I am writing this piece a few minutes after listening live on TV to Jean-Claude Juncker’s, European Commission President, speech announcing plans that will offer a “swift, determined and comprehensive” response to Europe’s migrant crisis. In his speech, Junker made a reference to the main sources and origins of the refugee crisis – war torn countries and dictatorial regimes. There is no controversy regarding which countries were torn apart by war and their people are dislocated en mass.
However, while allocating a share of the blame to dictatorial regimes, Junker mentioned only one country, Eritrea! There is no doubt that Eritera is being ruled by a dictator, who rules with iron fist, shattering hopes and dreams of Eritreans who fought to gain freedom from Ethiopia.
If we want to understand and explain the number of refugees genuinely originating from East Africa, however, putting the blame squarely on the Eritrean dictator is not only wrong but it is also misleading and misguided in EU’s foreign policy towards dictatorial regimes everywhere in general and those in East Africa in particular.
The crux of the matter is this – both Ethiopia and Eritrea are ruled by equally brutal dictatorial regimes. The only difference is the Ethiopian regime is the darling of the West and the havoc it is creating within the borders of Ethiopia and beyond are conveniently overlooked by Western powers for geopolitical reasons, its mission in Somalia on behalf of Western powers, mainly USA. Specifically, EU is very much aware that the Ethiopian regime is no less a dictator than that in Eritrea.
The reader may wonder what has this got to do with the refugee numbers. Here is the logic. Those who decide to travel long distances across deserts and oceans are smart people. Besides they are well informed by the smugglers as well as network of refugees who are already settled in Europe. They know what officials in the other side of the sea want to hear. So, a good proportion of those who register themselves as originating from Eritrea are actually Ethiopian refugees, who know very well that if they declare themselves as Ethiopians then their case would get immediately rejected.
In fact, there is strong reason to believe that actually the majority of those who registered as Eritreans are likely to be Ethiopians. There is a corroborating evidence for this – International Migration Organization statistics for immigrants arriving in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Incidentally, the impact of repressive regime in Addis Ababa is so much that the refugee outflow to Yemen is still unabated, even when Yemen is burning due to civil war.
Refugees arriving in this part of the world do declare their true identity, and the majority, about 80%, are Ethiopians. This sharply contrasts with the statistics on arrivals in Europe where refugees anticipate bias due to geopolitics. Otherwise, after all, Eritrea has only about 5 million population. If all of those who are crossing the desert and register as Eritreans were truly Eritreans, then the country’s population would have diminished to a great extent by now.
This discrepancy reveals an interesting fact, which EU officials do not want to admit. It is not that EU officials are not aware of these facts, it is just that they do not want to reveal to their general public the havoc their foreign policy is creating by generously, even officiously in the Ethiopian case, supporting some dictators but exaggerating troubles created by others, all depending on geopolitical interests. We do not live in a world where geopolitical interest can be put aside, but we should not live in a world where every foreign policy should be governed by just geopolitical interests. If EU or USA chooses to employ security concerns to override all other values of humanity, then there will be no escape from engaging in a web of lies and deceptions even in explaining troubles arriving at their door, like the current refugee crisis, which is essentially a boomerang.
It is disappointing to witness the persistence of Western powers in refusing to admit policy mistakes even in the middle of such crisis. This could have given them the opportunity to openly declare their stance regarding the cruel dictatorial regime in Ethiopia, which wins “elections” with 100% and yet remain a persistent offender of human rights: impoverish, imprison, torture, and kill citizens at massive scale. Ethiopia is the only country on earth where double digit economic growth rate has been declared year after year for over a decade but famine and starvation at massive scale is still shamelessly being announced to continue begging for food aid. It is a disgrace to witness the so called international community look the other way.