The Eritrean government is organising a conference in the Netherlands which should be seen as a clear signal to dissidents that the regime is in charge, broadcaster NOS said on Tuesday.
The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the only political party permitted in Eritrea, is organising its annual youth European conference in the Netherlands this weekend.
Some 650 supporters of the dictatorship will attend the meeting and there are indications that the right-hand man of president Isaias Afewerki will also be there, NOS said.
Many Eritrean refugees in the Netherlands regard the conference as an act of provocation, Tilburg University professor Mirjam van Reisen told NOS. ‘Over the past few years, the PFDJ has lost several law suits against critics of the regime,’ she said. ‘The government wants to show the Eritrean community that it still rules in the Netherlands.’
Eritrea has been condemned by the UN for crimes against humanity and the UN estimates hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled the country in recent years.
Recent Tilburg University research shows a large percentage of the 20,000 or so Eritrean nationals who live in the Netherlands feel under pressure or intimidated by the regime, which has been in power since 1993.
A spy network operates in the Netherlands and there are concerns that the conference will be used to identify more spies. ‘The youth wing of the PFGJ has a lot of influence in the Netherlands,’ 25-year-old refugee Fikadu Hagos told NOS. ‘They are everywhere.’
According to radio programme OneWorld, several Dutch government ministries are concerned about the meeting, which will take place this weekend. The location has not yet been made public.