Martin Plaut

The government is accused of failing to act on reports of Eritrean oppression in Norway. - Now they have to act...large sums of money are sent from Norway to the Eritrean regime.

Source: BA

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap) answered questions about the riots in Bergen. Photo: RUNE JOHANSEN

 03/09/23 18:45

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The government is accused of sitting on knowledge of Eritrean oppression in Norway. - Now they have to act, the union demands.

On Saturday, the conflict between two Eritrean groups took over the city's streets. Eritreans from several Norwegian cities flocked to Bergen to demonstrate against what they believe was a pro-regime event.

Violent and bloody riots broke out. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre saw the violent scenes on Dagsrevyen. On his visit to Bergen on Sunday, he called what happened completely unacceptable.

- I think everyone who saw it thinks the same thing: We can't have it like that. We must have disagreements and differences of opinion, and that there are disagreements between people who have come to Norway, that is completely internal. But violence in Norwegian streets means that people throw stones and make it unsafe, we can't have that, says Støre to BA.

Many young protesters were gathered in Kong Oscars gate. Photo: Rune Johansen

Transnational oppression

Eritrea's regime is accused of extensive human rights violations. At the same time, Støre's government is criticized for not having taken the problem seriously enough.

The criticism comes from the general manager of the Eritrea Committee, Finn Våge.

Finn Våge, general manager of the Eritrea committee. Photo: Private

The organisation, which works for Eritrean refugees, accuses the government of sitting on knowledge of oppression in Norway without doing anything.

- This has been known to the government for several years, and it was known to the Solberg government before them. They have the knowledge, but do not act, says Våge, who emphasizes that he distances himself from the use of violence by the demonstrators.

- I strongly distance myself from that course of action, and we have asked them not to resort to violence. But we also have to look at the reasons behind it, he says.

Criticism from former ministers

To BT comes the parliamentary representative for Venstre, Ola Elvestuen, with similar criticism. He has long been involved in the situation of Eritreans in Norway.

- Eritreans who are critical of the regime are banned from cultural events such as in Bergen on Saturday. These are events that are controlled by the supporters of the Afewerki regime, one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, says Elvestuen.

The police were heavily equipped. Photo: RUNE JOHANSEN

Been sitting on reports

Våge refers to two reports that document pressure and control from foreign regimes against people who have fled to Norway.

report made for the Ministry of Education was presented in 2020 , describes the repression as opposition Eritreans - the so-called diaspora- are exposed to in Norway.

In 2023, a report on the same topic was produced on behalf of the Ministry of Employment and Inclusion.

- In other words, several ministers and both current and former governments have knowledge of what is happening, but choose not to act, says Våge.

Required for tax

Central to the repression is what is known as the two percent tax, which must be paid if the Eritreans want passports, diplomas or birth certificates issued by the country they come from, among other things.

In reality, therefore, large sums of money are sent from Norway to the Eritrean regime.

- Eritreans risk their lives on the run and come to Norway unscathed. But here they experience meeting the dictator's long arm, claims Våge, who believes the government must take its own reports seriously:

- Støre must come up with an action plan with measures to put an end to this oppression. The reports show that this is something they have known about for a long time, but failed to do anything about, he says.

Prime Minister Støre: - Managers must take responsibility

Jonas Gahr Støre responds by placing responsibility on leaders for the various Eritrean groups.

- Now it is important that those who are leaders in the Eritrean environment take responsibility for this situation, says the Prime Minister to BA.

He believes this applies regardless of which side of the conflict they are on.

- Eritrea is an authoritarian country and system of government. That there are such contradictions between groups is something we have seen from several countries as well. When they come to Norway, they must settle into our legal society, where discussions and disagreements belong and Norwegian law applies.

- The Eritrea Committee believes you must come up with an action plan to stop the repression. What do you say about that?

- I think we should listen to it, but here they must also take responsibility themselves. We are concerned that it should be safe in Norway, and do not accept that other states interfere in how things are experienced in Norway, Støre replies.