Secret mission Eritrea: joint cooperation to curb migration

Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Sweden tighten their bond with the Eritrean regime to curb migration from Eritrea. The Swiss newspaper St. Galler Tagblatt reported earlier this month that a joint delegation visited Asmara in January to hold talks on migration with Yemane Gebreab, Eritrea’s head of political affairs and adviser to the president Isaias Afewerki. The delegation consisted of Anne Lugon-Moulin, head of the department Sub Sahara Africa of the Swiss Department for Foreign Affairs (EDA), the German ambassador to Asmara Andreas Zimmer and two delegates responsible for migration from Norway and Sweden. The mission was later confirmed by the Swiss Department for Foreign Affairs (EDA). The talks are expected to lead to new repatriation agreements with Eritrea. This is controversial with regard to the latest report by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea 2016 which considered the mandatory unlimited national service as “slave-like” and concluded that crimes against humanity are committed by the government since 1991 and are currently ongoing. The findings were also confirmed by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.

According to the St. Galler Tagblatt, the goal of the mission was to set a basis for near future political dialogues on topics such as human rights, the state of the rule of law, economic development including development aid, and migration. Spokesperson of EDA Jean-Marc Crevoisier confirmed that the mission aimed at establishing a “foundation of trust”. However, all mentioned thematic areas were given the same priority.

Norway supports the dialogues and is willing to negotiate a repatriation agreement with Eritrea. According to Astrid Sehl, spokes person of the Norwegian Department for Foreign Affairs, irregular migration causes major problems for Eritrea but also for countries of destination as well as for migrants who fall prey to smugglers. The dialogues provide an opportunity to talk about the economic situation, the development of the country and about human rights which are all factors that are closely interlinked with the issue of irregular migration, Astrid Sehl told the St. Galler Tagblatt.

The four countries seek to increase the pressure on Eritrea and hope to influence the regime with combined efforts. Nevertheless, the Swiss government stated that it is aware that the Eritrean government is not a trustworthy partner. Although the regime announced changes with regard to the current human rights situation, EDA concluded in 2016 that promises were never followed through, the St. Galler Tagblatt reports.