By Metkel Sewra,
To assess Eritrean migration by relying on UNHCR’s numbers “is to fall prey and be entrapped by an unreliable dataset” argues Sam B. in his meticulously researched paper, Phantom Refugees and UNHCR: The Case of Eritrean Refugees and Migrants.
UNHCR’s datasheets have long been discredited through fact-based research such as the one mentioned here and fact-finding missions conducted by a number of reputable individuals and institutions such as the Danish Immigration Service.
Sam B. explains:
Although there have been many conspicuous in consistence over the years, one of the most publicized documents that highlighted UNHCR’s inconsistencies was the report for the Danish Government’s fact finding mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia in late 2014. While UNHCR was publicly maintaining that “Ethiopia hosts nearly 107,000 Eritrean refugees”, it privately informed the Danish Immigration Service that the actual numbers were significantly lower. Danish Immigration Service (DIS) in its report writes: “Currently; UNHCR has registered a total of 73,680 Eritrean refugees in its Shire operation. In reality, though, it is known that fewer Eritreans than this figure are actually living in the four refugee camps in Northern Ethiopia.
Sam B. concludes that:
“…in Ethiopia and Sudan alone, UNHCR is fraudulently adding somewhere between 185,000 to 210,000 Eritreans in its list of Eritrean refugees. Essentially doubling the global Eritrean refugee numbers.”
Obviously, sensationalist reports attract donors and melodramatic headlines sell papers.Cooked or not, the higher the number the louder the buzz it creates. Add to this a few heart-wrenching pictures of women and children – even if unverified, and even if previously used for completely unrelated articles – and you have an out of context story passed for “analysis” of a situation that requires much more nuance and much less copy and paste type desk research.
In one article after another,mainstream media journalists present an “inside Eritrea” picture that not only makes a mockery of any serious attempt to understand the multi-layered, dynamic, and complex nature of migration – including the fact that migration is not a phenomenon exclusive to Eritrea, and it certainly is not a new marvel – but they also deliberately ignore the all too obvious pull factors that have contributed disproportionately to the luring and entrapping of youth – many of who realize the false promises only a few months after they reach the shores of the “promised land”.
Mainstream media’s coverage of migration and human trafficking as it affects Eritrea has been biased and highly politicized leading to much confusion on the issue. The explanation given for “harsh” conditions inside Eritrea misses the point by a mile. No reference is made to the no-war-no-peace situation inside the country caused by Ethiopia’s calculated hostility, its maneuvering inside regional bodies, and its refusal to abide by a final and binding decision. Furthermore, preferential treatment of Eritrean asylum seekers designed to drain Eritrea of its most important resource, along with sanctions based on cooked evidence of support for terrorism, and an intrusive and biased UNHCR stand against the country’s government and people has greatly tainted the debate on migration.
Contrary to the image aggressively promoted in certain circles, Eritrea itself is the victim of a deliberate “human trafficking” scheme designed to weaken and destabilize the country.The strategy to weaken Eritrea’s defensive and human resources capabilities goes back to the early 2000s. This scheme was essentially devised by Washington. The first act towards this end was the calculated granting of asylum to the Kunama as “a particularly persecuted ethnic group”. UNHCR, Canada, the US and some northern European countries were involved in the project.Israel was also involved.
The Government of Eritrea protested this at the time and sent a demarche to the UNHCR. Eritrean government officials had been saying this for years now with few believing them. It was only when Wikileaks cables released by Bradley Manning in 2010 uncovered hundreds of internal cables and memos that a semblance of truth began to emerge. Not only did the confidential leaks provide evidence of Ethiopian state involvement in smuggling Eritreans as part of their foreign strategy but they also demonstrate that the world’s sole superpower, the United States, was picking a fight with Eritrea through politicized smuggling of Eritrean youth with the promise of “greener pastures”.
Dreams vanished. Hopes dashed. Lured to hell. All of this points to a systematic policy of stripping Eritrea of its youth, especially those enrolled in National Service, in order to weaken and destabilize the country.
Step back from Eritrea for a minute and take a wider look at any mainstream and contemporary understanding of the migration “crisis”. Shortcomings in these analyses abound.Will anyone discuss the fact that many of these countries have been destroyed to the ground by those in power now sounding off the “migration crisis” alarm bells? Will anyone discuss the fact that developing countries have been coerced into accepting an economic order that is by any measure unfair to their peoples? Has any of those so-called experts been able to truly analyze the situation referring to history – far and near – and taking into consideration the impact of their own countries’ economic, political, and geostrategic policies and alliances?
All of this is obviously too much to ask. It would require serious scholarship and if one brave journalist actually dares write something as comprehensive and as multi-layered as the “crisis” itself, his or her paper would certainly not make the cut. There are corporate boards to pander to. There are editors to worry about. There is a career rite of passage to follow.So regurgitated smear campaigns will do. They discuss supposed push factors in a vacuum, putting all blame on the country of origin – or more specifically, the targeted “unfriendly” government.
Having said all this, the rule of thumb for digesting mainstream “analysis” on any subject matter – especially a topic as highly politicized as migration – should be asking on whose behalf is the story being flashed across front pages of major newspapers? On whose behalf is the story “breaking”? On whose behalf is it worthy of a label as ominous as “crisis”?
Only then can one see mainstream corporate media’s slant for what it is – an extension of a calculated campaign aimed at demonizing a country determined to carve its own development – economic, political, and social – path.