Statement in Bern

On Friday 18 May 2018, a large demonstration was organized by the Eritrean community. Over 1’500 people attended the gathering in order to express the brutal nature of the government of Eritrea.

On that occasion, Veronica Almedom, co-director of IFE delivered the following speech (translated by Google Translate) :

In recent years, there has been a real relentlessness on Eritrean asylum seekers. First, by right-wing parties that give themselves to political games of very bad taste. Then, by some media that discredit the exodus of a whole people living in tyranny.
And now, the worst, after the right-wing parties and some media, the Federal Administrative Court, the very guarantor of our rights, which is very visibly different from the law by mingling with a political stance.
Madam President Spälti, Mr Bovier, Mrs Brüschweiler, Mr Cattaneo, Mrs Cotting-Schalch, Mr Felley, Mrs Fuchs, Mr Lang, Mrs Scherrer, Mr Scherrer, Mr Schürch, Mr Tellenback, Mrs Theis, Mr Thurnheer, Mr Wespi- you that if you were in Eritrea your role of judges would be very closely controlled by the President who has the habit of removing and torturing anyone who does not comply with his ideology? Do you know that the slightest disagreement on your part would have given you at least an enforced disappearance? Do you know that this rule is as valid for judges as for waiters in cafes, doctors, hotel managers, farmers, journalists, priests, servants, ministers, the elderly. Arbitrary rule is valid for the whole of Eritrean society. You know what it’s called: tyranny. Is it from this Eritrea that you talk about in ruling that it is “now safer” to return? A country where the ICRC can not set foot, where the European delegations are followed closely or remotely, but followed for sure. A country where it is impossible for an institution such as the SEM to freely carry out field research because the evidence of human rights violations is overflowing. SEM employees themselves do not enjoy complete freedom of movement when traveling in the country!

How to sleep at night in such a hostile environment? A territory where every individual without exception is suspected by the state, where the slightest emancipatory behavior of each individual is perceived as an act of disobedience and an act of contestation vis-à-vis authority. How does one develop one’s personality in such a context? How are we realized freely? I would like to ask the Honorary Consul of Eritrea, Mr. Locher, and his friends from right-wing parties to explain to us where the economic factor is in all of this.
By way of illustration, our present-day approach, which is to demonstrate peacefully and which may seem banal, would have made us all disappear within an hour if we were in Eritrea. The organizers were reportedly taken to prison, beaten and tortured. Their (even innocent) families were also reportedly taken away, raped for being “potential accomplices”. I’m not talking about fiction, but facts that have happened over and over, the last time being October 31, 2017 in Asmara.
But to return to this practice which is highly harmful:
· Harmful because it serves seriously the image of Switzerland currently before the UN Committee Against Torture;
· Harmful Because it ruins the many efforts made by the cantons and associations that implement many projects to improve the integration of Eritreans; and
· Finally, harmful because it destroys slowly the sense of belonging of Eritreans in Switzerland.
SEM has gone beyond the reasonable framework of our Swiss migration policies. With this practice everyone is losing. But especially the potentially affected people who are now living in fear and are more isolated. This practice is retrograde and socially humiliating!
These people have already been abandoned, abused and betrayed by their own government. And now, the CH does not have to reinforce this feeling of rejection related to their condition of statelessness. I ask TAF judges to use common sense, but above all fairness by not relying solely on reports from state sources to make decisions, but keeping the voice of NGOs and the voice of Eritrean civil society, which, with them, reflects much more accurately the reality on the ground. Finally, I ask the SEM to stop exploiting:
– The difficulty of political action of the Eritreans which is only the result of a strategy of survival because of the tyrannical environment in which they had to evolve;
– And cunningly stop taking advantage of the lack of information.

The SEM went there, he knows that the leaders reject any form of dialogue on issues of rule of law with its population, the SEM therefore has no reason to be ambiguous, confused, disoriented about the situation in the country.
I ask them honesty.