Eritrea: How EU could be financing projects built by forced labour; includes EU's comments

Author: Matina Stevis-Gridneff, New York Times, Published on: 20 January 2020

"How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is Linked to E.U.-Funded Projects"

The European Union spent 20 million euros last year in Eritrea, hoping to help stem an exodus from the repressive African country, which is consistently one of its biggest sources of asylum seekers. The money, about $22 million, bought equipment and materials to build a road, a seemingly uncontroversial task. The catch? Many workers on the construction site are forced conscripts, and the European Union has no real means of monitoring the project. The decision caused outrage in human-rights circles. But that did not stop the bloc in December from deciding to give Eritrea tens of millions more, funding a system of forced conscription that the United Nations has described as “tantamount to enslavement.”...

Human-rights groups and the United Nations say that conscript work in Eritrea, which keeps the country running, amounts to forced labor The United States has long suspended aid and development funding to the country. The European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, said that it had “been informed” by the government that conscripts would be used for its road project. The details of how this project is set up show that it has been carefully designed to ensure that the European Union is not seen to be directly paying for conscripts to work on the construction site. “The E.U. does not pay for labor under this project,” the European Commission said in written replies to questions from The New York Times. “The project only covers the procurement of material and equipment to support the rehabilitation of roads.”


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