talk with Eritreans on political and other issues.

To get an impression of the country, we drove south to the border with Ethiopia, a country that fought for decades against the independence of Eritrea, and with the 1998 again until today-running conflict broke out. We visited Massawa, the Ottoman town on the Red Sea. And in the North, we drove to Keren and Hagaz, where in the 1980s the revolutionary war was raging.

Of the military checkpoints that allow the government to monitor the movements of its citizens, was hard to see anything. Only once we were checked in the entire week.

Even in the streets of Asmara nothing to see of a surveillance state. There is a daytime bustling trade with agricultural products and cheaper imported goods on the market, and after nightfall the restaurants and bars of the city are packed.

We moved freely at any time and quickly came into the conversation with Eritreans and Eritreans from this week. There is the Eritrean-born German, who travels to the wedding of his brother with an Eritrean from Asmara. The hotel employees early twenties doing their national service for 70 francs per month in this function. Or the Eritrean Americans, who sold his company in the United States to set up a new business in his native Eritrea.

Eritrea is not paradise on earth - it is poor and provides young people who know the Western standard of living from television or the Internet, few prospects. But it's also not the hell that it is sometimes described as.

Comparing the country with other African States that have a failed Arab spring behind or maintain a sham democracy with much propaganda (such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda), so it's difficult to understand, which is why Eritrea is measured with another scale.

Our interlocutor attest the government implement a strong change in the last two years. Wages have risen, it has invested more in education, the high house rents they are trying to counteract. Step by step, gradually the country is opening up more to the outside and is engaging in dialogue with other countries and organizations.

For this reason, I advocate that the Switzerland deepened its relations with Eritrea urgently to find a lasting solution to the Eritrean migration  to Switzerland.

Software translation from German to English (edited by TesfaNews)

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