Devastating Photographs Reveal Terrible Human Cost of Europe’s Continuing Imperialism   By David Sim /

Migrants seeking a better life in Europe have died by the thousands in the Mediterranean Sea in recent years while fleeing poverty and bloodshed in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The precise number of deaths is unknown. Authorities count only those bodies found in the sea, on shore, or aboard boats. Survivors often tell of fellow passengers who lost their lives at sea, but the bodies are never found.

As many as 1,500 migrants are believed to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year. Many were children.

The death toll in 2015 is on course to far exceed the 3,200 people who died making the journey in 2014 – according to the International Organisation for Migration – given that the summer peak has not yet begun. Fewer than 100 of the deaths in 2014 took place before May.

Mediterranean migrants
April 20, 2015: Migrants are rescued by members of the Greek Coast guard and locals after a wooden sailboat carrying dozens of immigrants ran aground off the coast of the island of Rhodes(Argiris Mantikos/Eurokinissi/Reuters)
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April 19, 2015: A child is carried off a boat by a rescue worker at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo. Some 98 migrants were rescued from rickety craft bobbing in the Mediterranean(Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)
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November 5, 2014: Two people rest at Maspalomas beach on Gran Canaria after travelling from Africa in a fishing boat(Borja Suarez/Reuters)
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October 4, 2014: A rubber dinghy with 104 people on board waiting to be rescued is seen some 25 miles off the Libyan coast(Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)
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August 23, 2014: Members of Libya’s coast guard recover the body of a migrant off the coast of Tripoli. A wooden boat carrying up to 200 migrants sank just one kilometre off the Libyan coast, with most passengers feared drowned(Reuters)

Migrants pay thousands of dollars to human traffickers in Libya and other refugee transit hot spots for the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean.

Libya’s plunge into chaos has created an ideal environment for smugglers, who pack people fleeing war and poverty in the Arab world and sub-Saharan African onto rickety boats that set sail for Europe — mainly aiming for Italy or Malta.

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August 12, 2014: A rescued woman and her baby disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel in Tarifa(Marcos Moreno/AFP)
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June 1, 2014: Hundreds of migrants are seen aboard an Italian Navy vessel before disembarking in the Sicilian port of Augusta(Antonio Parinello/Reuters)
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May 14, 2014: Around 250 migrants are hoisted onto a landing craft of an Italian Navy ship after being rescued in the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya(Giorgio Perottino/Reuters)
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October 4, 2013: A boat is seen under water after it sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. The Italian coast guard rescued 155 people, but it is thought more than 360 drowned(Vigili del Fuoco/Reuters)
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October 5, 2013: Coffins are laid out in a hangar at Lampedusa airport after a boat packed with migrants sank, killing more than 360 people(Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

European officials are struggling to come up with a policy to respond more humanely to an exodus of migrants travelling by sea from Africa and Asia to Europe, without worsening the crisis by encouraging more to leave.

An Italian naval operation in the southern Mediterranean, known as “Mare Nostrum“, was cancelled in 2014, partly because of its cost, but also due to  domestic opposition to sea rescues that could encourage more migration.

It was replaced in November 2014 by a far smaller EU mission with a third of the budget, a decision that seems to have made the journey much deadlier for migrants packed into rickety vessels by traffickers who promise a better life in Europe.

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March 29, 2009: A boat overflowing with people rescued from three boats that sank in a violent storm off the coast of Libya arrive in the port of Tripoli. More than 200 were missing presumed dead(AFP)
Mediterranean migrants
March 29, 2009: A man rests after arriving with other 63 sub-Saharan immigrants at La Tejita beach on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife(Desiree Martin/AFP)
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February 5, 2009: Some 115 would-be immigrants await rescue on their boat after it ran into difficulties, 48 nautical miles off Malta(Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing/Reuters)
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July 30, 2008: A group of 53 would-be immigrants in a half-submerged dinghy await rescue by the Armed Forces of Malta while sheltering against the hull of a cargo ship(Rohan Dalli /Maritime Squadron AFM/Reuters)
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July 1, 2008: A man offer prayers of thanks after arriving at a beach on Spain’s Canary island of Gran Canaria(Borja Suarez/Reuters)
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June 16, 2008: A boat used by would-be immigrants floats upside-down after capsizing, 75 miles south-west of Malta June 16, 2008. Twenty-seven people were rescued by the Italian trawler Altomare when their boat capsized(Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)
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May 21, 2007 :A small boat packed with 53 people drifts off Malta after its engine failed(AFP)
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August 3, 2006: First aid workers and tourists on a beach on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife help African migrants suffering from the effects of their perilous voyage(Desiree Martin/AFP)
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May 5, 2006: A would-be immigrant crawls onto the beach after washing up in a makeshift boat on the Gran Tarajal beach on Spain’s Canary Island of Fuerteventura(Juan Medina/Reuters)
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September 25, 2005: Members of the Maltese armed forces toss bottles of water to a group of around 180 illegal immigrants after their vessel ran into engine trouble, off the coast of Malta(Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)
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November 12, 2004: Migrants grab onto life preservers after their makeshift boat overturned during a rescue operation by Spanish authorities off the coast of Fuerteventura(Juan Medina/Reuters)
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November 12, 2004: Migrants try to climb aboard a Spanish civil guard vessel after their makeshift boat capsized during a rescue operation at sea off the coast of Fuerteventura. Of the 36 in the boat, 29 were rescued(Juan Medina/Reuters)
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August 21, 2004: Beachgoers carrying a body walk past more bodies of would-be immigrants on the Fuerteventura coast(Juan Medina/Reuters)
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January 1, 2003: The body of a migrant who drowned after his makeshift boat capsized lies covered on El Matorral beach in Fuerteventura, Spain, as holidaymakers walk along the shore(Juan Medina/Reuters)

The following is a script from “Death in the Mediterranean” which aired on April 26, 2015. Clarissa Ward is the correspondent. Randall Joyce, producer.

Nepal is digging out tonight from a powerful earthquake centered just outside the city of Kathmandu, a natural disaster that killed more than 2,000 people. A tragedy with a similar dimension of human loss is taking place in the Mediterranean Sea.

Last weekend, an estimated 800 migrants trying to reach Europe, drowned when their boat capsized off the Libyan coast. Thousands of people had already died trying to make that same dangerous journey. They’re part of the largest mass migration since the Second World War, fueled by the chaos and violence that have consumed the Middle East and North Africa.

Every day desperate migrants are packed into rubber rafts and overloaded fishing boats in Libya and sent toward the Italian coast. They spend hours or days hoping to be rescued before they sink. It is a dangerous gamble and the odds are getting worse.

We wanted to see what it’s like to travel through those treacherous waters. Over a period of months we followed the people on both sides of this life and death struggle.

binoculars.jpgThe Italian coast guard allowed us to join its search and rescue mission. With summer approaching and the weather improving, this is shaping up to be an unprecedented season of death in the Mediterranean.

At first, it was just a tiny smudge on the horizon, dwarfed by a merchant ship nearby, but as we moved closer, we were able to make out human forms, around 50 people we thought at first, packed into a rickety wooden fishing boat, no more than 40 feet long, bobbing in the open sea.

[Coast guard: OK, understood, 20 minutes we arrive in the area.]

“It’s not easy to see every day for months only people in the deep sea….obliged to make this travel because they are escaping from wars, from bombs, from dying and it’s a human experience that is very hard to accept.”

On the bridge of the Italian coast guard ship Fiorillo, the captain had received word that someone from the boat had used a satellite phone to call for help. The migrants were just 40 miles from the Libyan coast, well outside of Italian waters, but the law of the sea dictates that anyone who can help, must.

He sent two small launches to make the first approach. The crews threw bags stuffed with life jackets to the migrants. It’s one of the most dangerous moments in any rescue as desperate passengers surge towards their rescuers, boats like this often capsize. Eyewitnesses say that’s exactly what happened in last weekend’s disaster.

Women and children are always the first to be taken off and we were shocked by just how many there were. The coast guard ferried the migrants back to the ship before returning to collect more and more, an operation that lasted into the night. On this rescue the final count, an incredible 301 migrants in a 40-foot fishing boat.

It’s a process that is being repeated day after day across this strip of the Mediterranean by Italian coast guard crews, led by officers like Arturo Incerti. Last year, more than 170,000 people made the crossing.

Arturo Incerti: It’s not easy to see every day for months only people in the deep sea like, obliged to make this travel because they are escaping from wars, from bombs, from dying and it’s, it’s a human experience that is very hard to accept.

Clarissa Ward: They’re so desperate these people–

Arturo Incerti: They have nothing to lose. That is terrible to understand.

massimononboard.jpgMany were in a state of shock, wrapped in emergency blankets. They were given a basic medical checkup and some food.

From the moment they set foot on this deck, these migrants have reached safety. But they’ve also, in a sense, crossed a border, because being rescued by the Italian coast guard means that they will reach Italy. And that is something they were willing to risk their lives for.

On the rescue we witnessed, some of the migrants were refugees from Syria’s brutal civil war but most were fleeing the harsh dictatorship in the African country of Eritrea.

They told us that conditions there were so brutal and opportunities so few that they were willing to travel more than 1,500 miles just to take a chance on a small boat.

Mulu Amale: It is very dangerous but to live in Eritrea is more dangerous from this.

We talked to Mulu Amale and his friends who said they spent weeks living on bread and water under the control of armed, Libyan smugglers.

“It is very dangerous but to live in Eritrea is more dangerous from this.”

Mulu Amale: All the Libyan they have guns…It is very cruel people.

Clarissa Ward: Cruel people- why? How were they cruel? What did they do?

Mulu Amale: If you speak with your brother, they take –

Clarissa Ward: They smack, they beat you?

Mulu Amale: Yes.

By the time they saw how small the boat was, they were too scared of the smugglers to back out.

The coast guard has now started to dread good weather. A flat blue sea can spell disaster, triggering a flood of refugees to attempt the crossing at once…


Captain Leopoldo Manna and Clarissa Ward
CBS News

Captain Leopoldo Manna: We have never seen something like this.

Captain Leopoldo Manna is the man who receives those desperate satellite phone calls from migrants abandoned by smugglers at sea. His coast guard command center in Rome works around the clock, knowing that if their boats don’t take action, the migrants will likely die.

Captain Leopoldo Manna: It’s difficult to explain that sometime we have 25 boats asking for rescue. We don’t exactly (know) where they are. And they all ask to be rescued. It’s an–

Clarissa Ward: And you can’t rescue–

Captain Manna: –incredible–

Clarissa Ward: –all of them.

Captain Manna: It’s not possible to rescue 25 all together and you don’t know where they are.

Clarissa Ward: Do you believe they understand the risks?

Captain Manna: I believe that they understand the risk.

Clarissa Ward: But it doesn’t stop–

Captain Manna: The problem–

Clarissa Ward: –them.

Captain Manna: They– I believe that they are so desperate that nothing will stop them.

Clarissa Ward: So it’s like these smugglers are putting a gun to your head.

Captain Manna: I confirm. I confirm. Something like that. As they put a gun in front of us to save these people. Almost something like that.

Most of the ships leave from Libya where a complete breakdown of law and order gives smugglers free reign. Italian territory is more than 150 miles away but the boats only need to reach international waters before sending an SOS.

Captain Manna: They call from these places, sometimes closer to Libya. They say, “Save me.” I say, “OK.” I call Libya. Nobody answer from t–

Clarissa Ward: –nobody answered–

Captain Manna: –from Libya. Simply no–

Clarissa Ward: –they don’t even answer the phone?

Captain Manna: No. They even don’t answer to the phone.

The coast guard is proud of the work it is doing, but its resources are overstretched.

Captain Manna: Sometimes I feel alone. This is the truth.

Clarissa Ward: Alone in what sense?

Captain Manna: Alone. Alone because I have my guys, my ladies, men, but I don’t have other help. And I need to be helped.

Clarissa Ward: You need support.

Captain Manna: I need support. Right.

After days at sea the migrants are sent to places like this. We visited Sicily’s Mineo camp which is home to thousands who have been pulled out of the Mediterranean.

For many, Italy is a gateway to countries further north that are already struggling with immigration issues.The cost of feeding and housing so many new migrants in the midst of a financial crisis has presented Europe with a real challenge and no easy solution.

Federico Soda: Every time a boat goes down, and a few hundred people die, we’re shocked. We see it in the headlines. And then we go back pretty much to business as usual.

Federico Soda is the International Organization for Migration’s regional director for the Mediterranean. He welcomed this week’s announcement that Europe would increase funding for its sea patrols but says that more action must be taken.

Clarissa Ward: Where do you think the reluctance comes from?

Federico Soda: I think that it’s a combination of immigration being not only a tricky issue but in some countries almost a toxic issue. And also the fact that, basically, it’s very easy to make the case that, “If we rescue people at sea, that encourages more of them to leave from North Africa and come to Europe.”

Clarissa Ward: Does that not strike you as incredibly cynical?

Federico Soda: It’s– it is. It’s incredibly cynical. That’s exactly what it is.

Clarissa Ward: So do you see this as a moral obligation?

Federico Soda: Yeah. It’s a moral obligation, all right.

Recent events have disproven the idea that deaths at sea act as a deterrent. There is a growing number of desperate people willing to do anything to get to Europe and smugglers finding new ways to ship them there.

The case of the so-called ghost ships is a perfect example. At the beginning of the year traffickers in Turkey started taking large, old merchant ships that were ready to be scrapped and filling them with hundreds of Syrians fleeing a bloodbath at home. The smugglers then pointed the ships toward Italy and abandoned them.

The journey lasted five long days. In one case, passengers were crammed into a boat designed to carry cattle, but the relative safety of those big ships was a huge draw.

The Turkish seaport of Mersin began to fill up with thousands of Syrians ready to make deals with the smugglers.

We brought a hidden camera into the café where many of those first contacts are made. This table is where the smugglers are sitting together talking business.

One of them had taken over this hotel to house all the Syrians who had already paid him to get on a ghost ship.

Out in the courtyard a middleman explained how everything works to a member of our team who was posing as a refugee.

[Man with moustache: With me, it costs 5,500.]

Roughly $ 6,000 per person…children under 8 travel for free he said.

[Man with moustache: It’s not dangerous. These are all large ships. You call the coast guard to say “we are sinking, we are sinking” so they come to take you.]

Upstairs in one of the hotel rooms we found Ahmad Zaid al-Abdu and his pregnant wife, Fatima, waiting with their four young children. Look at what they packed for the journey to Italy.

Translation: Only these three bags. We had two big bags but they said we are not allowed and that the bags will be thrown in the sea.

We brought the family to a safehouse to hear their story. Ahmad told us the bombardment in their hometown of Aleppo was so relentless that they stopped sending their children to school so they sold their house to raise the $ 12,000 for the smuggler’s fee.

Fatima: I am afraid. I am afraid for my children, for my husband but also for myself. That we will drown.

Clarissa Ward: Do you know how to swim?

Fatima: No.

Clarissa Ward: How do you feel as a father to have to make this choice?

Ahmed: I made this decision because it’s better than staying in my own country. There may be a chance of dying on the way, but in Syria death is guaranteed. People became like monsters. No one loves anyone, any more. People don’t love each other at all. A brother doesn’t even love his brother. That’s why I made this decision. And God willing it will be all right.

Clarissa Ward: Would you have taken the risk if you had to go on one of the small boats? Or are you only doing this because it is a big boat.

Ahmed: No, I wouldn’t have traveled because the small boats mean death.

But in the days after that interview the Turkish government cracked down on the ghost ships and the Syrian refugees began flooding in another direction, this time to Greece. Ahmed and his family had to take a gamble on a small boat after all. It was a rubber raft like this one, captured for us on a cellphone by another Syrian refugee who made the same dangerous journey to a Greek island.

The safety measures are rudimentary. While some have life jackets, others wear inner tubes, one man holds a child’s pool float. When they finally reach the shore, you can see their relief.

Not everyone is so lucky. Just days ago, this boat packed with Syrian migrants broke up after hitting rocks off the coast of the Greek island of Rhodes. At least three were killed, one of them a small child.

Ahmed and his family made the journey to Greece at night. He captured the moments just after they were rescued.

They had reached Europe but they too had paid a terrible price. Fatima had a miscarriage.

Yet another casualty that will never be recorded. Most of those who die at sea sink without a trace. Many of the bodies that are recovered are never identified. They are buried in small plots in anonymous graves.

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UK rule change dilemma for Eritreans By Jim Reed and Adam EleyBBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 24 April 2015 From the sectionUK


Mohammed was one of more than 3,000 Eritreans to apply for asylum in the UK last year

The number of Eritrean refugees arriving in the UK doubled last year to become the highest total from any single country. But could new Home Office guidance mean many others are refused asylum?

“There’s no freedom of speech [in Eritrea]. You’re not allowed to ask anything or move freely, you need to show ID to move cities,” says Mohammed. He left his home country in east Africa because he said he felt more like an “animal” than a human being.

He was one of 3,239 Eritrean migrants who made the perilous journey to the UK in 2014 to apply for asylum, according to figures seen by the Victoria Derbyshire programme. In 2013, there were 1,377.

The 28-year-old left without telling his young children where he was going, in order to protect them. “If anyone knew I was planning to escape then there will be trouble for me and my family,” he explains.

In its latest report, US-based charity Human Rights Watch says: “Torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression… remain routine in Eritrea.”

‘Improve my education’

Mohammed’s journey began in the country’s capital, Asmara. He crossed the border to Sudan before a long, overland trip through Israel and Turkey to Greece, guided by people smugglers.

This eastern route is now more popular with smugglers after a lull in the last two years. The number arriving in Greece rose sharply in 2014 and is likely to rise again this summer.

When Mohammed left Eritrea, he says his ambition was simply to flee to safety. He only decided the UK would become his end destination on seeing the struggles faced by refugees in Italy and France as he continued across mainland Europe.

He also believed his desire “to improve my language and my life in terms of education” would be easier to fulfil in the UK.

The final leg of his journey was made via the French port of Calais, where thousands of migrants stay in makeshift camps in the hope of making it across the border.

Migrants in Calais
Calais is home to thousands of migrants hoping to make it to the UK

It took 30 attempts before Mohammed successfully smuggled himself into the UK, stowed away on board a truck.

“I was very happy at that moment. I was always trying lorries and most of them were [stopped] by the police. But this time, I don’t know how it works, but I got through.”

On arrival, he was initially held in detention, before being granted a five-year visa.

He now lives in Bristol, where he says he has been accepted by locals. But new rules mean others making the same journey could be forced to return home.

Last year, 87% of Eritreans who applied for asylum in the UK were given the right to stay.

But new Home Office guidance released in March suggests only those who have been politically active in their opposition to the Eritrean government are likely to be at risk of harm for leaving Eritrea illegally if they go back to the country.

It says many other migrants will be able to return without facing retribution, “if they sign an “apology” letter [to the Eritrean government] and start to retroactively pay the 2% income tax levied on all Eritrean citizens living abroad”.

Elsa Chyrum, director of the UK-based organisation Human Rights Concern Eritrea, says she has heard from “dozens” of Eritrean refugees who have already had their requests for asylum turned down following the rule changes.

Eritrean conscripts
Men and unmarried women are conscripted for national service for indefinite periods, often into their 40s

The BBC has seen one rejection letter from March 2015 which says the applicant – who was concerned by the possibility of government retribution for having deserted on national service – had “not established a well-founded fear of persecution”.

‘Fear of prison’

For one migrant currently awaiting his immigration review – who cannot be named – it could mean he has to return home. He arrived in the UK in January having crossed the Mediterranean Sea aboard a migrant boat, before travelling through Calais.

“This was something that we were not expecting from the UK government. We left [Eritrea] to save our lives.

“If we go back, you will [spend] the rest of your life in prison… or they will kill you,” he says.

Eritrean migrants arrive in the port of Italy's southern island of Lampedusa
Many Eritrean migrants travel by boat to Italy on their journey to the UK

In a BBC interview earlier this year, Yemane Ghebreab, a political adviser to the Eritrean President, said that “all countries in the world” have human rights issues, but Eritrea has a “fairly good record”.

The migrant says paying the 2% income tax would effectively amount to supporting the Eritrean government, something to which he is vehemently opposed.

“No-one wants to support the Eritrean government. We want to bring the president to justice. We need new leaders, new government.

“If you go back to our country it’s nothing, nothing.”

ዓሻ ሰብይቲ’ሲ ወዲ ሓሙታ ጓና ይመስላ፣  Posted: 11:55 am, April 25, 2015 by ENSF-HIDRI

እዚ ጉፍሮ ርኢቶ’ዚ መግለጺ ሓዘን እተሰነየ ኮይኑ፡ ፍጻሜታት ሽፋቱን ተፈጥሮ ማእከላይ ባሕርን ተደማሚሮም ንዘህለቑዎ ወገና፡

ስርዓት ኤርትራ ድማ ኣብ ጓይላን ዳንኬራን ብምቕንዩን ዘብርህ ስእላዊ መብርሂ ዘለዎ ርኢቶ’ዩ።………ዓሻ-ሰበይቲ-ወዲ-ሓሙታ-ጓና-ይመስላ

ኣብ ማእከላይ ባሕሪ ካብ ዝጠሓሉ ኣማኢት ስደተኛታት እቶም ኣስታት 350 ኤርትራውያን ምዃኖም ተገሊጹ  Posted: 11:13 am, April 22, 2015 by Harnet

እቲ ኣህጉራዊ ትካል ነዚ ሓበሬታ ዝህብ ዘሎ፣ ነቶም ካብቲ ሓደጋ ዝደሓኑ ብምውካስ’ዩ።

ኣብ ካልእ ወገን፣ ካብ ሊብያ ናብ ኢጣልያ ኣሽሓት ስደተኛታት ከሰጋግሩ ጸኒሖም ዝተባህሉ ዜጋታት ኤርትራን ኢትዮጵያን ዝርከብዎም 24 ደላሎን ኣሰጋገርቲ ደቂሰብን ኣብ ኢጣልያ ኣብ ትሕቲ ቀይዲ ኣትዮም።

ክልተ ካብቶም ኣብ ትሕቲ ቀይዲ ኣትዮም ዘለዉ ጥርጡራት በታ ኣብዚ ሳልስቲ’ዚ ኣስታት 700 ስደተኛታት ሒዛ ዝጠሓለት ጃልባ ተሓተቲ ምዃኖም’ውን ጸብጻባት ካብ ኢጣልያ የመልክቱ።


ኣብ ማእከላይ ባሕሪ ዘጋጥሞ ዘሎ ሞት ካብ ናይ ዝሓለፈ ዓመት ብ30 ዕጽፊ ዛይዱ ኣብ ዘለዉ እዋን፣ ሃገራት ኤውሮጳ ብዛዕባ’ቲ ጉዳይ ብጽዑቕ ይዝትያ ኣለዋ።


ሓይልታት ጸጥተአን’ውን ንደላሎን ዘይሕጋውያን ኣኣሰጋገርቲ ደቂ ሰብን ብዕቱብ ኣብ ምህዳን ተዋፊሮም ይርከቡ።

እዚ ከምዚ’ሉ እንከሎ፣ ዜጋታት ኤርትራን ኢትዮጵያን ዝርከብዎም ኣስታት ሓደ ሽሕ ስደተኛታት ካብ ገማግም ባሕሪ ሊብያ ንምብጋስ ተዳልዮም ከምዘለዉ ይግለጽ ኣሎ።

Mediterranean migrant crisis: why is no one talking about Eritrea?by ELL April 25, 2015 10:41 am

Migrants being rescued by the Italian navy.

In the world’s most censored country, citizens face a stark choice – live in misery or risk death by leaving. But it has no western allies so the situation goes unreported


Horror has been expressed at the latest catastrophe in the Mediterranean. Little has been said, however, about Eritrea. Yet 22% of all people entering Italy by boat in 2014 were from Eritrea, according to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. After Syrians, they are the second most common nationality to undertake these journeys. Many who died this week were from the former Italian colony.

So why is it so rarely discussed? The answer is essentially the problem. Eritrea is without western allies and far away. It is also in the grip of a highly repressive regime. This week, it was named the most censored country in the world by the Committee to Protect Journalists, beating North Korea, which is in second place. Reporters without Borders has called it the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.

Nobody talks about Eritrea because nobody (ie westerners) goes there. In 2009, I travelled there undercover with cameraman Scott Corben. We remain the only independent journalists to have visited in more than 10 years. There we witnessed a system that was exerting total control over its citizens. It was difficult to engage anybody in conversation. Everyone believed they were under surveillance, creating a state of constant anxiety. Communications were tightly controlled. Just three roads were in use and extensive documentation was required to travel. There were constant military checks. It is one of the most expensive countries in the world to buy petrol. Even maps are largely prohibited. At the time, Eritreans had to seek permission from a committee to obtain a mobile phone.

The country feels like it’s at war and that’s the justification for what goes on there

Dissent is forbidden. It is thought there are more than 800 prisons dispersed across the country. Some take the form of shipping containers in the desert. Torture is widespread.

The media is an arm of the government. All critical journalists have been imprisoned or killed. The news we saw entailed segments praising Eritrea and denouncing its enemies. There were long broadcasts of soldiers moving in formation to local pop music.

Despite government declarations to the contrary, there was obvious poverty, and food shortages. One interviewee was sharing a toilet with 20 families and living on just under a dollar a day.

Most people I met were highly educated but had no prospects after university. Instead, there is conscription for adult men and unmarried women until the age of 50. Bullying and sexual abuse are common within the army.

The country feels like it’s at war and that’s the justification for what goes on there. After decades of conflict Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Its leader, Isaias Afewerki, has consolidated his power by insisting another war is imminent. As a government supporter told me, unaware he was being recorded, sacrifices have to be made when “your existence is under threat”.

He also claimed that nobody would come to Eritrea’s aid if Ethiopia attacked it again. On this, regime critics agree. Ethiopia is a key western ally in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea has compounded matters by forming alliances with al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Eritreans are thus faced with a terrible choice. They must either live in misery or risk death by leaving. I met a number of people who were preparing to go. Despite a shoot-to-kill policy on the border, thousands still leave each month.

Their journey is incredibly dangerous. Kidnappings are increasingly common en route to Israel. Or there’s the Mediterranean option. For the survivors there is huge anxiety about those left behind. Relatives of escapees are sometimes arrested. The government also has spies within the ex-pat community.

For us of course it was different. We too were followed and extracting our film footage was frightening, but at least we could leave.

The Eritrean response to our films was immense. Though the links kept disappearing, they had hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

There were also a large number of death threats directed at me. Complaints were sent to al-Jazeera English. Yet there was little reaction from western audiences.

All kinds of solutions to the Mediterranean crisis are now being considered, including better regulation for asylum seekers. Many agree that the causes of migration must also be examined. I think wanting to know about what is happening in Eritrea is an important first step.


Saudi Arabia Gives Israel 16bn Dollars! Published on Saturday, 18 April 2015 18:40 | Written by Robert Parry



Did Money Seal Israeli-Saudi Alliance?

Special Report: The odd-couple relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel may have been sealed with more than a mutual desire to kiss-off Iran. According to an intelligence source, there was a dowry involved, too, with the Saudis reportedly giving Israel some $16 billion, writes Robert Parry.

For more than half a century, Saudi Arabia has tried to use its vast oil wealth to build a lobby in the United States that could rival the imposing Israel Lobby. At top dollar, the Saudis hired law firms and PR specialists – and exploited personal connections to powerful families like the Bushes – but the Saudis never could build the kind of grassroots political organization that has given Israel and its American backers such extraordinary clout.

Indeed, Americans who did take Saudi money – including academic institutions and non-governmental organizations – were often pilloried as tools of the Arabs, with the Israel Lobby and its propagandists raising the political cost of accepting Saudi largesse so high that many people and institutions shied away.

But Saudi Arabia may have found another way to buy influence inside the United States – by giving money to Israel and currying favor with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the past several years, as both Saudi Arabia and Israel have identified Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” as their principal enemies, this once-unthinkable alliance has become possible – and the Saudis, as they are wont to do, may have thrown lots of money into the deal.

According to a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts, the Saudis have given Israel at least $16 billion over the past 2 ½ years, funneling the money through a third-country Arab state and into an Israeli “development” account in Europe to help finance infrastructure inside Israel. The source first called the account “a Netanyahu slush fund,” but later refined that characterization, saying the money was used for public projects such as building settlements in the West Bank.

In other words, according to this information, the Saudis concluded that if you can’t beat the Israel Lobby, try buying it. And, if that is the case, the Saudis have found their behind-the-scenes collaboration with Israel extremely valuable. Netanyahu has played a key role in lining up the U.S. Congress to fight an international agreement to resolve a long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

Urged on by Netanyahu, the Republican majority and many Democrats have committed themselves to destroying the framework agreement hammered out on April 2 by Iran and six world powers, including the United States. The deal would impose strict inspections and other limits to guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.

By crashing the deal, Israel and Saudi Arabia would open the door to more punitive sanctions on Iran and possibly clear the way for Israeli airstrikes, with Saudi Arabia granting over-flight permission to Israeli warplanes. The Saudi-Israeli tandem also might hope to pull in the U.S. military to inflict even more devastation on Iranian targets.

Neither the Israeli nor Saudi governments responded to requests for comment on Saudi payments into an Israeli account.

Congressional Acclaim

The reported Saudi-to-Israel money transfers put Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to a cheering joint session of the U.S. Congress in a different light, too. The Prime Minister’s bitter denunciations of Iran before hundreds of transfixed American lawmakers could be viewed as him demonstrating his value to the Saudi royals who could never dream of getting that kind of reaction themselves.

Indeed, as Congress now moves to sabotage the Iranian nuclear agreement, the Saudis could be finding that whatever money they invested in Israel is money well spent. The Saudis seem especially alarmed that the nuclear agreement would prompt the world community to lift sanctions on Iran, thus allowing its economy – and its influence – to grow.

To prevent that, the Saudis desperately want to draw the United States in on the Sunni side of the historic Sunni-Shiite conflict, with Netanyahu serving as a crucial middleman by defying President Barack Obama on the Iran deal and bringing the full force of the Israel Lobby to bear on Congress and on the opinion circles of Official Washington.

If Netanyahu and the Saudis succeed in collapsing the Iran nuclear framework agreement, they will have made great strides toward enlisting the United States as the primary military force on the Sunni side of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, a dispute that dates back to the succession struggle after Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632.

This ancient feud has become a Saudi obsession over the past several decades, at least since Iran’s Shiite revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979 and brought to power the Islamic government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Upset with the ouster of a fellow monarch, the Shah, and fearing the spread of Khomeini’s ascetic form of Shiite Islamic governance, the Saudi royals summoned Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a fellow Sunni, to Riyadh on Aug. 5, 1980, to encourage him to invade Iran.

According to top secret “Talking Points” that Secretary of State Alexander Haig prepared for a briefing of President Ronald Reagan after Haig’s April 1981 trip to the Middle East, Haig wrote that Saudi Prince Fahd said he told the Iraqis that an invasion of Iran would have U.S. support.

“It was … interesting to confirm that President [Jimmy] Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd,” Haig wrote, in the document that I discovered in U.S. congressional files in 1994. Though Carter has denied encouraging the Iraqi invasion, which came as Iran was holding 52 U.S. diplomats hostage, Haig’s “Talking Points” suggest that the Saudis at least led Hussein to believe that the war had U.S. blessings.

Haig also noted that even after the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic state under Khomeini, Israel sought to maintain its clandestine relations with Iran by serving as an arms supplier. Haig reported that “Both [Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel.”

Those Israeli weapons sales continued through the eight bloody years of the Iran-Iraq War with some estimates of the value reaching into the scores of billions of dollar. The Israelis even helped bring the Reagan administration into the deals in the mid-1980s with the so-called Iran-Contra arms shipments that involved secret off-the-books bank accounts in Europe and led to the worst scandal of Reagan’s presidency.

Rise of the Neocons

In the 1990s – with the Iran-Iraq war over and Iran’s treasury depleted – Israeli attitudes cooled toward its erstwhile trading partner. Meanwhile, American neocons – juiced by the demonstration of U.S. military supremacy against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union leaving the U.S. as “the sole superpower” – began advising Netanyahu on employing “regime change” to alter the Mideast dynamic.

During Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign, prominent neocons including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith outlined the plan in a policy paper entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The document argued that “Israel can shape its strategic environment … by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [See’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

The overriding point of this neocon strategy was that by imposing “regime change” in Muslim nations that were deemed hostile to Israel, new friendly governments could be put in place, thus leaving Israel’s close-in enemies – Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon – without outside sponsors. Starved of money, these troublesome enemies would be forced to accept Israel’s terms. “The Realm” would be secured.

The neocons first target was Sunni-ruled Iraq, as their Project for the New American Century made clear in 1998, but Syria and Iran were next on the hit list. Syria is governed by the Assads who are Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and Iran is governed by Shiites. The neocon plan was to use U.S. military force or other means of subversion to take out all three regimes.

However, when the neocons got their chance to invade Iraq in 2003, they inadvertently tipped the Mideast balance in favor of the Shiites, since Iraq’s Shiite majority gained control under the U.S. military occupation. Plus, the disastrous U.S. war precluded the neocons from completing their agenda of enforced “regime change” in Syria and Iran.

With the new Iraqi government suddenly friendly with Iran’s Shiite leaders, Saudi Arabia became increasingly alarmed. Israel was also coming to view the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut as a strategic threat.

Saudi Arabia, working with Turkey, took aim at the center of that crescent in 2011 by supporting a Sunni-led opposition to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a set of protests that quickly spiraled into bloody terrorist attacks and harsh military repression.

By 2013, it was clear that the principal fighters against Assad’s government were not the fictional “moderates” touted by the U.S. mainstream media but Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and a hyper-brutal Al-Qaeda spinoff that arose in resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and evolved into the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or simply the “Islamic State.”

Israeli Preference

To the surprise of some observers, Israel began voicing a preference for Al-Qaeda’s militants over the relatively secular Assad government, which was viewed as the protectors of Alawites, Shiites, Christians and other Syrian minorities terrified of the Saudi-backed Sunni extremists.

In September 2013, in one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Oren expanded on his position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Then, speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.

“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

On Oct. 1, 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted at the new Israeli-Saudi relationship in his United Nations General Assembly speech, which was largely devoted to excoriating Iran over its nuclear program and threatening a unilateral Israeli military strike.

Amid the bellicosity, Netanyahu dropped in a largely missed clue about the evolving power relationships in the Middle East, saying: “The dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy. And this affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes.”

The next day, Israel’s Channel 2 TV news reported that senior Israeli security officials had met with a high-level Gulf state counterpart in Jerusalem, believed to be Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States who was then head of Saudi intelligence.

The reality of this unlikely alliance has even reached the mainstream U.S. media. For instance, Time magazine correspondent Joe Klein described the new coziness in an article in the Jan. 19, 2015 issue: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

While the Saudis may still pay lip service to the plight of the Palestinians, that issue is no longer much of a priority. Indeed, the Saudi royals may view the Palestinians, many of whom are secular having seen first-hand the evils of Islamic extremism, as something of a regional threat to the Saudi monarchical governance which is based on an ultra-fundamentalist form of Islam known as Wahhabism. That some of the reported $16 billion Saudi payment to Israel was going to finance Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank would further reflect this Saudi indifference.

In 2013, again collaborating with Israel, Saudi Arabia helped deal a devastating blow to the 1.8 million Palestinians locked in the Gaza Strip. They had received some relief when Egypt elected the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi, who relaxed the embargo on passage between Egyptian territory and Gaza.

But the Saudis saw the populist Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to monarchical rule and Israel was angry over Morsi’s apparent sympathy for Hamas, the party ruling Gaza. So, Saudi Arabia and Israel supported a military coup which removed Morsi from power. The two countries then showed off their complementary powers: the Saudis helped the government of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi with money and oil, while Israel had its lobby work the corridors of power in Washington to prevent retaliation for the ouster of an elected government.

Back to Syria

Israel’s growing collaboration with Saudi Arabia and the two governments’ mutual hatred of the “Shiite crescent” have extended into a tacit alliance with Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria, with which the Israelis have what amounts to a non-aggression pact, even caring for Nusra fighters in Israeli hospitals and mounting lethal air attacks against Lebanese and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

Israel’s preference for the Saudi-backed jihadists over Iranian allies in Syria was a little-noticed subtext of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress on March 3, urging the U.S. government to shift its focus from fighting Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to fighting Iran. He trivialized the danger from the Islamic State with its “butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube” compared to Iran, which he accused of “gobbling up the nations” of the Middle East.

To the applause of Congress, he claimed “Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.” His choice of capitals was peculiar, however, because Iran took none of those capitals by force and, indeed, was simply supporting the embattled government of Syria and was allied with Shiite elements of the government of Lebanon.

As for Iraq, Iran’s allies were installed not by Iran but by President George W. Bush via the U.S. invasion. And, in Yemen, a long-festering sectarian conflict has led to the capture of Sanaa by Houthi rebels who are Zaydi Shiites, an offshoot of Shia Islam that is actually closer to some Sunni sects.

The Houthis deny that they are agents of Iran, and Western intelligence services believe that Iranian support has consisted mostly of some funding. Former CIA official Graham E. Fuller has called the notion “that the Houthis represent the cutting edge of Iranian imperialism in Arabia – as trumpeted by the Saudis” a “myth.” He added:

“The Zaydi Shia, including the Houthis, over history have never had a lot to do with Iran. But as internal struggles within Yemen have gone on, some of the Houthis have more recently been happy to take Iranian coin and perhaps some weapons — just as so many others, both Sunni and Shia, are on the Saudi payroll. The Houthis furthermore hate al-Qaeda and hate the Islamic State.”

Indeed, the Saudi airstrikes, which have reportedly killed hundreds of Yemeni civilians, have aided the Yemen-based “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” by limiting Houthi attacks on the terrorists and enabling AQAP to overrun a prison and free scores of its militants.

But President Obama, recognizing the joint power of the Saudis and Israelis to destroy the Iran nuclear deal, authorized support for the Saudi airstrikes from U.S. intelligence while rushing military resupplies to the Saudis. In effect, Obama is trading U.S. support for Saudi aggression in a neighboring country for what he hopes might be some political space for the Iran-nuclear agreement.

New Terrorist Gains

Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies, along with Turkey, are also ramping up support in Syria for Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State. Flush with jihadist reinforcements, the two terrorist organizations have seized new territory in recent weeks, including the Islamic State creating a humanitarian crisis by attacking a Palestinian refugee camp south of Damascus.

All of these Saudi actions have drawn minimal criticism from mainstream U.S. media and political circles, in part, because the Saudis now have the protection of the Israel Lobby, which has kept American attention on the supposed threat from Iran, including allegedly controversial statements from Iranian leaders about their insistence that economic sanctions be lifted once the nuclear agreement is signed and/or implemented.

Neocon warmongers have even been granted space in major U.S. newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, to openly advocate for the bombing of Iran despite the risk that destroying Iran’s nuclear reactors could inflict both human and environmental devastation. That might serve the Saudi-Israeli interests by forcing Iran to focus exclusively on a domestic crisis but it would amount to a major war crime. [See’s “NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran.”]

The strategic benefit for Israel and Saudi Arabia would be that with Iran unable to assist the Iraqis and the Syrians in their desperate struggles against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the Sunni jihadists might well be hoisting the black flag of their dystopian philosophy over Damascus, if not Baghdad. [See’s “The Secret Saudi Ties to Terrorism.”]

Beyond the slaughter of innocents that would follow – and the likelihood of new terrorist attacks on the West – such a victory would almost surely force whoever is the U.S. president to recommit hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to remove Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State from power. It would be a war of vast expense in money and blood with little prospect of American success.

If Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars helped secure Israel’s assistance in creating such a potential hell on earth, the Saudi royals might consider it the best money they ever spent – and the resulting orgy of military spending by the U.S. government might benefit some well-connected neocons, too – but the many victims of this madness would certainly feel otherwise as might the vast majority of the American people.




EXCLUSIVE: ‘I’m lucky I made it’: Eritrean woman in iconic picture of dramatic migrant sh ipwreck tells of her terrifying ordeal  By NAZIA PARVEEN FOR THE DAILY MAIL

  • Wegasi Nebiat, 24, almost drowned when migrant ship sank off Rhodes
  • Her family paid smugglers $10,000 to take her from Eritrea to Sweden
  • Shipwreck claimed the lives of three people trying to reach Europe
  • Wegasi now on her way to Athens and says she’s thankful to be alive 

Wegasi Nebiat was saved after the wooden boat carrying her crashed off the popular Greek island of Rhodes.

The 24-year-old Eritrean is now on her way to Athens after being miraculously saved from a sinking ship by Greek islanders.

Wegasi Nebiat was rescued from a shipwreck when the smuggler boat she was travelling in crashed in rocks off the Greek islands of Rhodes. Three people, including a six year old boy, died in the tragedy on Monday

Wegasi Nebiat was rescued from a shipwreck when the smuggler boat she was travelling in crashed in rocks off the Greek islands of Rhodes. Three people, including a six year old boy, died in the tragedy on Monday

After a stay in hospital, where doctors treated her for suspected pneumonia, 24-year-old Wegasi was placed on a ferry to Athens. She is now hopeful she will secure entry into either the UK, Sweden or Germany

After a stay in hospital, where doctors treated her for suspected pneumonia, 24-year-old Wegasi was placed on a ferry to Athens. She is now hopeful she will secure entry into either the UK, Sweden or Germany

After being rescued on Monday Wegasi collapsed with exhaustion and suspected Pneumonia and remained in hospital for three days.

But on Thursday night she was reunited with her friends and fellow Eritrean refugees as she became officially free and boarded a boat bound for Athens at 5pm.

As she saw her fellow countrymen she broke down in tears of joy and struggled to grasp the ordeal that she had to endure in the hope of securing a better life for herself.

She said: ‘I am so happy. We are not sure what we will do but we hope to travel across Europe.’

She told of how she began her perilous journey to Europe from her African homeland over a month ago.

Wegasi Nebiat reunited with friends after her miraculous rescue

Wegasi is reunited with her friends on the ferry from Rhodes. 

Wegasi is reunited with her friends on the ferry from Rhodes. The Eritrean was one of 100 passengers who clung to debris and almost drowned when a smuggler boat they were on founded off the Greek island

Her family paid more than 10,000 dollars to give her the chance of starting a new life in Europe hoping that she would eventually reach Sweden.

Wegasi started her journey in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea, where she lives with her father Johannes and her mother Genet and a younger brother.

She caught a bus to the west of the country to the small city of Teseney. From here the journey would become ‘painful’ as she walked 70km to Kessalla, a tiny city on the border of Sudan.


ሃብቶም ቲዕቲዕ ( ኣብ ስቓዩ ዘይውዳእ ህዝቢ ዘሎ ሓቂ)

 ኣብ ስቓዩ ዘይውዳእ ህዝቢ ዘሎ ሓቂ

ተወሊደ ዝዓበኹላ ከተማ መንደፈራ ኣብዚ ሰሙንዚ ኣይግድን ። ቲ’ዝነበራ መልኣኻ ሃዲሙ፡መልኣከሞታ ዓትዒቱ ብምሓዝ ደም የንብዓ፡ ከቢድ ደበና ሓዘን ድማ ኣንጸላሊዋ ይርከብ ።ኣብ ውሽጣ ዝርከብ ህዝቢ’ውን ወሪድዎ ዘሎ ምዓት ካብ ምሒር ምስድማም ኣውያቱን ጸሎቱን የስምዕ። ኣውያትን ጸሎትን ነቶም ኣብ ምድሪ ሊብያ ብክርስትያናዊ እምነቶም ጥራሕ ክሳዶምን ሂወቶምን በጃ ዝኾኑ ደቁን ኣሕዋቱን። ነዚ ሓዘን ፡ ነዚ ክትቕበሎ ዘሸግር ህሞት ብኣረሜናውያን እስላማይ ጥሩፋት ( ንሓቀኛ እምነት ምስልምና ዘይውክል) ዝተፈጸመ ኣነዋሪ ተግባር ሓዘኑ ንምግላጽ’ውን ህዝቢ መንደፈራ ብውልቅን ብእኩቡን ናብታ ግዳይ ዝኾነት ኣብ ደቡባዊ ምብራቕ ከተማ መንደፈራ እትርከብ ስፍራ፡ “ጽንዓት ይሃብኩም” ክብሉ ይውሕዙ – ናብ ዓዲ ባሪ ። ንልብን ኣ…

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