YPFDJ Statement: Regarding the Tragedy at the coast of Lampedusa Island
First of all, may the soul of all the deceased Eritreans and Africans that perished near the shores of Lampedusa on October 3, 2013 rest in peace, and may God/ Allah give their family and friends strength to withstand this tragic and untimely end of their young lives.
It is with deepest sadness and frustration that we witness the continuing tragic incidents of many young Eritreans meeting their untimely deaths abroad unsafe death traps as they cross the Mediterranean Sea and at the hands of ruthless human traffickers in the Sinai Desert. Although this latest tragedy at the coast of Lampedusa Island has drawn the attention of the media around the world, the harsh reality is that even more horrific tragedies have occurred with desperate youth taking unfathomable risks with dire consequences in pursuit of better lives in Europe and Western nations.
The entire Eritrean population including the YPFDJ organisation wants this type of tragedy to end immediately so that no other child of Eritrea will perish in the Mediterranean Sea, Sinai Desert or any other refugee camps along the way. The solution will not be easy and will require coordinated and long term efforts to eradicate this type of tragedy.
Push factors in developing nations like lower living standards and limited economic opportunities combined with pull factors in the West like higher wages and the lure of a prosperous life collectively manage to create a continual flow of young people all over the developing world to the Western world. Eritrean youth, who have additional challenges associated with defending their nation, have increasingly entered this dangerous pipeline over the past decade.
The Eritrean government has the responsibility to protect and serve the interests of all citizens, especially those living within the borders of Eritrea. As such, the government is required to balance national security, economic development and all other government functions using finite resources and manpower such that economic and political developments are maximized. However, in light of current and on-going injustices that are challenging the very existence of the state of Eritrea, the government has been obligated to tip the balance of resources and manpower towards national development, which impedes economic and political development.
Over the past 15 years, Eritrea has been in a war footing with its much larger neighbour Ethiopia which is funded, armed and diplomatically shielded by the United States and other western nations, were half a million soldiers are still facing each other over their common border. The international community had abrogated its responsibility to compel Ethiopia to abide by its treaty obligation and implement the final and binding Decision of the independent
Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. At the heart of this international negligence and indifference is a wrong US policy for the Horn of Africa. As a result Ethiopia is emboldened to occupy sovereign Eritrean territory and has refused to work for peace in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, the United States, to appease Ethiopia (its designated “anchor” for the Horn of Africa), had orchestrated the imposition of two unjust UN sanctions on Eritrea. The unholy design of the UN sanctions, though they were passed under the concern for Somalia, is to strengthen Ethiopia’s hand in its conflict with Eritrea. With this as a backdrop, a segment of the Eritrean youth, through a well-orchestrated scheme and propaganda, is being lured to abandon its country and look for a life in Western Countries.
The issue becomes more complex and poignant once the youth are outside Eritrean borders (especially when it comes to illegal crossing of the border). Nobody is taking responsibility for the ‘refugees or migrants’ and are totally open to exploitation, trafficking, organ harvesting, kidnapping, rape, and other means of exploitation. Unfortunately some countries (especially the Ethiopian ruling regime) want to see a weak and submissive Eritrea and what better way to weaken a country other than draining its capable youth to cross the border with the promise of transiting them to western countries.
As Eritrea’s youth suffer, many individuals and groups of human smugglers and traffickers are making lots of money. The few who make it safely to the west are working back-breaking menial jobs in horrible working conditions in the west to pay those friends and relatives who helped them pay the smugglers and traffickers. As a result the number of those killing themselves is increasing. According to some estimates human trafficking is a business netting more than $32 Billion per year. With this kind of money at stake, and with the west’s appetite to exploit cheap labour it remains an uphill battle for small developing countries to combat it and fight it.
The other important factor that one needs to take into account is the deliberate and politically motivated refugee policies western countries are following when deciding who to grant refugee status. Some of the countries in Europe, the US and Canada have been purposely following well calculated refugee policies that encourages the youth to abandon their country. Although this looks good from the surface it is a well thought of bate and is sending the wrong message to those at home to flee the country. Another obvious consequence of this is also, tens of thousands of refugees of other nationals (especially Ethiopians) are claiming to be Eritreans and taking refugee status. In many cases, particularly those being resettled from Ethiopia, are northern Ethiopians with forged Eritrean identities.
The most difficult questions is why would anyone want to pay thousands of dollars and take the clear risk of death in a death trap called a boat? Why? How come the western navy ships in the Mediterranean do not crack on these smuggling and trafficking rings as they claim to do on pirates. How come they don’t require the minimum safety standards on these boats? For example if there was a single fire extinguisher in that boat this week, there would have been at least more than 100 young lives alive today. One fire extinguisher was all they needed in that boat.
The Eritrean people living inside and outside the country, particularly the recent arrivals in the west, need to take this unfortunate tragedy as one more opportunity to honestly educate the youth that life in the west is not as rosy as the smugglers and traffickers make it look like. Life can’t be better if you do not have one;; the promised lands have no promise.
- We call on all parties who are directly or indirectly playing a role in trafficking Eritreansfrom their home to western countries to cease taking part in these activities so that
not a single Eritrean life is lost needlessly again.
- We call on those individuals, groups and institutions to stop using the tragedy and ourpeople’s time of sorrow for their naive short sighted political manipulations.