Eritrea’s president criticized what he said were international campaigns to undermine the country’s economy, as the Horn of Africa nation marked 25 years since the end of the war that led to its independence.
President Isaias Afwerki described human-trafficking as a tool “employed to disperse and weaken Eritrea’s human capital” and said the flow of people was encouraged by a Western policy of granting them asylum status, according to the transcript of his speech published on the Information Ministry’s website. The United Nations has estimated that as many as 5,000 people flee the country every month, citing rights violations as the main cause.
“Economic sabotage is further resorted to on a constant basis with the aim of creating poverty and starvation to instigate crisis in the country,” Afwerki said, describing “various subterfuges” to “paralyze and destroy the mining industry and discourage foreign investment and development assistance.”
Eritrea is holding celebrations this week to commemorate a quarter-century since the conclusion of the three-decade conflict that won it independence from Ethiopia. Eritreans are the fourth-biggest group risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean, after Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, according to the UN. Eritrea describes those fleeing overseas as economic migrants, not refugees.