The 13th YPFDJ European conference, Interview with the Eritrean-American analyst, Sophia Tesfamariam

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At the 13th #YPFDJ European conference, in the Netherlands, we were granted a interview with the Eritrean-American analyst, Sophia Tesfamariam. During the interview we asked Tesfamariam what she thought about the new human trafficking allegations that were being made against president Afwerki and the Eritrean government. In Prof. Mirjam van Reisen’s most recent publication: ‘Human trafficking and trauma in the digital era,’ she concludes that the Eritrean government is directly involved with the trafficking of Eritreans into Europe. Prof. van Reisen is a ‘fellow member’ of the African Studies Center at the University of Leiden and also worked on UN OHCHR reports concerning Eritrea from 2015 until 2016.

Prof. van Reisen claims that human trafficking is a lucrative business for the Eritrean government that has allowed for them too generate approximately €1 billion in revenue, since 2009. Tesfamariam finds Prof. van Reisen’s claims ludicrous because that would mean that the Eritrean government pays human traffickers for each Eritrean clandestine migrant traveling to Europe illegally. Prof. van Reisen believes that the Eritrean government generates these large sums of income by forcing Eritreans in the diaspora to pay a 2% tax and by placing human traffickers at different locations along the routes that clandestine migrants take from Eritrea to the Mediterranean. These human traffickers would then demand large sums of money from these migrants. But, Tesfamariam believes that its Prof. van Reisen who needs to be investigated for human trafficking and that she is the one helping migrants into Europe. “No one is involved in the trafficking of Eritrean youth, as well as, van Reisen and her group,” said Tesfamariam.

Prof. van Reisen and her team of researchers say that they have found evidence linking former Eritrean government officials, soldiers and criminals to human trafficking in Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and Libya. At the moment, they haven’t produced any evidence showing that president Afwerki is giving instruction for the trafficking of Eritrean citizens. A few weeks after publishing their findings fellow researchers Tanja Müller and Jan Abbink voiced criticism, stating that Prof. van Reisen’s work could not be seen as “scientific research” because it hadn’t been fact checked and was based on interviews with only Eritrean clandestine migrants. When asked for a response Prof. van Reisen stated that she had never stated that the publication was based on scientific research. She also accused one of the researchers of having “close ties with the Eritrean regime,” this is the same allegation that she made against our journalist Kevin P. Roberson after he asked her to provide evidence proving that the Dutch-Eritrean Meseret Bahlbi was a spy for the Eritrean government. She has yet to provide this evidence. #Eritrea