www.rtlnieuws.com | November 10, 2015
What's happening all in Eritrea? That early RTL Nieuws correspondent Koen de Regt himself when he saw how many refugees each month out of the country to Europe. First Dutch TV journalist in a long time he was given access to the country.
If you want to understand why Eritrea is as it is, you should start in the sweltering port city Messawa says De Regt. In this place on the Red Sea seems in places like yesterday a war is fought. Ruins of buildings with bullet holes still visible, are everywhere piecemeal perish.
Yet it was in 1990 when there was a last fought. The damaged houses have the same purpose as the three upward tanks that you see at the beginning of the city: a monument to the struggle for independence of Eritrea. No one should forget that over 30 years has fought against arch foe and neighbor Ethiopia. And no one should think that it is now safe, the war could break out again at any time, so everyone should be ready.
Reminiscent of Calimero
"Territory of Eritrea is currently still occupied," said Yemane Ghebreab. He is the main political adviser to the President of Eritrea. "We are still threatened by a much larger neighbor that once backed by the United States." It is reminiscent of Calimero, the cartoon character who always felt disadvantaged by everyone who was greater than he.
Now the suspicion of Eritrea to the international community also not so strange if you look at the past, says De Regt. The whole history is full of broken promises to the country. The Italians, Russians, Americans and Ethiopians, all they have used in the last century, the strategically located country for their own purposes. The 30-year war ended there. In 1991, Eritrea became independent. The country began hopeful, but after seven years broke out again a short war with Ethiopia, neighboring occupied a number of areas. Since then, they have decided here, even more than ever before we need to arrange it yourself, no one helps us.
Conscription, but for how long?
Since the last war, the country has conscription. Every child goes into the last year of high school at Sawa military training camp, in the west of the country.After this training, they should officially still a half years out tasks for the country.That may mean that they have to stand guard along the border with Ethiopia, but it can also mean that they should be a teacher in a village in the countryside.
Officially, the service 18 months, but often it takes much longer, says German Tanja Müller. She is professor of international development and has lived in Eritrea. "It is uncertain how long it takes. People do not know if and when they are discharged from military service. Sometimes people get to hear that they will be ready in six months, but then they hear after six months they have another year do. So people never know when it will end. "
People get paid for the service, but it's a pittance: around 500 Nakfa per month.According to the official exchange rate is just over 30 US dollars per month. But in practice it is little more than a decade. In a country where one kilo of tomatoes costs over 50 Nakfa, do 500 just not as much. Most people live, therefore the money that relatives abroad to transfer to them.
Up to 18
months, the government says it wants to change the draft. Ghebreab adviser: "The new recruits have been told that they will serve up to 18 months Thus, there are policy changes introduced as an experiment.". But he also admits that the policy has not yet been officially published in any newspaper in the country, so it all remains just as random as it was before.
According to Müller, the government is actually trying to change the policy. "We should not automatically assume that they are lying. I think they are trying to reduce it to 18 months. But it will still take a few years for everyone covered by the short service."
According to the government it is only still fulfill conscription a few thousand people at this time. But Western diplomatic sources say that it rather comes to several hundred thousand. They see customizing the service as an absolute necessity in order to arrive at a solution of the refugee problem. If all conscripts to be demobilized once, that the country again for other problems. Because there is no money to pay regular salaries, by UN sanctions and years of economic mismanagement.
Torture on a large scale
according to a UN report being tortured in Eritrea on a large scale. Several hundred, but possibly thousands of people were detained in illegal prisons spread across the country. The report was prepared on the basis of testimony from Eritreans who fled the country. The UN was not allowed to do research in Eritrea.
Diplomats in Asmara should the report with a grain of salt taken. It would be too easy the testimonies of people have taken over without checking if it all took place. Meanwhile, the situation would be improved, also thinks Tanja Müller. "I doubt the numbers cited by the committee of the UN in the report. I have at the same time also no evidence to the contrary, of course. But the UN has been very positive."
According to the Government, the allegations of torture and detaining people nonsense. "There are thousands of people who do not agree with the economic policies of our government," said advisor Ghebreab. "They tell you openly, if you ask them on the street."
"On political talk is dangerous'
But the latter is not true. No one wants to openly express his criticism. People of Eritrea are very afraid of being locked up. Only anonymously and without camera to tell them how they feel about politics, says De Regt. A man said to him: "We can not rebel, You do not know who you can trust and who does not take well this place:.. We are about with his fifty But perhaps there are five informants or agents in between.." Another said: "I prefer not to talk about politics I'll stick with my own business about politics talk is dangerous, you can be picked up if you say something wrong…."
One of the people adhering more than eight years because of his criticism of the government, is Anthony, the patriarch of the Christian Orthodox Church in Eritrea. The church leader disagreed with appointments made by the government in his church. Since then, he's under house arrest in Asmara. De Regt could speak to him briefly. It seemed to go with him, but he did not dare to talk about what he thought of the government and about his house arrest.
The team of RTL News received during the visit no permission to film in the prisons or military camps of the country. So it is impossible to independently determining whether there is torture in Eritrea or not. "But the anxiety of people on the street is significant," says the correspondent.
The number of people Eritrea now has left is enormous. Especially when you consider that only live about 4.1 million people in the country, 3,000 refugees per month very much. According to the government are all economic migrants that use the 'green card' which the EU gives to Eritrean refugees.
Experts also believe that many Eritreans who come to Europe, do it largely for economic reasons. But economics and politics are always closely linked. Indeed, it is the government of Eritrea that does not allow private construction companies in the country and the beautiful Red Sea coast is not developed into a tourist resort. That young people see no future, of course, is the lack of freedom and the uncertain conscription, but also by the lack of jobs.
Opportunities for tourism in Eritrea?
Experts do agree that it is too unsafe now is to return Eritreans on a large scale.But the ease with which some countries refugee status indicate Eritreans would some may change. Ironically keep the refugees, because they send money to their families, the regime also preserved, says De Regt. "A man I met in Asmara, told me:" There should be an eruption here by the people, but which does not exist, because so many people leave the country.. "" Magnificent De Regt: "That's the story of Eritrea tragically was that I already knew it. But after I had been there a little over a week, even better, I realized that it is very sad what happened. "Eritrea, according to the correspondent all chances to become a great tourist destination. And if there is peace with Ethiopia, the port of Messawa can to become the hub of East Africa.
One of his Eritrean interlocutors put it this way: "I am very sad, this is not what I expected from Eritrea 25 years ago when I had hope that this country like Singapore or Dubai could be, but that hope is gone… . Now I have plans to go away. "
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