The Irish MEP, Brian Hayes, hosted a meeting in the European Parliament on Monday for an Eritrean delegation led by the country’s Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel.
Their presence came despite protests from European and Eritrean human rights campaigners, who called for the meeting to be cancelled.
Mr Hayes, Fine Gael representative for Dublin, visited Eritrea in May, producing a distinctly upbeat report about the situation in the country.
“Over the past five years Ireland has committed over a million euro to projects in Eritrea. Over 20,000 Eritrean families have been directly helped.”
“It is great to get the opportunity to visit Eritrea and see first-hand these programmes in action. I believe that enabling sustainable livelihoods is a critical factor in determining Eritrea’s future,” he said.
Ahead of Monday’s meeting in Brussels he wrote: “I believe by bringing everyone together for this conference, positive outcomes can be achieved.”
The meeting was attended by a UNDP representative and the Irish aid agency VITA that has been working inside Eritrea for some time.
The tone of the gathering was perhaps best summed up in a tweet which Mr Hayes shared: “Engagement is the key”.
Eritrea’s notorious human rights record was glossed over, dismissing the findings of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry that the government was responsible for crimes against humanity.
As the UN put it: “Crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, rape, murder and other inhumane acts – have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic campaign since 1991 aimed at maintaining control over the population and perpetuating the Eritrean leadership’s rule.”
The exodus of young Eritreans fleeing the country was put down to a lack of appropriate employment.
Yemane Gebremeskel, speaking for the government described the opportunities for investment there existed for agricultural development and other areas, such as natural resources.
But the views of the panel did not go unchallenged.
Zara – an Eritrean human rights activist from the Stop Slavery in Eritrea Campaign – demanded to know why no mention had been made of the thousands of political prisoners, despite repeated attempts by Mr Hayes to cut her contribution off.
And Daniel, a recently arrived refugee, told the meeting that nothing had changed in Eritrea since he was forced into exile, and called for the situation not to be ignored.
It has been taking long to learn the real feature of the regime in eritrea. Nothing will be changed except spending money. The dictatorial regime is playing mind game…using again and again the word engaging. … wake up Europe. Stand firmly along the people of eritrea.
Thank you dear Martin,
I also like to thank Zaragoza and Daniel for speaking out.
It is a shame that an MP also entitled “Honourable” engadged in assisting a tyrannical regime which continously oppresses it’s subjects on one hand and grants mining concessions to scrupulous foreign investors.
The time for change is near.
It very sad chapter in European diplomatic in Eritrea. The mine issues of Eritrean problem is the regime that ill treatment over its people such as rape, indefinatilly national services used and in slavery, torture, imprisonment and indiscriminately killing innocent people this should be in the table instead rewarding it with cashes for developments. Of course the brutal government love to play game using the people hostages for it expending its power lobbing for its interest. However the whole refuge issues are forgotten it’s mine problem. Please European countries stop using money to extending the power of dictatorship in Africa nation such Eritrea. The people are pledging for really solution to their problem to be solve peacefully and put perishers to those who are abused the human rights.
The continuation of colonization in a different form manifested itself, where European government giving financial bribe to the African dictators in return corporations will get access to the natural resources, in the process making Europeans and the dictators becomes rich and powerful leaving the African people to flee thier country ,trampling human rights. And you wonder why how this fake democracy continue to full people.