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  • Can jobs in Ethiopia keep Eritrean refugees out of Europe?


    Many thousands of Eritreans have fled the country for Europe in search for a better life. A multinational initiative is now trying to stem the flow of migrants to Europe by training refugees and giving them jobs in neighbouring Ethiopia.

    "I was not sure we would make it across. I am so relieved we are here," says 19-year-old Salama - not his real name.

    Together with his friend Abiro, they have been walking for two days from Eritrea, without any food or water. At one point, they claim to have been shot at by government soldiers who are stationed along the heavily militarised border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

    "The reason for fleeing from our country is because the Eritrean government keeps on forcing us to join the national service and we are wanted in our homeland.

    "We walked through the bushes hiding not to be seen by the Eritrean soldiers and we were able to escape," says Salama, the more talkative of the two.

    Recent weeks have seen hundreds of Eritreans arrive at refugee camps and reception centres along Ethiopia's northern border.

    Many of those who reach Ethiopia intend to move on to Sudan and then Libya, hoping to eventually get to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea but some end up settling in Ethiopia.

    It's a risky journey that involves thousands of dollars and an intricate network of smugglers.

    More than 2,000 people have died so far this year trying to make the crossing.

    "I am not sure where we will go from here. It's our first time out of Eritrea. Maybe we can settle here and get jobs," says Abiro, speaking in his mother tongue Kunama.

    Read more at BBC

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  • Eritrea Denies Targeting Ethiopia Dam as Egyptian Ties Deepen

    Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki denied his country’s deepening relations with Egypt signify plans to disrupt neighboring Ethiopia’s construction of Africa’s biggest hydropower dam.

    “The claim by the Ethiopian regime that the relation between Eritrea and Egypt is targeting the millennium dam is unfounded,” siad the Eritrean president during a May 21 interview with EriTV in the capital, Asmara.

    "We are working with Egypt to bring peace and stability to our region" said the president. The president also called the Ethiopian renaissance dam a white elephant.

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  • Ethiopian dam creates waves

    By years’ end, one of the world’s largest dams will begin filling up, affecting the fate of millions of people as it does so.

    Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam on the upper reaches of the Blue Nile has been six years in the making, and is a project of staggering proportions. It will create a lake 150 square kilometres in size, produce electricity equal to a third of the UAE’s energy output and has cost 10 billion Ethiopian birr (Dh1.59bn) so far.


    The Grand Renaissance Dam on the upper reaches of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia has been six years in the making. Getty Images

    It will also ensure a steady supply of water. Ethiopia’s fate has been to be remembered as a country of recurring drought, spawning a mini-industry of aid organisations dedicated to feeding its people in time of need.

    "The Renaissance dam which we are constructing by joining hands together is among the list of mega projects in Africa and the world, becoming a source of our national pride," the Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at a torch lighting ceremony in Addis Ababa last month, according to the local media agency Ezeda.

    The torch will be carried around the country for the next 12 months to celebrate the dam’s progress, and to thank the public for their support. According the Ethiopian government, more than 1bn birr has been raised from the sales of lottery tickets, music concerts and bonds – all by ordinary citizens.

    Reviving Ethiopia’s economy has been the prime goal of the government, following the disastrous rule of the Derg, a military junta during the 1980s. It was the Derg’s legacy that resulted in images of starving children coming to represent a once-proud country. This is something the current administration is working to change.

    By 2020 Ethiopia aims to increase its export revenue to US$16 billion, up from the current $3bn. The country has already started attracting manufacturers from China and elsewhere. Political stability, economic certainty and its proximity to the Arabian Gulf make it a choice destination for exporters.

    Read more here

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  • Why Ethiopia welcomes an enemy's refugees

    Cultural similarities have helped Ethiopia absorb more than 160,000 refugees from Eritrea, despite a still-bitter border dispute. But the government has also put out the welcome mat for strategic reasons, at a time when many countries are doing the opposite.

    April 17, 2017 BADME, ALONG THE ERITREAN-ETHIOPIAN BORDER —When Yordanos and her two young children slipped safely across the Mereb riverbed between Eritrea and Ethiopia late one recent night, they thought the worst of their journey into exile was over. The smuggler had done his job, and they were safely over the border.

    Then they heard the hyenas.

    Yordanos and her children began to yell for help, their panicked calls fading into the solid darkness. Suddenly, she saw a group of Ethiopian soldiers coming towards them. The men comforted the young families, and then escorted them to the nearby town of Badme. “They were like brothers to us,” says Yordanos, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of reprisals from the Eritrean government against her relatives at home.  

    In some regards, Ethiopia – and in particular this sliver of Ethiopia’s arid north – is the last place you might expect an Eritrean refugee like Yordanos to receive a warm welcome. In 1998, after all, an Eritrean invasion of this sleepy border town touched off a two-year war between the two countries that cost tens of thousands of lives and more than $4.5 billion, along with destroying most of the then-flourishing network of trade between the two countries. And before that conflict, Eritreans fought a 30-year civil war for independence from Ethiopia, which ended only in 1991.

    Even today, the ashes of those conflicts still smolder. The internationally-brokered peace settlement ending the 1998-2000 war decreed that Ethiopia should give this region of the country back to Eritrea, which claims it as historical land. But Ethiopia never did, and border clashes between the two countries’ militaries continue into the present. 

    Still, Yordanos’ story is not uncommon. Fleeing enforced, indefinite military service, illegal imprisonment, and torture, about 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers currently live in Ethiopia, according to the United Nations. Upon arrival and registration, they are automatically granted refugee status, and the country continues to welcome more. In February of this year alone, 3,367 new Eritrean refugees arrived in the country, according to Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA).

    “We differentiate between the government and its people,” says Estifanos Gebremedhin, the head of the legal and protection department at ARRA. “We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.”

    The reasons for that openness, indeed, owe much to shared history. As in many parts of Africa, colonialism sliced much of this region apart in illogical ways (though Ethiopia itself was never colonized), sowing political conflicts between members of the same community that have persisted to the present day. For much of the roughly 600-mile Ethiopian-Eritrean border, people on both sides share the same language – Tigrinya – as well as Orthodox religion and cultural traditions.

    “It’s only the Eritrean government creating problems, not the people,” says Benyamin, a resident of Axum, a town in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, who didn’t give his last name. “I haven’t got relatives in Eritrea but many people here do. Some from the refugee camps go to the university here.”

    But there may also be more strategic reasons for Ethiopia’s open-door policy, experts say.

    “Ethiopia strongly believes that generous hosting of refugees will be good for regional relationships down the road,” says Jennifer Riggan, an associate professor of international studies at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, who studies Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

    Read the rest of the article at csmonitor.com

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  • African migrants sold as ‘slaves’ for $200 in Libya

    African migrants trying to reach Europe are being sold into slavery in Libya, including for sex, for as little as $200, international monitors said today, citing testimony from victims.

    Having paid human traffickers in the hope of finding a better life many instead were held hostage and their families extorted for ransom.

    The International Organization for Migration said “slave market conditions” and detention were increasingly common as criminal gangs sought to cash in.


    Migrants sit in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy off the coast of the south of the Italian island of Sicily in this November 28, 2013 picture provided by the Italian Marina Militare. About 350 migrants, who were travelling in four separate boats were rescued on Thursday in the operation called Mare Nostrum, Italian navy said. Picture taken November 28. REUTERS/Marina Militare/Handout via Reuters

    “Selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger,” Othman Belbeisi, the IOM’s chief of mission in Libya, told reporters in Geneva. “Migrants … are being sold in markets as a commodity” at a going rate of between $200 and $500 a head, he said.

    While some migrants sold this way managed to escape, many wallowed in captivity for months before being bought free or sold on.

    The UN agency could not provide statistics over how many people were affected, but relied on accounts provided to its staff on the ground. In one case, a Senegalese migrant identified only as S.C., told IOM staff he had been held captive for months after he made the perilous journey to Libya.

    After paying a trafficker more than $300 to arrange for him to be driven through the desert, he was apparently conned when he arrived in Libya, with a truck driver saying the trafficker never paid him the money.

    The driver had taken S.C. and other migrants to a parking area where a “slave market” was taking place, an IOM statement said. “Sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans,” the statement said, citing staff in Niger who took the man’s testimony.

    S.C. described being bought and taken to a private home where more than 100 migrants were held as hostages.

    They were forced to call their families back home, and were beaten while on the phone, to try and make sure they would get the money demanded for their freedom.

    “When somebody died or was released, kidnappers returned to the market to ‘buy’ more migrants to replace them,” the statement said.

    “Women too were bought by private individuals …(and)  were forced to be sex slaves,” it added.

    An IOM staff member in Niger had spoken with a number of migrants in recent days who “all confirmed the risks of being sold as slaves in squares or garages” once in Libya, it said.

    Some migrants, mainly Nigerians, Ghanaians and Gambians, were also “forced to work for the kidnappers/slave traders as guards in the ransom houses or in the ‘market’ itself,” the IOM staff member said.

    One migrant, whose name was not given, told IOM he and 25 other Gambians were taken to a “prison” in Libya, and was beaten every day for nine months before his father paid for his release by selling the family home.

    When he was freed he weighed just 35 kilos and was suffering from severe malnutrition and numerous torture wounds.

    Source: CTGN

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