A “Day Of Tears” indeed..
You know, I was thinking about how the American News Media works and how it can be annoying. If there is tragedy somewhere in the world, the Mainstream Media in America will only give it so much attention. And if there are no Americans involved, the attention decreases substantially. I always hated that…I always hated that we only reported news that affected us, as if the non-Americans involved were somehow ‘less’ newsworthy for them – and by relation, somehow less humans for us to give a shit about.
But I think I’ve discovered something worse. Something that turns my stomach even more.
This past Thursday (10/3/2013) there was a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa. This ship was carrying an estimated 500 people. There have been 155 people rescued, 111 confirmed deaths & over 200 still missing. There are fears the death toll could rise further since the boat, which capsized after catching fire just half a mile off the coast, may have been carrying as many as 500 migrants from Africa.
The U.N. Refugee Agency has said that 154 out of the 155 survivors are from Eritrea.
How does the news media in Eritrea (the Government-run: Eri-TV) report this? They label these Eritreans as “African Migrants”, “Citizens of the Horn Africa” & “Illegal African Immigrants” and move on.
…Read that last sentence above, again. Yes. No mention that these were their brothers and sisters of Eritrea. ALL BUT ONE of the survivors, thus far, are said to be Eritrean. Imagine, for a second, my American friends – if these were 154 Americans and the American News Media reported the same and then went on to cover this week’s lottery winner like it was just another story.
That’s it. No special report – no 24 hour coverage – no calling demand of leadership – no attempt to report on the possible reason these people were on the boat, heading to Europe, in the first place. I mean, Why? Aren’t you curious WHY Lampedusa receives boatloads of people like this DAILY?? I’ve heard CNN report it as “civil war & poverty”. But that isn’t exactly true, for Eritrea. In past interviews, the President of Eritrea (Isaias Afewerki), has even denied this is happening – insisting that there are no Eritreans fleeing his country. And his supporters: I’ve heard them make such asinine assertions that youth are only leaving the country with aspirations of getting iPods (electronics) & Jordans (sneakers).
All completely false.
In fact, the best people to ask are the Eritreans themselves (the ones who have survived, that is). Some will cite oppression, some will cite mandatory lifetime military services, some will cite lack of religious freedoms, some will cite lack of media freedoms. Very few will cite ‘poverty’ and none will cite the new iPhone 5’s that just came out. In order to understand the excruciating weight of the situation, you must understand the risk that is being accepted. After all, if the reason you are fleeing isn’t that urgent, then perhaps you will only put up with a little inconvenience on your way.
But, almost every direction that these Eritreans flee, they are faced with deadly risk!
First of all: leaving the country with no intentions to return, isn’t exactly acceptable – therefore the actual process of LEAVING Eritrea is a deathly risk of its own. Now, not many local high school & college aged kids know any connections to leave the country, so they rely on human traffickers – who aren’t, historically, known for their honesty & humanity. This is the 2nd wave of deathly risk that is taken. Once this is done & debts paid (often times by traffickers stopping, mid-route, and demanding additional payment or else they’ll leave them stranded in the middle of nowhere!) – then, depending on the direction they left Eritrea, a new set of life-threatening risks present themselves. Whether it be through Egypt to cross into Israel – where they risk being shot like wild animals, in the middle of the desert, by border patrol agents.Or perhaps they make it to a Sudanese refugee camp, where they are kidnapped by Rashada in the Sinai Desert – tortured and used for ransom, raped, organs harvested & murdered. Or your trafficker gets you on a boat leaving the northern African coast, headed for Europe – only to have it sink due to overcrowding. Or, maybe you get ‘lucky’ and end up in Europe, or Egypt, or Israel, or Ethiopia. You end up facing a racist and nationalist rejection, turning you into a tortured slave in Egypt, or victims of hate crimes Europe or Israel, or just lifetime dwelling in an overpopulated and under-resourced refugee camp in Ethiopia or Sudan.
THIS is your future….this is what you have to ‘look forward to’…with the 0.5% chance that you’ll ever see normal living again. WHY ON EARTH, would you leave your home country (which isn’t stricken poverty or civil war) for this outcome in your life???
And yet, Eritrea ranks #1 in the world with respect to Asylum Seekers per-capita of population .
Part of me writing this is to get more information out to my European & American friends that aren’t as familiar with this plight and may do like CNN did and lump this all into 1 general grouping (“Poverty & Civil War”). No, it’s far deeper than that. And even deeper than I’m capable to orchestrating in this article.
[EDIT: CNN did go further in this article to cite “ongoing serious human rights abuses, forced labor and indefinite military service”]
To put it in my own best words:
There is a heavy boot that is on the preverbal necks of the Eritrean people.
And the governmental ‘boot’ has a large microphone (state-run media, international platform) while the Eritrean people (those fleeing and those paralyzed within the country) are voiceless. That is, they are voiceless if we allow this travesty to go unreported and unspoken.
As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. said many times:
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. “
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.“
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
SHARING & RE-POSTING this article is your first step.
This can be your second:
“We are appealing to the European Union to actively call for: The Italian government to arrange for the swift transport of the bodies to Eritrea for proper burial. Or for the EU to support the repatriation as a sign of solidarity for the victims and survivors who died in Europe’s waters. The Eritrean government, through its Embassy in Rome, to fully cooperate with the world community and give these citizens of Eritrea a final resting place in their homeland. For more information: CONTACT:
I’ll leave you with something I had created many years ago when I was learning more and more about the plight of Eritrean refugees and their paths (through association and personal involvement with extended family) :