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Eritrean rights group accuses Asmara of systematic repression amid COVID-19


June 1, 2020 (ADDIS ABABA) – An exiled Eritrean rights group, the Red Sea Afar Human Rights organization (RSAHRO) accused the Eritrean government of systematically starving the Afar minority “under the pretext of protecting the population from COVID-19.

Afar soldiers escort expedition into the desert, Ethiopia, February 2005 (Getty)Last April, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wanted that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could be used by some government as an excuse to enforce repressive measures for reasons unrelated to the respiratory disease, stressing that the health crisis risks becoming a human rights crisis.

“In all we do, let’s never forget: The threat is the virus, not people,” Guterres said.

In a statement it sent to Sudan Tribune Monday, RSAHRO said that Asmara is using COVID-19 pandemic as a cover to further intensifying an “ethnic cleansing” strategy against targeted groups of people particularly the Afar people.

As a result, the lives of thousands of people in the Red Sea Afar region are under imminent threat, stressed the group.

The rights group appealed on Eritrean human rights and humanitarian organizations, neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, and regional and international organizations to provide the needed humanitarian support and to put pressures on Asmara to end this blockade.

The group claimed that the ruling regime suppresses the residents of Afar region through strict implementation of measures aiming at isolating citizens and forced displacement in line with a plan to empty the region from its people to achieve a demographic change.

The group said the regime has closed all the borders (Land and sea) as the residents are trapped under a "suffocating siege" depriving them of their most basic rights and necessities.

The rights group listed some 10 human rights violations monitored by RSAHRO in the last two months including the arrest of dozens of fishermen by Eritrean naval forces and confiscation of their boats in Buri peninsula.

The Eritrean government has also closed all seaports and Marine resource offices in Dahlak, Ga’lalo, Engel, Tio, Eddi, Barasouli, Assab, Rehayta and other coastal areas throughout the region, putting residents and citizens of the region under the threat of starvation, according to the group.

Moreover, those who live in remote areas (Pastoralists) are living in tragic living conditions and lack any assistance.


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