News / Africa

Lampedusa Boat Tragedy a Crime Against Eritrea, Says Official

Yemane Gebreab, political advisor to Eritrea President Isaias Afewerki
Yemane Gebreab, political advisor to Eritrea President Isaias Afewerki
Peter Clottey
An adviser to Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki says human traffickers are to blame for the recent boat tragedy that left over 300 African migrants dead off Italy’s coast.

Authorities say about 155 survived the accident which occurred about half a mile off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

Presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab called the incident “a crime against Eritreans, especially Eritrean youth.”

“This is the work of human traffickers who benefit from this, and there are powerful forces behind them,” said Ghebreab. “It’s an ongoing war which is being waged against Eritrea as part of the sanctions that have been imposed on [us]. It’s part of the continued illegal occupation of Eritrean territory.  We look into the root causes and what lies behind this tragedy.”

Ghebreab’s comments came after the government in Asmara welcomed the idea of bringing the victims home, an idea that emerged from a meeting between the Italian ambassador to Eritrea and his counterpart in Asmara.

“As far as the burial of Eritreans who are victims of this crime are concerned, Eritrea will like to see them buried at home. This is not just the wish of the Eritrean government, it is also the wish of the families of the victims, so we are working on that,” said Ghebreab.

Critics say official government pronouncements prove the administration is using the boat tragedy as a propaganda tool against its critics. Ghebreab disagreed.

“There is a whole network of human traffickers, of criminals,  who have the support of officials in a number of countries and agencies of organizations which are part of this,” said Ghebreab. “No attempt is made [by the media] to look at what is really behind what is happening. This is not the first incident, and unless this war is stopped, unless the criminals who do this and organize this are brought to justice, there will be many victims.”

Observers say the decision by young people to go abroad is due to the failure of the government to create jobs for them. They said Asmara is wrong to accuse alleged enemies rather than creating work.

But, Ghebreab disagreed, saying the government has implemented measures to meet the UN’s efforts to improve living standards and alleviating poverty.  This, he says, in spite of sanctions imposed on the country.

“Eritrea has made huge strides over the past two decades. We are on track in meeting most of the UN Millennium Development Goals.  The Eritrean government takes care of its youth and creates opportunities for them,” said Ghebreab. “It’s just not Eritreans, its Africans in general that are trying to migrate to Europe and other places.”

Ghebreab blames external forces for luring young people to leave home. 

“For Eritrea, the defining reason for this is that Eritreans are given preferential treatment and are treated not as economic migrants, but as political asylum seekers.  This is a deliberate policy that has been well documented,” said Ghebreab.
Clottey interview with Yemane Ghebreab, presidential adviser
Clottey interview with Yemane Ghebreab, presidential adviseri
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
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by: Abraham from: Usa
November 03, 2013 1:30 AM
Eriterians will suffer more and more catastrophic deaths because the don't know why they fought for thirty years and they have no idea the identity of their government and they will face war after the fall of tplf or wayane!!

by: Anonymous
October 19, 2013 1:57 PM
Pray for Selma in eritrean !

by: abraham from: usa
October 18, 2013 11:12 AM
God bless the lives lost at sea, but we eritreans need to stand for what is ours. we cant have monkey and dictator any more, they are half tigrayians, not eritreans. and are destroying our country. WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! ERITREANS, they shouldnt be blaming smuglers they should be blaming theirself. with indefinite military service,and it's not really military service it's slavery. they have to build house and pave road etc.. they dont even get paid. they cannot live their own live. they cant go to college, get a job, and support their families. that's why they leave. i sense a civil war in eritrea soon. our unity and peace will be destroyed forever. And for all of you dictator supporters go live in eritrea and suffer like our people do. get a taste of our reality.

by: Berhan Gedem from: Minnesota U.S.A.
October 18, 2013 11:05 AM
First all Yemanea Gebreab is not adviser or division maker his puppet and loud speaker of this brutal dictator of ESsayas.Esayas the only person made decision.The phenomen what we see in Eritrea today personally I was predict and said before independent Eritrea because from experience in armed struggle.the only solution ifor all this problem the Eritrean people mast be united to get ride of this evil cruel dictator and replace democratic institution and government

by: Observer from: Here
October 17, 2013 11:18 PM
I am Eritrean and I think this guy is on drugs. Wow. He is blaming human traffickers. Wake up Eritreans. Time to get a new administration.
In Response

by: mohammed from: asmara
October 18, 2013 5:01 AM
WE SHOULD STAND FOR THIS

by: FRE WEYANE from: TIGRAY
October 17, 2013 1:35 PM
ERITREANS SORRY FOR THE ONCE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE SEA BUT BE SURE YOU WILL FAIL AS A STATE ONCE FOR ALL UNLESS YOU STOP BLAMING OTHERS FOR YOUR FAILURE

by: Freqalsi Warsai from: Oakland,ca
October 17, 2013 11:42 AM
Eritrea never Neal down. It always strives while other are thinking otherwise. We have always proved the world super powers Worong and we will do it again and again untile one day, they understand Eritreans do not give up easily and they would sacrifice over and over untile they reach their destiny. Awet Nihafash and Zelalemawi Zikri Nisematat Eritrea!!
In Response

by: Rahel from: Washington Dc
October 18, 2013 10:32 AM
Are you kidding me, our people are dying becouse of sheytan DIA and his followers, I myself paid the Eritrean government 20.000 to let me out of my beloved country, so go to sawa and see what is going on there, haseweti kemakum abzi kof elkum tetakeuu teseseuu while your people are dying. you will pay for it very soon ashashu.
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 17, 2013 12:27 PM
Why don't you go back and live in Eritrea??? What are you doing in California?

by: Aguma Bera from: Atlanta Georgia
October 17, 2013 9:01 AM
Dear Mr G/Ab I'm total agree with ur political reality.There id no sought that the puppet wayane and the western are all behind this tragedy ,However eritrean national must stand together to overcome the enemy dream to fall.Long life H.E.Afewerki and eritrean ppl.

by: Mengis from: Londin
October 16, 2013 7:27 PM
Great talk to VOA Mr yemane .Let's camel march & the dogs bark .Eritrean people Are aware Weyane boot lickers.Truth hurt Continue doing your job, do not bestow down to the West. We Eritreans agree with this struggle and will continue to support our people in times of adversity. The opposition are fuelled by the west and the people writing here have no sense of reality. Do not become economic slaves to the west, fight for our true civil freedom, continue doing your work Awet n'Hafash!!!

by: Mohamed from: London
October 16, 2013 6:46 PM
It's really a very simple equation, if people didn't have a reason to leave they wouldn't. Eritrea is one of, if not the, poorest countries in the world. Ofcourse people are going to flee. Endless military service, a closed economy, no educational opportunities and the endless threat of war. No one wants to live in a place like that. Eritrean government should accept responsibility for the deaths, they are the ones providing people smugglers etc with a market.
In Response

by: Hamza from: Sweden
October 17, 2013 12:23 AM
I agree with you Mohamed. Military officers in Eritrea are highly involved in this market. The agames and thier eviel mind is fully determined To do what they Can do even more To harm our people. The eritrean gov. Tries To play as à victom of foraigen powers but they are worst abuser of thier people.
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