Pres. Boldrini receives Don Mussie Zerai
THE SCAM OF 100,000 FAKE ERITREAN REFUGEES WHO ARE ACTUALLY ETHIOPIANS
At the reception centers that I have shot in the last year at least one third of Eritreans are fake. Most of them are Ethiopians from Tigray, who speak the same language and have somatic features similar to ours ». To denounce the baffling cheat is an asylum seeker who comes from Asmara. The aspiring refugee continues: "In Africa, thanks to corruption, they steal and sell our identities because we have the right to international protection, but we are surprised that this is tolerated in Italy".
Eritreans awaiting political asylum in our country are now few, 2.651 and arrivals in decline (6,386 in 2017). But since 2013, when the boom began after the terrible shipwreck of
Lampedusa Tripoli (368 dead), 109,266 migrants who declared themselves to be Eritreans landed in Italy . To a large extent they continued to Switzerland, Germany or Northern European countries. Over a third would be actually Ethiopian nationality, or migrants for economic reasons who have no automatic right to political asylum.
Already two years ago the Austrian ambassador to Ethiopia, Andreas Melan, had denounced the catch by saying that "30-40 percent of Eritrean refugees in Europe are actually Ethiopians". A clarification: between Ethiopia and Eritrea does not run good blood, after the bloody war of 1998, which still has not drawn a definitive border. The strong man of Asmara, President Isaias Afewerki, is accused of authoritarianism and poor respect for human rights, even if lately the situation is improving. But the young continue to flee: not to undergo the heavy military service and for economic reasons, in search of Western Eldorado.
Today even the Eritrean ambassador in Rome, Pietros Fessahazion, reiterates: "40 percent of those who get asylum are actually Ethiopians".Panorama has investigated the story, bringing to light a mechanism based on identity theft from the UN refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan, on compliant cultural mediators that fly over the true nationality of the migrant and on characters, such as the Eritrean don Mussie Zerai, able to mobilize the rescue at sea to recover the boats off Libya.
The same Eritrean asylum seekers reveal details. The writer has met them and knows their identities, but in the article they are indicated with fancy names to prevent them from being retaliated. "In the Mai Ani refugee camp in Ethiopia they stole my identity," explains Fasil, who arrived in Italy in 2016 with a boat. "After years of waiting for the re-placement of the UN in the countries available, I discovered that another person had already left with my generality". The countries that welcome Eritreans through the UN are the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, France and more recently Italy. The young Eritrean, who is now 27 years old, tells of the embarrassment of the Western official of the Refugee Agency (UNHCR), who checked his name on the computer: "She was amazed. My data were correct, but the photo of the person already playing thanks to the UN was not mine. They had screwed me. "
According to the Eritreans, in Africa selling identities or documents, especially to the Ethiopians, is a consolidated business. The price of the whole operation in local currency varies from 50 thousand birr (1,840 euro) to 150 thousand birr (about 5500 euro). Only the Eritrea identity card is sold for $ 900. In the last four years, there were 12,916 asylum applications in Italy, but over 100 thousand migrants arrived by sea declared themselves to be Eritreans on landing. In July, the Asmara Information Minister, Yemane Gebre Meskel, told the BBC that "the number of Eritreans leaving the country is exaggerated. Between 40 and 60 percent are from Ethiopia or other countries in the Horn of Africa ".Yosef, the oldest of the asylum seekers met by Panorama, recounts how "the false Eritreans ask for details about my country or national anthem, to support the lie about nationality. It happened to me in Rome at the center of the red cross in Via Ramazzini, now dismantled, and at the Cara di Bari ».
Munir and Futsum, wary physicists, arrived in November, confirm: "In the reception center of the capital, where we live, a fake Eritrean asked us how many colors our flag has. He was an Ethiopian who had to interview for the asylum request. " Several cultural mediators and interpreters turn a blind eye or even encourage the "fraud" of Eritrean refugees. «For 15 years I have acted as an interpreter in the Commissions for the recognition of asylum» says an Italian-Eritrean. "So many Tigrins of Ethiopia got protection, saying they ran away from Asmara. I did not report anyone to the embassy, but they accused us of being spies of the Eritrean government: so they have assumed Ethiopian interpreters ".
Don Mussie Zerai, the "Moses of migrants" as he is acclaimed by a book, has for years been a point of reference, especially for the Eritreans who arrive on the boats. Since last August is investigated by the prosecutor of Trapani in the NGO survey for "aiding illegal immigration". Zerai is part of a network of Eritrean activists in Europe who dreams of regime change in Asmara. "Already in Eritrea I felt that Zerai could help us get to Italy", explains Panorama an asylum seeker, from 2016 to Rome. And another adds: "Before embarking in Libya there was talk of this priest who would send help." A source from the Coast Guard emphasizes that "Zerai's requests for intervention soon proved to be an anomaly repeated over time. The distress signals of the boats that left Libya almost always came to him. The well-founded suspicion is that it is part of a system, a well-tested network ".
The priest rejects the accusations, claiming that he has always "acted legally for humanitarian reasons". And not a few political coverage was guaranteed. Starting with President Laura Boldrini, who welcomed her to the Chamber. On 3 October, then, during the commemoration of the Lampedusa shipwreck in 2013, he held the celebration before the Senate president Piero Grasso (today also leader of Liberi and equals) and the Education Minister Valeria Fedeli.
Lucio Montanino, Pietro Gallo and Cristian Ricci, embarked on Save the children's Vos Hestia as security officers, have started the investigation on the NGOs of Trapani, also talking about the reports of an Eritrean priest."On October 10, 2016 a manager of Save the children showed the commander on the mobile phone the exact coordinates of a boat left from Libya, which was not there," says Montanino. In the acts of the prosecution a phone call between Gallo and Ricci explains the incident: "Then I told him (to the investigators, ed) this story of those Eritreans, who said that a priest had sent the message." And Gallo: «The message came from the Eritrean priest and we went there and we found the wooden boat (...) and we had the Eritrean mediator on board».
Zerai (proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize) admitted that he was alerting several NGOs, such as Doctors Without Borders, WatchThemed and Sea Watch. At Panorama Gallo he confirms: «The staff of Save the children said that the coordinates had come from an Eritrean priest in Switzerland». Yes, because Don Zerai had been transferred from Rome to Friborg, where he lives a strong Eritrean community. Gallo continues: "The impression was that the boat had been towed by the traffickers in the middle of the sea, who then sent the position to get help." Investigators of the survey of Trapani say that "after the holidays there will be news" on the ambiguous role of humanitarian ships. Also an Italian source in Tripoli, in the front line against the trafficking of men, confirms: "Even in Libya it is known that many Eritrean migrants headed to Italy are actually Ethiopians. They pretend to be Eritreans, knowing that it is easy to get political asylum. "
Let it be clear: only in Italy the Eritreans are considered potential refugees, much for the shady plots between Zerai / Vaticano / Sant'Egidio and Italian politics, given that in Eritrea there is no war, only an unelected government, just like in Italy .
The imitation of the false Eritrean refugees: identity stolen by the Ethiopians