Opinion: UN Primarily Responsible for the Lampedusa Tragedy

UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres
UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres

By Hossana Solomon,

In the wake of this tragedy, finger pointing has started to blame this or that party for the cause of the tragedy. The world body UN blames human traffickers who were paid to transport the victims as the responsible party. The Eritrean “opposition” groups have field blaming the Eritrean Government as culprit, knowing that the GoE would have liked all those young souls stayed in their country and participated in defending and building the country.

The “opposition” groups and their handlers have been agitating for the youth to abandon their country, enticed the false promises and paid smugglers to transport to their death camps in deserts and seas. 

Obviously this quick fix to assign a culprit for the tragedy prevents us from finding a real solution for the root cause of the tragedy. The poor fishermen who responded to the huge demand of poor migrant workers from Africa and Middle East should not bare all the blame to this tragic incident. I do not know the reasons of many of the victims why they leave their country and decide to migrate taking such a huge risk in crossing dangerous deserts and seas to reach Europe or any other destination in other parts of the world. Therefore I will try to restrict my brief comment on the horn of Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia where the bulk of the victims of the tragedy originated. As a long time observer of the conflict in the region, I blame The United Nation (UN).

The UN headed by the Security Council should shoulder the bulk of the responsibility to this disaster. The UNSC passed two sanctions against the poor nation of Eritrea, supported by Ethiopia, IGAD, African Union (AU). Many of the victims who are leaving Eritrea are doing so because they could not make a decent living in their native land. The two economic sanction passed by UNSC has made it difficult for sound economic recovery in the country. There are shortages of many essential items in the country mainly energy and food. The so called ‘Smart Sanction” was designed to bring change to the government of Eritrea, labeled as ‘Spoiler of regional Peace’.

The sanctions were based on allegations but not proven by an independent observer while the Eritrean government denied the allegation, but to the UNSC it was okay to pass the resolutions because there was no need to prove for Eritrea’s innocence, “Eritrea is guilty until proven innocent”.The UNSC, in a closed meeting, passed its judgments by preventing Eritrea to present its facts for its defense.

UNSC also failed to bring a lasting solution to the border dispute with Ethiopia and the military occupation of Eritrean territory after the UN court awarded the disputed territory to Eritrea and Ethiopia refusing to accept the so called final and binding court decision. Ethiopia’s No-War- No-Peace policy have forced the Eritrean government to declare a national military service to all able bodies in the country, forcing the youth to be engaged on an indefinite national service, which has become a burden to many Eritrean families. It is especially difficult to the youth forcing them to leave the country and become victims of such tragedy.


The UN can resolve the border crisis and lift the sanctions put on Eritrea to end the indefinite military service the country has forced itself to defend its territory. Therefore, the bulk of this tragedy lies at the doorsteps of UN, its unwarranted sanctions and its sponsors.

The UN should apologize to the Eritrean people who suffered tremendous including from this latest tragedy by its deliberate silences tacit support through sanctions on the people since its inception.

Eritreans do not deserve such maltreatment instead they should be helped to develop their country and live in peace.
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