Radio Erena: 29 April 2022
Desperately fighting to curb the immigrants flow through the English Channel, the British Home Secretary Priti Patel signed an agreement with the Rwandan Foreign and International Cooperation Minister Vincent Biruta. The agreement will allow the UK to ‘offshore’ asylum seekers by charter flights to Rwanda pending the processing of their asylum-seeking demands.
Landing in Kigali airport, Patel tweeted: “In Kigali, Rwanda, ahead of a significant moment for the New Plan for Immigration.”
The deal-eager Patel said that the plan is to put out the evil of the smugglers, a task she describes as a ‘moral imperative, (as if the smugglers were the root cause of the problem.) Her office further complains that more than 4,500 immigrants crossed the English Channel from the northern French port city of Calais this year.
On his part, the Rwandan minister confidently pointed out that the agreement will solve the problem of the refugees and will advance the development of his country.
UK opposition parties and human rights groups quickly and ruthlessly criticized the deal. The hardest blow came from the Archbishop of the Church of England, Justin Welby. In his Easter sermon, he said that: “the policy cannot stand up to the judgment of God.”
At the same time, Africanews quoted UK Amnesty International refugee director Steve Valdez-Symonds as saying: “The shocking ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting public money.” “Rwandan dismal human rights record” he added “will make the matter even worse.”
The deal stands on a pile of $ 158 million to be paid by UK public money to Rwanda. The Rwandan had earlier received a package of Israeli financial and military aid to resettle African refugees forcefully deported from there despite a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court banning “Bibi” Netanyahu’s cabinet from pursuing the plan. In addition to the refugees deported from Israel, Rwanda also accommodated hundreds of refugees from Libya in an arrangement with UNHCR.
Although most of the refugees repatriated from Israel- in calamitous conditions- were Eritreans, the Eritrean government didn’t utter a single word of protest on the matter that raised bitter criticism inside Israel and abroad.
Eventually, dumping the refugees in a camp 60 miles to the west of the capital Kigali forced many of them to restart their dream journeys by initially crossing into neighboring Uganda before ending up in the Libyan coasts once more. The luckiest few among them won resettlement in Belgium, France, and Canada.
A Baffling Eritrean Outrage
The Eritrean Ministry of Information (MoFA), the mouthpiece of the Eritrean government, issued a fuming statement condemning the UK-Rwandan plan. The statement, issued on 18 April, labeled the deal as a “disgraceful Scheme of Refugee Off-shoring.”
“The package”, said the statement: “is intended to obscure the underlying causes, dynamics, and varied tentacles of human trafficking. A strategic depopulation against some countries for ulterior motives.” “The cheap and unethical scheme must be roundly opposed and deplored.” The statement is strongly called.
Though the UK-Rwandan plan deservedly received harsh criticism due to its notoriety, a logical question springs to the mind: On what ethical grounds does the Eritrean government stand to attack Patel’s plan?
This government has deviously turned the country into a massive centrifugal force. Thousands of youths have been ejected to meet their dark fates in the Sahara, Mediterranean, and likewise in the hands of human traffickers. From 2015 onward, the Eritrean refugees ranked second as the largest immigrant group after the Syrians in Europe. At the present, the deluge continues as hundreds of young men and women flood the refugee camps and villages in Eastern Sudan.
In a recent interview with Radio Erena Arabic Program, Mr. Said Ibrahim, the operations manager of the UK based Eritrean Relief Association ‘Ethar’, who supervised the distribution of Ramadan food aid in these refugee camps, confirmed, as an eyewitness, seeing hundreds of daily arriving Eritrean refugees, mainly, escapees of the unending roundups. They are already pressing on the delicate service infrastructure of the camps and villages already hosting more than 100,000 refugees, some of whom arrived in the late sixties.
Time to Call a Spade
Bearing the endless calamity of the Eritrean youths in mind, it would be ludicrous to take the Ministry’s statement seriously. It’s brazenly demeaning. The very persons who are unashamedly criticizing others – thousands of miles away- have long history of indifference and insensibility to the wounds of Eritrean families inflicted by the forced immigration due to the Eritrean government’s decades-long imprudent policies.
The underlying argument of the Ministry’s statement implicitly recounts the Eritrean officials’ view that the ‘Western’ governments are persistently trying to depopulate Eritrea for ‘ulterior motives.’ The tactical trick this claim raises is clear: “We are not responsible for the immigration of the Eritrean youths.” Now, who would buy such nonsense?
Surprisingly, the rise of the extreme right in Europe is giving the Eritrean government vital backing. Many of these parties, which are becoming increasingly influential inside the European parliament, believe that the European countries’ budgets allocated for immigration should partially be paid to governments in Africa to bridle their people inside their countries. Unfortunately, it is on such irresponsible policies that the EU is financing the Eritrean government to locally provide the youth with the ‘needed’ vocational training to deter them from crossing the borders toward Europe’s mainland.
Ironically, while Eritrean officials argue that immigration isn’t more than a western conspiracy, they don’t shun the remittances of these refugees living in Europe, the US, and other countries, which are considered today the indispensable lifeline to thousands of families under the crushing economic conditions in Eritrea. Such remittances not only nourish the public coffers with hard currency; but also relieve the government of its long-forsaken social commitment to its citizens.
The Eritreans who bear the brunt of immigration and its tragic consequences realize that the durable solutions to the problem are not attainable without radical changes inside Eritrea itself. Neither Europe nor the wretched Eritreans will have a lasting answer to the malignant problem without addressing its real and long-dogged cause: Dictatorship.
In plain words, beating around the bush with false solutions will only prolong the suffering of immigrants and their host countries.
By Fathi Osman