Asmara (Agenzia Fides) – The Europea Union has a duty to control the use of funds assigned to Eritrea, because the money given by the EU may fund forced labour. This observation comes from the Eritrean Foundation for Human Rights (FHRE) and the Habeshia Agency who say that to build roads from Eritrean ports of Massaua and Assab to the border with Ethiopia, there is a danger that minors may be involved in 'so called' never ending unpaid 'national service', in situations of semi slavery.
Official national service in Eritrea, ( military and civil combined should last for 18 months but, following the Ethiopia-Eritrea war which ended in the year 2000 the period has been extended to "open ended". Abuse of young men in the army has been denounced by Opposition leaders in exile and human rights groups regarding the authorities of Asmara. A UN report issued in 2016 said young men are often employed in "forced labour . RHRE director , Mulueberhan Temelso, describes Eritrea a "an open air prison where men serving the nation experience the harshest of treatment".
There is a danger that EU money given to improve roads (20 million euro) as part of efforts to "reduce illegal migration", involves using these young men. The EU says it is aware that young men of military service age will work on the roads but they will be paid and recently the tariffs have increased. Eritrean sources report that since 2016 these "military” are said to receive 120 dollars a month. But part of this sum is detracted for expenses and they are left with only 17 dollars a month.
"Anything that promotes peace is welcome", Fides was told by Abba Mussie Zerai, a priest of the Asmara Eparchy and representing Habeshia Agency , "but it is difficult to imagine real peace in Eritrea, without the vital components of freedom and respect for human rights, without, that is, a vast operation of truth and justice regarding events in the last 20 years".
The EU according to the priest must keep check on the projects it funds. (EC) (Agenzia Fides 10/4/2019)