Impressions of Swiss Politicians Visiting Eritrea


Four politicians from Switzerland are making a controversial trip to Eritrea. These politicians who are currently touring different parts of Eritrea wanted to see it by themselves what they have been hearing about the country from the media. These are : Thomas Aeschi (SVP / ZG), Yvonne Feri (SP / AG), Claude Béglé (CVP / VD) and the Green Aargauer Councillor Susanne Hochuli.

Others who were ready to travel but later renounced their participation and start criticizing the journey includes SP Councillor Pascale Bruderer and the National Christian Wasserfallen (FDP / BE). The big question remains: Can they really made it to the country at all and give an accurate picture if the country is really a totalitarian dictatorship?

The following is an impression of Thomas Aeschi, (37) from Zuger SVP-National, of his trip, exclusively for Blick.

“Eritrea is not Hell!”

swiss politicians visiting eritrea
Swiss politicians on Eritrea tour: Susanne Hochuli, Yvonne Feri, Thomas Aeschi, and Claude Béglé.

By Thomas Aeschi (SVP / ZG),

For years, asylum seekers from Eritrea occupy the top spot in the Swiss asylum statistics. Nevertheless, no one seems to be interested in Eritrea at large: Neither federal councilors, parliamentary delegations, and even high-ranking officials who visited Eritrea in recent years.

Since it was announced that Swiss politician traveling these days for meetings with Eritrean government officials, foreign ambassadors, the ICRC and locals inside Eritrea, the excitement is great. As one of the travelers, what can I [understand] after a week with of many discussions with different interlocutors?

Surprisingly, there is a large consensus among the interlocutors to rule that the vast majority of Eritrean arrivals in Europe can be described as “economic migrants”.

Even randomly addressed Eritreans on the streets of the capital Asmara know exactly which story they would use to be granted asylum in Europe, and even the different asylum practices of the various countries are known to them. And already they are looking forward to the summer season where thousands of Eritreans would return to the country for a few weeks with their families, including asylum seekers from Switzerland.

According to the causes of this exodus asked (the government puts it a thousand emigrants a month), various reasons are: The deep wages of only 100 to 200 francs per month combined with high rent and living costs, the lack of education or the lack of prospects on an attractive job. And so you save together a few thousand francs and send it to a family member to finance the journey through Sudan and Libya to Europe, in the hope that this will soon be transferred monthly hundreds of dollars to home.

Before we left, we often heard the complaint that Eritrea was the “North Korea of ​​Africa”. This assessment is clearly refuted since it lacks any basis. At any time of the day we were able to move freely, take pictures and talk with Eritreans on political and other issues.

To gain an impression of the country, we drove south to the border with Ethiopia, a country that fought for decades against independence of Eritrea and again broke out another enduring conflict in 1998. We visited Massawa, the Ottoman-influenced city on the Red Sea. And in the north, we drove up to Keren and Hagaz where in the 1980s was raging war of independence.

Of the military checkpoints that allow the government to monitor the movements of its citizens, was hard to see anything. Only once were checked throughout the week.

Even in the streets of Asmara nothing to see of a surveillance state. In the daytime market reigns busy trading agricultural products and cheap imports, and there after dark brisk business in the restaurants and bars of the city.

We moved at any time and quickly came with Eritreans and Eritreans from this week. Eritrean-born German who travels to the wedding of his brother with an Eritrean girl in Asmara. The hotel employees in their early twenties that her National Service provides this function for 70 francs per month. Or the Eritrean-Americans, who sold his company in the U.S. to build a new life in his native Eritrea.

Eritrea is not paradise on earth – it is poor and provides young people who know the Western standard of living from television to the Internet, few prospects. But it’s also not hell, as it is sometimes described.

Comparing the country with other African countries that have a failed Arab Spring behind or with plenty propaganda maintained a sham democracy (such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda), so it is unclear why measuring Eritrea with different scale.

Our interlocutor attest the government implement a strong change in the last two years. Wages have risen, it invest more in education, the high house rents they are trying to counteract. Gradually open the country more to the outside and take in the dialogue with other countries and organizations.

This is why I advocate that Switzerland should deepen its relation with Eritrea in order to find a lasting solution to the Eritrean migration to Switzerland.

* Software translation from German to English (edited by TesfaNews)

“A field that can be irrigated in the dry season, thanks to a water project. There are generally grown many vegetables as we know, zucchini, onions (see picture), as well as pumpkins and potatoes. ” zvg