EU funding Eritrean road project using 'forced labour' say activists

2nd April 2019 By: African News Agency

The Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans (FHRE) has warned the European Union (EU) that it will take the organisation to court for allegedly violating its own Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The matter relates to what the FHRE says is the EU’s funding of a road-building project which allegedly uses "forced labour”. The project is part of the EU's programme to stem migration from Africa into Europe, the BBC reported.

As part of its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which aims to prevent irregular migration and fund job creation on the continent, the Europeans are spending $22-million in Eritrea to upgrade its road network.

In a warning letter sent to the EU over the alleged violation of human rights FHRE threatened to sue the union if it does not withdraw from the road-building project.

The human rights group claims national Eritrean service recruits are to be employed to build the controversial road and are trapped for an indefinite period within the service. The Horn of Africa country requires youths to perform 18 months of national service.

However, this period has been extended indefinitely following the Ethiopia-Eritrea war that ended in 2000.

FHRE director Mulueberhan Temelso has called Eritrea an "open-air prison where every person in national service is trapped in extremely harsh conditions". 

The UN supports this contention. 

In 2016 it issued a report asserting that conscripts were used as “forced labour”. Amnesty International concurred stating in 2018 the practice had robbed Eritrean youth of their dreams and forced a generation into becoming refugees.

Asmara vehemently denies the accusations saying these assertions are a distortion of the real facts and there is no indefinite period of national service. However, the government has not responded to FHRE’s accusations. And neither has the EU, whose charter states that "no-one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour".