Two Italian journalists traveled to Eritrea soon after the tragedy of Lampedusa last October and put together the following video. Their aim was to better understand why the youth that have found death in the sea near Lampedusa runaway? Is it because of the difficulty of living under a no-war-no-peace situation? Is it due to the need to break up the long military service? Is it due to the difficulty of finding a good job or is it in search of a better future? They found the answers right from the families of the victims of the Lampedusa tragedy.
The following is a transcript of the video.
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Video Transcript by YPFDJ Italy,
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Welcome to a new appointment with ‘Settesera’. Tonight a new series of columns begin, called “Africa Today”. We will look at the African continent with different eyes, through the eyes of the people who have come from Africa and live in Italy, or living in Africa and maintaining relations with our country, or even simply those who want to learn more about a continent that is rapidly changing without us realizing it sometimes.
Today we start talking about Eritrea. Let’s get to know our guests and then we will watch a video that introduces us to this beautiful country, that still faces some difficulties. Here is Derres Araia who has Italian and Eritrean dual nationality, but works in Italy.
Presenter: “Good evening to you!”
Derres: “Good evening”
Presenter: “Thank you Riccardo Marioni, Director of Umbria TV. Good evening! ”
Riccardo: “Hello, Good evening, thanks.”
Presenter: “Thank you Zerazion Bisrat, who is also a citizen with dual Italian and Eritrean nationality. You also study and work here”
Presenter: “Thanks to Marilena Dolce, journalist.”
Marilena: “Good evening, thank you!”
The two Italian journalists have traveled to Eritrea and put together this video. Let’s have a look.
ASMARA, Sun in the ‘Das’
[Narrator] Eritrea, the land of the free. This is how it was called before becoming Italian possession in 1890, and acquired the name of the Erythros, the red sea, the earth, the blood. In 1941, with the war, Italy lose the colony in East Africa that after the short control by the English, Eritrea will be federated and subsequently annexed to Ethiopia. Eritrea will achieve Independence on May 24th, 1993 after thirty years of struggle, with Isayas Afewerki , President of the new state. The years of peace, however, do not last long. In 1998, a new conflict erupts;Ethiopia occupies Badme , a small Eritrean village on the border. In 2002, the final and binding Algiers Agreements, under the auspice of the UN and the European Union, provided that Ethiopia had to vacate that territory, but no one bothered to enforce that decision and Eritrea swoops in a difficult situation of instability; the no war- no peace situation
SUSAN RICE U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN 2009 [ …]
Rice: The United States is pleased with the adoption today of resolution 2023 imposing additional sanctions on Eritrea, for its failure…
[Narrator] Since 2009, the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, accusing Eritrea of helping the Somali fundamentalists have blocked the economy and the country’s development. The generation born in the 90s have grown in a free state set to reach the Millennium Development Goals, where there is food security, free education, hospitals, and medicines – struggle to bear the difference with the West, known through the television or the words of those who live there . What do these guys- that have found death in the sea near Lampedusa – runaway from?
Surely the difficulty of living in a no war- no peace situation, the need to break up the long military service and the difficulty of finding a good job. “The international community can no longer ignore this situation”, says the sister of one of the victims, during the interview.
Presenter: “So, we have a picture of this country that has many difficulties but is also very beautiful. What is your impression? ”
Riccardo: “Meanwhile, the story of a colony of the former empire takes us back to a territory that reminds so much of Italy. Great part of the economic activities still carry the names of the time, from Caffe’ Roma to Bar Impero, to Cinemas..”
Presenter: “Because it is as if life had frozen.”
Richard: “Well, the first impression is to relive the countries of the 40s and 50s of our era who were starting again after the war. But coming back to our report, we were about to leave for Eritrea when the tragedy of Lampedusa happened.. ”
Presenter: “The terrible massacre ”
Riccardo: “The major reason for going was to restore some truth because of the misleading news, that also our colleagues in national TV have been spreading with excessive facility, based on the considerable number of immigrants coming from Eritrea and crossing the Strait of Sicily (and then there are other reasons that we’re going to slowly explain during the series). Great poverty on the one hand and dictatorship on the other, “fierce”, as some of our Colleagues have defined in important platforms. We went to check for ourselves, to understand if really there is a dictatorship and we did what a Journalist should do honestly: to understand the reality of a country. We blended in among the people, in their daily lives, wondering, trying to figure out whether this was a police state or not. And that is not the case! The country is well away from the iron dictatorship of which many speak. The reasons why young people flee are very different and we are going to talk about them .”
Presenter: “I wanted to ask you something, have you sensed a feeling of insecurity there?”
Riccardo: “No, absolutely not.”
Presenter: “Well, this is important.”
Riccardo: “This is not a biased opinion; we went to bars, even restaurants. we attended a wedding, danced there.People stroll up and down till late evenings, you do not see police around. However, we need to mention that we were there a few days, may be not enough to understand the full complexity of a country. ”
Presenter: “But for other countries even few days are enough to understand.”
Riccardo: “We have a clear idea of few things that we will refer.”
Presenter: “Derres Araia , dual citizenship.. Italian and Eritrean, works in Italy and is responsible for the community in Italy.”
Derres: “The Eritrean community in Italy. Yes”
Presenter: “Why do these guys feel the need to leave? ”
Derres: “They feel the need to leave Eritrea also because they are so deluded to find a better situation abroad. In addition, we need to remember that Eritrea throughout the 30year war with Ethiopia, when suffered and was bombarded with napalm etc., neither Italy nor Europe had opened the door to political asylum or humanitarian grounds . The political or humanitarian grounds has been established, implemented after independence, indeed precisely after the conflict with Ethiopia, on commission of the well known powers . The war is over , the court established by the UN with guarantors parties has established its verdict. Unfortunately, the verdict has still not been implemented to economically plaster Eritrea and always keep it in a state of defense. This is the national service of these young guys has been extended.. to the defense of national sovereignty that is always endangered. ”
Presenter: “Eritrea has 6 million people ”
Presenter: “A population definitely small compared to your neighbors.”
Derres: “Exactly because Ethiopia has 80 million inhabitants. Although small, Eritrea has proved a lot in the 7-8years of independence, from 1991 to 1998. without borrowing from the IMF, the World Bank or International Banks , and still achieved a 8% growth . Then, unexpectedly, the war with our neighbors erupted .. but as I said , commissioned by others because other interests are involved.”
Presenter:”Today there can be no growth ”
Derres: “Exactly ”
Presenter: “But it would be enough to free the land”
Derres: “That’s right, because of this situation, Eritrea is still fighting the psychological war waged by the media that continue to misinform the public. I really thank the two journalists, who went to Eritrea and call on other journalists that want to find truth, to go there and see the situation for themselves. ”
Presenter: “Marilena Dolce , you have been to Africa and you have contributed to this report, at times touching . Tell us your feelings, before we watch it . ”
Marilena :”Touching is exactly the right word to explain my feelings. First of all, having been able to meet these families. The aim of this journey, as we said before, was after what happened in Lampedusa to go right to Asmara to see how they were living compared to what we were told. I think the images will speak much better than words. ”
Presenter: “Let’s watch it”
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[Narrator]: We are in Asmara where in many areas of the city, in front of the houses, ‘das’ have been set to receive relatives, friends and acquaintances. To share the pain of grief of the tragedy of Lampedusa on October 3rd.
Man: I helped the mother to raise this girl because his father was a martyr, a guerrilla fighter who died during the War of Liberation. It is difficult to express what I feel. I think it’s better to let her mother speak.
Woman : I’ve had a hard life. My daughter grew up without his father, who was a martyr. I still do not understand why my daughter wanted to go to Libya , Sudan. I lost a child to illness, and now she left looking for a better future. Everything now is in God’s hands; the body is no longer important. To me she died when she left. May be she wanted to leave the country to help me; I pray that she will be accepted in Heaven.
Priest: “Everything is in the hands of God, even this tragedy. Today we can only hope that God will bless all our children. Why has all this happened? I think that young people who have managed to arrive in Europe, in search of a better future, have been the driving force pushing others to do the same. At that age, they are like a river in which the water follows all the same direction. I wish to thank the Italian government that has assisted our children and that will help with the return of their bodies home. I would like to explain another point. These guys had left their families and parents long before they attempted the way to Europe. The religious tradition in Eritrea wants the bodies to return to their homeland, because that is the only way mourning can end and parents can find peace with the burial . Until then, these families will observe a mourning that will be much more painful than that which accompanies the funeral . We call on the European Union and Italy to help us so that our tradition is respected. When an Eritrean dies abroad is always brought back to the ancestral land.
Woman 2: “I thank you for being here. What I ask is to recover the body of my son because I’d like to put a flower on his grave until the end of my days. Because this is the way we mourn. We ask the body so that our family could visit him every day , bringing flowers. I raised my son with the help of my brothers. He had studied , he had learned to be a mechanic . He also had a Lambretta ,which allowed him to work. He had decided to go to Sudan , and then he came back to Eritrea. He stayed with us four months, then again to Sudan. We did not know that then he would have moved to Libya, and Europe. The only thing we know is that he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea . Now I want my son, I want to be able to pray for him. I’ll pray for those who help me get his body back .
Woman 3: “All young people who have died at sea, not only my brother, should be able to return to be buried here . But the fundamental problem, that the World only now seems to realize, would not exist if the defined border had been respected. Our young people would not have left the country; they would not even have left their backyard. If the international community has eyes and ears should solve the problem of the border so our Youth, as the youth in the rest of the world, can work for the growth and development of the Country. Young people who leave the country are not against the state. The problem is the border. I repeat, the International Community must solve the border issue! The world must act! If it had acted before, this tragedy would not have happened. I ask, therefore, that young people are brought back to their home and that the world does something.
Woman 4: “Please bring my children back home. Only this way my pain will find peace (PRAYERS)
Presenter: “So, I have to say Marilena- very strong images. And then the coffins returning home at least will ease the pain of these poor mothers who are waiting
Marilena: ”Hoping they will return…”
Presenter: “Hoping they will return… So Zerazion Bisrat, yours is a very positive story. Your Mom and Dad moved to Italy to work. So were you born here?
Zerazion : “Born and raised here”
Presenter: “But why those who are born there feel the need to put their lives at the risk of a possible death ? We do not say likely, but at least possible.
Zerazion : It’s not difficult to understand their motivations really. As the girl in the video also mentions when she refers to the border issue being not respected, or better, of the Algiers Agreements not respected… In fact, after the war with Ethiopia, and the signing of the Algiers Agreements for acceptance in principle by both, unfortunately our neighbor has never withdrawn its troops from the border. This has forced Eritrea to always be on [permanent state] of defence (alert), and to keep more or less the same force, even if only for defense . And here in reality, as Derres said before, there is a difference in population numbers. Also, the Eritrean army is formed by conscripts..
Presenter: “They are forced to go away and run away from the war, or at least the possibility of a War”
Zerazion : “Not so much from that. But as the length of the service”
Presenter: “How long is the service?”
Zerazion : “Theoretically, it is 18 months, but clearly when you do not have the safety in your own home, you are careful never to leave the door open if there is the risk that someone will come into your house.”
Presenter: “Of course !”
Zerazion : Seeing that over the other side, many are volunteers of the Ethiopian army. It is right to notice that some were homeless.. and compared to the three meals a day, a place to be more comfortable..
Presenter: They are likely to become mercenaries
Zerazion : Exactly. That is what I believe. A young Eritrean who decides to leave the service and the country does nothing different from any other migrant . One leaves with a dream of having a better future.. to be able to create a family, a job back home.
Moderator: And that is a licit dream
Zerazion : Licit .. certainly
Richard : A significant fact, if I could add, is that they earn €50 per month even those who cover more fortunate positions, as public officials. So the mirage of Europe, especially in some countries where subsidies speak of € 500-600 per month, a year of their work.. of course they all try to escape . Not because of other reasons, like dictatorship.
Presenter: A better future!
Riccardo: Looking for a better future as it happens in the case of our own young people
Presenter: “Derres, we have twenty seconds.”
Derres : In twenty seconds I want to make an appeal to the Italian government for its historical and political responsibility, and I’m referring to colonialism , and the ties with Eritrea. To help Eritrea to grow and get out of this political/economic deadlock
Presenter: And to find a way out . I apologize for calling you with your colleague name, as you are Deres Araya . Thank you for being with us. Our time for Africa Today is over. Our appointment is for tomorrow!
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