Eritrea: Human rights activists allege EU-financed road project uses forced labour; EU denies allegation

Author: BBC, Published on: 2 April 2019

"EU denies claim of funding Eritrea 'forced labour' project", 2 April 2019.

Eritrean human rights activists have accused the EU of funding a scheme in Eritrea that uses "forced labour". The EU is backing a road-building project as part of its programme to stem migration from Africa into Europe...National service recruits will be used and the Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans (FHRE) says conscripts are "trapped for an indefinite period"...Officially, Eritrea requires people to undertake 18 months of national service, but this period was extended indefinitely in the wake of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war that ended in 2000. A 2016 UN human rights investigation said conscripts were used as "forced labour"...

In its explanation of the project, the EU acknowledges that people on national service will be used but it says they will be paid and the pay rates have recently been increased..."The EU does not support indefinite national service in Eritrea. Human rights are at the core of all our policies and it is misleading to suggest we are supporting forced labour," an EU spokesman said in an emailed statement to the BBC. Sources in Eritrea have told the BBC that since 2016 soldiers have nominally received $120 a month, but after deductions, including paying for rations, they personally get paid just $17 a month and their family gets $40...

FHRE has sent a letter to the EU warning that it will take the organisation to court for violating its own Charter of Fundamental Rights if it does not withdraw from the road-building project...

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