, ASMARA, Eritrea, May 25 – Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has claimed the exodus of youth to Europe is a deliberate policy fomented by foreign powers to weaken the country, in a speech released Wednesday.
The hardline regime is accused of jailing thousands of political prisoners while refugees from the repressive Red Sea state have in recent years made up one of the largest contingents of people risking the dangerous journey to seek a new life in Europe.
- "The greatest historical threat to Eritrea's arch-enemies being the Eritrean people, 'human trafficking' was employed to disperse and weaken Eritrea's human capital," said Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki .
- He also blamed Eritrea's woes on deliberate policies to undermine its economy, and said the past quarter century had been "sadly a narrative of incisive hostility against the sovereignty and independence".
But the 70-year-old ex-rebel Marxist leader, in a speech given Tuesday to mark 25 years of independence, said the 5,000 Eritreans who the United Nations estimates risk their lives to flee the country every month were leaving because they were encouraged to do so.
“The greatest historical threat to Eritrea’s arch-enemies being the Eritrean people, ‘human trafficking’ was employed to disperse and weaken Eritrea’s human capital,” Isaias said, in a speech released by the Ministry of Information.
“This policy was given paramount priority under the rubric of ‘granting asylum status’ to Eritreans. The campaign was formalised with the official blessing of the US president.”
He also blamed the woes of the isolated Horn of Africa nation on deliberate policies to undermine its economy, and said the past quarter century had been “sadly a narrative of incisive hostility against the sovereignty and independence” of Eritrea.
“Economic sabotage is further resorted to on a constant basis, with the aim of creating poverty and starvation to instigate crisis in the country,” Isaias said, criticising nations who block Asmara’s demands that its expatriates pay a two-percent income tax via its embassies.
With a gross national income of $430, Eritrea is one of the world’s poorest nations, according to the World Bank.
Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1991 after a three-decade independence war, which saw Eritrean rebels battling far better-equipped Ethiopian troops which were backed first by Washington and then by the Soviet Union.
Victory in May 1991 was followed by a referendum two years later