Eritreans call on government to evacuate fellow compatriots

by Scott Grech

A group of around 50 Eritreans, all men bar one, yesterday held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Law Courts in Valletta, calling on the Maltese government and international community to help in the evacuation and protection of some 2,000 Eritrean asylum seekers trapped in Tripoli, as the crisis in Libya shows no sign of abating.

Holding up slogans with the words “save our people now”, “evacuate and protect” and “allow evacuation of asylum seekers”, demonstrators, who were surrounded by four policemen, said that besides the 2,000 Eritreans in Tripoli, around 270 other Eritrean asylum seekers are hiding from the violence and waiting to be rescued around the port of Benghazi.

Reading a letter out loud to members of the media, Goitom Yousief Asmelash, the spokesman of the Eritrean community in Malta, said: “Malta has acted as a humanitarian hub for thousands of people so far. We are appealing to the Maltese government for its help in the evacuation of our brothers and sisters, and accept to shelter some of the Eritrean asylum seekers, particularly those who have spouses or relatives in Malta.

“We understand that Malta’s resources are limited when compared to those of other countries. However, if Malta doesn’t have the means to cater for the long-term future of these asylum seekers, we appeal to the international community to protect and look after our fellow countrymen”.

Mr Asmelash pointed out that the 2,000 Eritreans cannot go back to Eritrea because “they will face persecution from the Eritrean government, which has already stated that it does not want these 2,000 asylum seekers back”.

He added that some Eritreans have managed to make contact with their friends in Libya, “but they have heard nothing of them for the past two days. From what we know so far, there are 16 Eritreans who were kidnapped in Tripoli and whose whereabouts are still unknown. Our compatriots in Libya have also told us that many Eritreans and sub-Saharan Africans are being evicted from their homes with nowhere to go, because Libyan landlords are no longer willing to rent out accommodation to them”.

Mr Asmelash appealed to Malta and the international community not to neglect asylum seekers who are “either stuck in prisons and detention centres or who are hiding in their homes, afraid to go out. Besides being fearful of an attack, these people are suffering hunger and thirst as food and other supplies are running short”.

38-year-old Habtom Dedesay expressed anguish that his 40-year-old brother, who has been living in Libya for the past three years, is stuck in Tripoli.

“When the crisis in Libya erupted, I was in regular contact with my brother, but for the past few days he has been unreachable. He had told me that he was scared of leaving his house and that he was suffering from hunger. With the violence in Libya escalating, I am very worried that he has been injured, with no one there to help him.

“I acknowledge that Malta is a very small island and cannot accommodate a lot of people, but at the same time it is an island with a huge heart. We desperately need the government’s help,” he said.

27-year-old Mohammed Ali Eshak echoed Mr Dedesay’s words, and he too expressed concern that he hasn’t managed to make contact with his wife, who is “maybe” 23-years-old, for the past week.

“When we last talked on the phone, she told me she had no money and was running out of food. Another close friend of mine said soldiers tortured him, broke his hand and imprisoned him for four days. I am very scared and worried. I can only pray and hope,” he said.


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Posted by on Mar 5 2011 Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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