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Ship tragedy result of Eritrea's abuses

Human rights abuses in Eritrea must receive greater attention after the boat tragedy off Italy that claimed the lives of over 300 people fleeing the Horn of Africa, an exiled campaigner said Wednesday. "The abuse in Eritrea is high level. You can see how many refugees per day are fleeing the country. What happened in Italy, in Lampedusa, it's a result of the human rights abuses," human rights campaigner Tsedal Yohannes said from Geneva.

Eritrean cyclists pedal country onto world stage

When Eritrean cyclist Natnael Berhane crossed the finish line of the Tour of Turkey in May, he made history not only for his country but for his continent. Natnael, 22, who is expected to take first place after the winner was disqualified for doping, was the first person from sub-Saharan Africa to win a race of that class. But he is only one of several Eritreans in this cycling-mad Horn of Africa state making his mark on the sport, showing another side of a nation that makes headlines more for brutal repression than world-class athletes.

Eritrea's unique architecture under threat

Eritrea's capital Asmara boasts buildings unlike anywhere else in Africa, a legacy of its Italian colonial past, when architects were given free rein for structures judged too avant-garde back home. Modernist architectural wonders in this highland city include a futurist petrol station mimicking a soaring aircraft and a funky art-deco bowling alley with checkered, coloured glass windows. "The city is a living museum of architecture," said Medhanie Teklemariam, an urban planner in Asmara's city administration.

Swedes convicted of blackmailing exiled Eritrean

Two Swedes who sought to profit from the kidnapping of an Eritrean man in Egypt, whom they believed to be related to an exiled Eritrean woman in Sweden, were on Friday convicted of blackmail. Rasmi Almasri, 21, and Hussin Mohamed, 18, had asked Meron Estefanos, a Swedish-Eritrean, to pay them $33,000 (25,500 euros) in January and February, or a man living in Egypt would be murdered.

Two Swedes charged with blackmailing Eritreans

Two Swedes who allegedly sought to profit from the kidnapping of Eritreans in Egypt faced charges Wednesday in a district court outside Stockholm of blackmailing exiled Eritreans in Sweden. According to the indictment, Rasmi Almasri, 21, and Hussin Mohamed, 18, demanded that a Swedish-Eritrean woman pay them $33,000 (25,500 euros) in January and February, or a relative of hers living in Egypt would be murdered. The Swedes relayed the demands of kidnappers in Egypt to the woman, whose relative was later killed, according to the TT news agency TT.

Ottawa expels Eritrean diplomat over continuing 'diaspora tax'

OTTAWA - The Canadian government is expelling the head of Eritrea's consulate in Toronto over the levying of a "diaspora tax" on Eritrean expatriates A release from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Semere Ghebremariam O. Micael has been declared persona non grata and must leave by next Wednesday. The release says Canada has repeatedly warned Eritrea to "respect international sanctions and Canadian law."

Eritrea demanding ransoms from expatriates in Canada

Eritrea's consul general in Toronto has been soliciting monies from expatriates living in Canada to support the country's military, despite Ottawa's warnings to stop, Canadian media said Wednesday. Public broadcaster CBC quoted an Eritrean, who asked not to be named, as saying: "You have to go to the consulate and they arrange how you have to pay the money. They want two per cent (of my income)." "My family (in Eritrea) would get in trouble if I don't pay," he added.

Eritrea: little to smile about, 20 years from freedom

Twenty years since Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia after one of Africa's longest wars, people are bowed down by a repressive government and increasingly frustrated at the lack of rights they fought for. Opposition parties are banned and anyone who challenges the president -- a former rebel commander who led the war against Ethiopia -- is jailed without trial, often in the harshest of conditions. "Things grow worse by the day," said one Eritrean who recently followed in the footsteps of tens of thousands of his compatriots and fled into neighbouring Sudan.

The telephone, the new weapon of Eritreans in exile

Galvanised by the Arab spring, Eritreans in exile in Europe are mobilising against the authoritarian regime of President Issaias Afeworki with a new tool -- the humble telephone. Every week, members of the diaspora make hundreds or even thousands of automated calls to their compatriots in the eastern African nation, chosing their numbers at random and playing them one-minute recorded messages to spread dissent.

Eighteen Eritreans granted asylum in Uganda -official

KAMPALA, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Eighteen Eritreans who disappeared from their hotel during a football tournament in the Ugandan capital Kampala in December have been granted asylum in the east African country, a Ugandan official said on Thursday. Mass defections by Eritrean sports men and women are becoming common as the country is one of the world's most reclusive states where dissent is dealt with harshly. "They are now recognised refugees," said Apollo David Kazungu, Uganda's refugee commissioner said of the 18 Eritreans.
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