Minutes of Group Meeting August 8th 2016
Attending: Paddy, Alex, Patricia, Grainne, Carolyn, Heiko, Phyllis, Paul, Liz, Beatrice, Claudia, Leo, Stephen, Fionnuala, Siri, Lindsay
Welcome & speakers introduction: Carolyn welcomed everyone & introduced the two guest speakers, Alex & Patricia. Alex is country co-ordinator for Eritrea & Patricia is country co-ordinator for Ethiopia.
Guest speaker on Ethiopia: Patricia advised on the history of Ethiopia & the current political situation & human rights violations in Ethiopia.
In 2005 after contested elections there was a crackdown on opposition to the government. Student protests were met with very brutal police action. Anti –terrorism laws introduced have caused many human rights abuses. There is a very sophisticated surveillance system within the country. In 2010 the government “won” 99% of the seats & in 2015 they “won “ 100%. There is no independent media. There have been mass arrests. There are thought to be 10 000s in prison including Amnesty IAR Eskinder Nega, a journalist serving 22 years for trumped up terrorism charges.
Ethiopia is the biggest recipient of British aid as it is doing well in some development areas such as education. The British government is not adequately addressing human rights violations & will not publicly criticise the situation. Britain has donated over £1 billion in the last 3 years & in doing so has helped the continuity of this oppressive government.
Guest speaker on Eritrea: Alex advised on the Eritrean struggle for independence from Ethiopia. The war with Ethiopia claimed approx. 100 000 lives. It is the world’s largest producer of refugees for a country that is not at war. There are approx. 400 000 Eritrean refugees from a population of 5m. Religious persecution is a major problem as only 4 religions are permitted. The biggest issue causing Eritreans to leave their country is the indefinite conscription. The conscripts are very poorly paid & have no freedom to choose what job they do & where they are sent.
Amnesty have 2 IARs from Eritrea. Dawit Isaak, a writer disappeared since 2001 & Aster Fassehatsion, a former politician also disappeared since 2001.
July minutes: Carolyn asked if any feedback on July minutes. No issues raised.
Belfast Pride. Several members of the group participated in the parade & advised how well attended, positive & vibrant Pride was.
Ruth Davidson AI Lecture: Members from the group attended & advised it was a very good talk & very well attended , approx. 330 people, including local politicians, & AIUK Director Kate Allen. There was a lot of press coverage. The group thanked Fionnuala for her work on this.
Refugee Summit in London. Attended by Heiko & Paul who advised it was a very constructive & positive gathering. Lots of other NGOs attended & Heiko mentioned his hopes that the momentum will continue.
IAR update: Paul updated the group on Indonesian IAR Johan Teterissa. AI are hoping that he will be released from his sentence early. If not there is hope he may be relocated closer to his family. He is currently 1000 miles from them.
Group finances. Pearce had produced a report on the group’s finances, advising monies in & out & advising there is £3649.50 in the group’s account. The group thanked Pearse for his work on this.
Reality of life as a refugee talk St Mary’s College 1pm 12th August 2016
New Portadown group launch event on Friday 23rd September in Craigavon. Grainne to advise further.
Refugee events in York in November & London in October. Further details to follow.
Aster Fassehatsion card. The group signed cards & a group photo was taken for the campaign.
Chelsea Manning: A group photo was taken & a card signed. The card & photo will be sent to Chelsea.
Roma action: the group signed letters on forced evictions of Roma people in Italy.