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Thursday, August 31, 2006


MISNA: An 'unspecified number' of staff from the United Nations peace mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) were arrested in Asmara for attempting to smuggle people out of the country, as reported in a statement by the Information ministry on the government website. MISNA instead learned from sources of the UNMEE that for the moment only one was arrested, a staff member originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He was headed in a vehicle toward the border with Ethiopia, in direction of Adigrat, with onboard some Eritreans attempting to illegally flee the nation, when the police stopped and arrested all of them. The UN mission has so far been denied any access or contact with its staff member. �We are not sure if our colleague had decided to take the Eritreans over the border as a favour or on payment, or even if they had hidden in his vehicle�, stated to MISNA a UNMEE source, requesting anonymity. �Such action on the part of members of the UN peacekeeping mission in violation of their mandate constitutes a grave crime and, as such, the apprehended UNMEE members will face justice�, said the Eritrean statement. Eritrea had already protested over similar episodes in the past. Relations between the government and UN mission � that monitors a truce reached in 2000 after two years of war with Ethiopia � have been strained for months due to a flight ban imposed by Asmara. Tens of thousands of Eritreans flee with every means from the regime of President Isaias Afewerki, where the majority of men between the ages of 18 and 40 are recruited for permanent military service. Many flee across the Mediterranean toward Europe, or others to the Arabic peninsula.
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