I am alarmed that unsubstantiated reports originating with the Everyone Group in Rome have been irresponsibly published on the internet and dispersed elsewhere: (article can be found here)
These reports, which have not been checked or validated in any way whatsoever, erroneously claim that those Eritreans who perished on March 22nd in Libyan Seas may still be alive.
This story originated with an unnamed Eritrean in Libya who apparently phoned another anonymous Eritrean in Libya who, in turn, texted a mysterious Eritrean in the U.S.A. who then showed the text to an American who wishes that his name be withheld who, in turn, emailed the Everyone Group with a message written in Latin Tigrigna and incompletely translated into English.
This message claims that most of the Eritreans in the boat that disappeared on March 22nd were actually returned to Libya where they are being held prisoners. This message can only be confirmed by calling a Libyan phone number given by the informer, which doesn’t answer. In other words, there is no confirmation whatsoever that any of the message is true. There is no mention of which prison. Why was there only one phone call to one anonymous Eritrean?
Now would the Eritrean Everyone Group be so irresponsible as to publish an unchecked rumour which may well have been disseminated by the Eritrean government to play down this recent and all too typical tragedy as we approach the 20th anniversary celebrations?
How would the Everyone Group be so insensitive as to raise the hopes of people who have already held memorials for their dead and who are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy?
It is more likely than not that supporters of Isaias Afeweriki’s inhuman regime have taken it upon themselves to spread this misinformation.
Even if it turns out that there is any basis in the message, it is the responsibility of the Everyone Group, or any human rights group, to have checked the identity and exact location of the informer to establish the facts before publishing on such flimsy evidence.
Although it is my fervent hope that those Eritreans and Ethiopians did survive on that day, I cannot help but think that this is another cynical exercise perpetrated by a government which has surprised even itself by the amount of grief it produced by running a country in such a way that so many of its citizens perish in the seas trying to escape; this is, of course, not good propaganda as the time of the 20th year of independence anniversary approaches.
The best way to help the grieving relatives and friends of the dead, and to honour their sacrifice, is to conduct a thorough investigation into what actually happened on March 22nd.
Human Rights group should be calling for this to happen rather than adding to the misery of the mourners by prolonging their hope without any evidence.
15 May 2011