Dutch News

30 May 2014
Human trafficking important source of income for Eritrea

Over the last weeks the Netherlands suddenly received large amounts of refugees from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. A Dutch expert on human trafficking concludes that the Eritrean regime is seriously extorting its citizens and the rulers earn lots of money via the refugees. If an Eritrean does not cooperate, she or he will be put on a black list. From that moment it is impossible to go back home. Even far from the dictatorship Eritreans are not free. Sennai: ‘Often I feel so guilty towards those who still live in the dictatorship’.

Nobody knows exactly why suddenly so many refugees from Eritrea arrive in the Netherlands. It might be that Germany and the Scandinavian countries became more restrictive and the human traffickers decided to move refugees to the Netherlands. But it also might be that the unsafe situation in Libya has forced many to travel on, or the Eritrean regime might have increased the stream of refugees to Europe to make more money.


The Eritrean rulers extort their citizens wherever they are in the world. They are intimidated during their refugee trip, but also after they became recognized and received the status as asylum seeker. This is probably why there are practically no Eritrean refugees that want to explain how they ended up in the Netherlands. The Dutch minister of External affairs started a research after this so-called ‘diaspora tax’. The Dutch human trafficking states that it is much worse: ‘worldwide they pay loads of money to free kidnapped relatives’.


After interviewing hundreds of Eritrean refugees it became clear to the expert that the Eritrean regime is everywhere. Also in all the countries that the refugees travel through to get to Europe. Where ever the refugees go they will not escape imprisonment, torture, rape and extortion and this already starts at the moment they have to bribe the army to get over the border.


Also the Monitoring group from the United Nations came to the conclusion that “civil servants” and high ranked members of the Eritrean army are involved in human trafficking and arms trade via criminal gangs in Sudan and Egypt. UNHCR ring the alarm bell about the unsafe situation for Eritrean people in refugee camps. Often they are kidnapped back to Eritrea and tortured.  A large part of the refugees do not even make it to Europe and collapse and after often traveling around in Africa for many years. It is only the super strong make it to the last stage of the trip, the dangerous trip by small overcrowded boat to Italy.


The explanation of the large increase of refugees from Eritrea the expert sums up the possible reasons: ‘The situation in Eritrea got worse. The refugee camps in Sudan do not give and protection. So the refugees try to get away. Besides this there is chaos and an unsafe situation in Libya, so that is not a refuge anymore. Israel is not an option anymore, because at the border of Egypt there is a large fence. The route over the Mediterranean Sea to Italy is the only escape route. They risk this dangerous crossing because they have nothing to lose’.


To the expert it is pretty sure that also Italian and European criminal organisations are involved in the human trafficking of Eritrean people.  The human trafficking professor thinks that Europe can do a lot to fight the exploitation and abuse of Eritrean refugees. ‘Europe can end the extortion of Eritrean asylum seekers by closing all Eritrean embassies and consulates and deport all Eritrean diplomats. The European Commission can also help to prevent the human trafficking  from the refugee camps in Sudan by supporting the UNHCR with means and man power so the refugees are protected in their own region. European authorities need to unmask the human traffickers. For this it is important that refugees dare to tell their story’.



The problem is that due to the extortion and violence committed by the Eritrean regime, there is practically no refugee that dares to speak openly. The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant published an interview with Sennai, a young man that cannot go back home because he is put on the black list. The telephone calls with his family in Eritrea are basic and superficial, because it is sure the Eritrean authorities are listening in. Also in the Netherlands they are checking and following every Eritrean citizen.


Still a portrait of Sennai accompanies the interview, because he wants to give the opponents of the regime a face.  Although he arrived a few years ago and he found a job as an electrician, he still feels unfree, because he is still linked with the regime back home where he escaped from by an ‘invisible chain’. The regime has spies working for them all around the world. When a refugee needs new papers for the renewal of a residence permit, the Eritrean embassy forces them to sign a confession of guilt for avoiding military service. From that moment on they have to pay 2% of their income to the regime.


Other Eritrean refugees tell the same horrible stories. Also they have been extorted, tortured, raped an abused before and during their trip to Europe.  Two Eritrean women that have been in an Eritrean jail for years because they were caught during prayers, explain that ‘everybody that can leave the Eritrean hell, will do so’. Sennai tries to do what he can for the large group of new refugees in the Netherlands, among which the complete Eritrean football team.  To Sennai the contrast between life at home and life in the Netherlands is gigantic: ‘Often I feel so guilty towards those who still live in the dictatorship’.


Source: De Volkskrant





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