Appeal to the European Parliament by Father Mussie Zerai
Let me start by thanking the organizers of this meeting andforum for dialogue, which allows us to bring here in theEuropean Parliament the suffering of our people. A special thanks to Prof.Dr. Mirjam van Reisen, her collaborators Meron and Dr. Conny Rijken for the report they have prepared, thanks to Hon. Judith Sargentini, for her sensitivity and attention with which is following this very serious issue.
I am here today to reiterate what I said on 28-29 November 2010, denouncing the traffic in human beings and organs in the Sinai. After two years we are still here to talk about the atrocities that are practiced onour fellow countrymen refugees seeking protection.
Much has been said about this phenomenon in recent years, thanks to mass media, like in these days the CNN and the BBC in the past, but also other newspapers and TVs have dealt with this matter, but the situation remains very serious, for today hundreds of refugees are still in the hands of kidnappers in Sinai.
Every day I get requests for help from people kept captive in Sinai, or their families, desperate in the face ofdrama and suffering of their loved ones, that they hear on the phone while they are being tortured, demanding exorbitant ransoms.
I also receive requests for help from hundreds of refugees held hostage by the government and military, Egyptian, Djibutians, Yemen, Ukraine, the worst of all are the Libyans, in whose prisons happen every kind of abuse, mistreatment and physical violations, sexual abuse of women and children, discrimination onreligious grounds, all this happens in the name of protection, because Europe is invaded by thousands ofasylum seekers and refugees. As we know more than 20 detention centers in Libya are financed byEuropean countries which have bilateral agreements, to stop the arrival of the so-called "Clandestine".
I am here today to ask to the European Parliament to work with us on three ways to look for a solution to this very serious issue.
The first is to exercise all of its power, on the diplomatic and economic, to put pressure on all nations affected by this horror, directly or indirectly, primarily the Egyptian government and Sudan to stop the convoys of smugglers kidnapping men, women and children from Sudan to transfer them to the Sinai. We need a real co-operation between the two countries of Egypt and Sudan, with the political and economic support of the European community where it is needed, to stop the trafficking of human beings on the southern border of Egypt with Sudan. The commitment of Europol and INTERPOL is needed to undo the web of contacts and accomplices of traffickers, who are scattered all over the world. Only the European or the international police can follow the money trail, to trace the true minds behind this horrible traffic in human beings and organs. There are several international conventions or protocols and treaties to combat trafficking in human beings, but so far they have not been applied in this case. Egypt has a law against human trafficking entered into force in 2009, but no one applies it, even in the last 10 years in the Sinai Peninsula alone, there are about 100 000 people who have been victims of trafficking, of whom more than 60 000 were able to cross the border with Israel, more than 4,000 people have disappeared in the Sinai, hundreds of people died under the blows of the Egyptian military, many have been sent back to their country of origin, in the past also Eritreans were rejected by Egyptian authorities and delivered into the hands of the Eritrean regime. All those countries in which territory the ransom money went, countries like Dubai, The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Israel, USA, Canada, Australia, in Europe itself there have been cases of people who have paid the money for the redemption in Europe, that's because it’s needed an extensive survey and research conducted by Europol and INTERPOL in collaboration with all of us who are following these cases for two years.
The second point that I ask the European Parliament is to become involved in prevention, education and information. We need projects that give hope to the refugees in the country of first asylum, in the case ofEritreans in Sudan and Ethiopia, the UNHCR estimates speak of about 200,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan,and 72,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, the latter are located in four refugee camps, two of which I havevisited last July, these figures are constantly updated as the exodus continues, every month 2,000 new applicants arrive at the offices of UNHCR in Sudan, another thousand in Ethiopia, of this mass of refugeesalmost 90% are young people under 40 years, we need projects funded by the European Community for vocational training for refugees, to give young people access to universities in the country that hosts them and provide them with scholarships, open crafts and commercial spaces for refugees with mini credit, all to make the wait less desperate for a solution in refugee camps. The solution might be, in the best of cases, the return home, if the political and economic situation of the country will change, otherwise the alternative solution will be the re-establishment in a country capable of providing international protection and legal access to protection in Europe with a proposed re-settlement, as happened in the case of refugees who fled the war in Libya and went to Tunisia. Just by offering an alternative for legal entry and making the waitin refugee camps less dramatic, we can save them from the hands of traffickers.
The third point is for the European Community to support the commitment and the will of the people of Eritrea, which has been calling for 100 years for freedom, rights, democracy. The exodus of the younger generation that we have been witnessing in the last 12 years is devastating our people, our nation, reduced to extreme poverty from all points of view, economic, cultural, social, the total lack of human and civil rights. Now in many capitals of Europe many Eritrean youth movements were born, demanding rights, freedom and democracy for our people, these groups need to be supported by the European community, because our people wants to go back to their country, they wants to regain their dignity for which they have fought for more than 100 years, from 1885 against Italians, then English, then Ethiopia, now with a domestic tyranny. Europe cannot stand at the window and watch while our people are dying slowly in an attempt to escape from that regime that is choking them day after day, our people are dying shot in every part of the world, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sinai, Mexico, Colombia. Our people are dying in prisons in Eritrea, Libya, Djibouti, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, they die in the desert, victims of trafficking, who abandon them in the desert, kidnap, torture them, who kill them to sell their organs, to stop this massacre of our people we need an extraordinary support by the European Community for a change in the political situation in our country, from a despotic regime to a democratic regime, to a regime of freedom and respect for human dignity of the citizens of this wonderful country and the people.
The real solution to all our problems is a radical change in Eritrea, a change that will make our country a legal state, democratic, free, and respectful of human and civil rights of all the people living within its borders, everything else are just small plasters on the wounds of our people, and it’s not enough.
Fr. Mussie Zerai