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European Commission: We will fight forced labour in Eritrea by financing projects that use it
23.3.20
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"...The EU-funded project only finances the procurement and supply of material and equipment — the EU does not pay for labour...

The EU has consistently deeply regretted the practice of the indefinite National Service (NS). The Government of Eritrea stated the necessity to reform the NS towards a modern civil service. The best way to increase chances of reforming it — and therefore addressing root causes of forced migration — is to engage with the Government on human rights issues. The past isolation policy did not work as neither political dialogue nor EU development cooperation moved forward. The EU continues to push the Eritrean authorities to reform the NS in line with the International Labour Organisation Convention C29 and C105."

See: Answer given by Ms Urpilainen on behalf of the European Commission (European Parliament, link)

The answer comes in response to questions on: The link between forced labour in Eritrea and EU-funded projects (EP, link)

See: European aid is financing Eritrean slave labour (Eritrea Hub, link):

"The EU has committed Euros 20 million to the project. A further Euro 60 million has been promised for the second phase of project. The aid is part of broader EU plans to halt the flow of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa. There are 26 such projects from Senegal in the west to Somalia on the east.

But in Eritrea the EU project is at the centre of a controversy that refuses to go away. This is because Eritrea uses conscripts trapped in the country’s notorious National Service as labour. The conscripts are meant to serve for just 18 months, but are held indefinitely. Some have been held in National Service for 20 years or more.

The programme, initiated in 1995, involves all Eritreans on entering their twelfth grade at school, to complete their education with military service. Reports for the UN Human Rights Council provided evidence of the brutal treatment of these young people, with physical abuse frequently meted out to men and sexual abuse for women."

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