Eritrean rights group sues EU over forced labour links

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A group of Eritreans based in the Netherlands are suing the European Union over links between the bloc’s funding and forced labour programmes in Eritrea.

Human Rights for Eritreans accuses the EU of financing a project in Eritrea that uses forced labour to build key infrastructure, such as road networks. The Horn of Africa nations is known for its brutal programme of indefinite military conscription that locks people into forced labour for much of their lives.

Eritrean rights group sues EU

The lawsuit filed by Human Rights for Eritreans alleges that the European Union used deliberately opaque methods of delivering finance for the project in question – a major road construction that would link the Ethiopian-Eritrean border with the Eritrean port of Massawa.

The lawsuit also accuses the bloc of failing to oversee the use of its funds in a country famed for human rights violations.

The EU maintains that it was unaware of forced labour being used on the project but human rights groups have accused the bloc of deliberately obscuring the delivery of funds to make oversight difficult. The establishment of the fund was approved by European government during the height of the migrant crisis when the majority of African refugees were arriving from Eritrea.

Forced labour has been cited as the primary reason so many Eritreans flee their home country and the EU has previously defended its Eritrean funding by claiming that the supply of heavy equipment reduces the workload of forced conscripts.

The European Parliament will vote on Thursday on a motion to freeze the fund and similar spending in Eritrea, due to the European Commission’s lack of oversight on how money is being spent.

Featured image: Public domain

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.