“There is an obvious conflict between the President’s words and actions when it comes to human trafficking. To make progress on ending trafficking in this part of the world, the United States must begin dialogue with countries willing to strongly enforce anti-trafficking laws.”
In a speech at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, September 25, President Barack Obama discussed his nation’s commitment to ending human trafficking, both in the US and around the world.
As an example of this commitment, President Obama claimed that he “renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea”.
The president’s claim, however, that Eritrea is a country that encourages or supports human trafficking is undeniably false. Eritrea is not, nor has ever been, involved in human trafficking.
In fact, Eritrea has been a strong enforcer of its own laws preventing trafficking, by arresting smugglers conspiring to traffic Eritreans towards Sudan, Egypt, and Israel. These smugglers threaten migrants and their families with ransom under the threat of murdering their victims.
Whether he knew it or not, President Obama spoke to this tragedy, with this statement. When [a person] runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.
The image the President conjured up here describes perfectly the plight of many Eritreans who seek to traverse the deserts of Sudan and Egypt to pursue the “better life” that supposedly awaits them in Cairo, Israel, and in the West.
While the President is correct in calling for an end to human trafficking, his foreign policy in East Africa does just the opposite, promoting the evil practice. The Department of State, through their embassy in Asmara, *promotes a policy of encouraging youth to flee to Sudan, giving them expedited visas*. With smuggling routes being one of the only means of travel, the “false promises of a better life” promoted by the State Department force youth to use human traffickers, endangering their lives and their family’s welfare.
Additionally, the President clearly showed his disconnect with foreign policy in the region by saying he renewed sanctions because of Eritrea’s alleged role in trafficking. In the heavily criticized sanctions resolutions and accompanying UN report, the central reasoning was Eritrea’s so-called support for Al-Shabaab, an allegation that has been countered by
non-profits, the Eritrean diaspora community, and even Al-Shabaab itself. In fact, in May 2012, tens of thousands of Eritreans converged in Washington, DC to protest these unjust sanctions.
There is an obvious conflict between the President’s words and actions when it comes to human trafficking. Current US actions are furthering this human rights tragedy in Northeast Africa. To make progress on ending trafficking in this part of the world, the United States must begin dialogue with countries willing to strongly enforce anti-trafficking laws. Eritrea continues to be proactive in such enforcement, and would therefore be a solid partner if the US is ready to commit to action on human trafficking just as much as it commits in words. It is the responsibility of all countries with a stake in the region to end this evil practice. Eritrea is doing its part. We hope we can count on the United States to do the same.