Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Eritrean refugees held hostage in Sinai

Delivered in Plenary - 16th December 2010

Mr President

The ECR Group condemns the appalling treatment being suffered by these innocent and mainly Eritrean victims of what amounts to a modern-day form of slavery inflicted by people traffickers. We welcome, too, the efforts made by the Egyptian Government to investigate the allegations and secure the refugees’ release, but we should also be focusing on why these unfortunate individuals flee in the first place.

The answer is because the regime of Eritrean President Afewerki is one of the most repressive on the planet. Anyone with a chance of fleeing his dictatorship does so, and some are able to build a better life for themselves elsewhere. Those unable to leave Eritrea are either subject to open-ended conscription in the army, or have to scratch out a living on the fringes of an economy bankrupted by years of futile war with neighbouring Ethiopia, widespread corruption and mismanagement of the economy. Eritrea has never held a national election.

Recent disclosures from the WikiLeaks website show that US diplomats described Afewerki as a cruel and defiant leader. I have no compunction about saying so publicly. We should do all we can to unseat this appalling African tyrant, we should end all EU aid to his regime and we should suspend the Cotonou Agreement privileges that his country enjoys.