All-Party Group AGM plans fresh initiatives at a time of rapid change in Horn of Africa
On 23 January the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Eritrea convened its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in parliament to elect its officers for the coming year. Outgoing Chair Patrick Grady MP led the meeting, which saw Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West, and David Drew, Labour MP for Stroud, take on the role of Co-Chairs.
Patrick Grady MP, who remains an officer of the group, said: “For the past two years the APPG on Eritrea has played an important role in informing parliamentarians and the wider public about the issues in what remains one of the most repressive countries in the world.
“I would like to welcome Thangam and David to the group and to thank each for taking on the role of Co-Chair. I am sure that under their stewardship the group will continue its vital work, particularly at a time of rapid regional developments in the Horn of Africa.”
The APPG’s newly elected officers are:
- Co-Chair: Thangam Debbonaire MP (Labour, Bristol West)
- Co-Chair: David Drew MP (Labour, Stroud)
- Vice-Chair: Patrick Grady MP (SNP, Glasgow North)
- Vice-Chair: Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
- Vice-Chair: Jeremy Lefroy MP (Conservative, Stafford)
- Vice-Chair: Ann Clwyd MP (Labour, Cynon Valley)
- Vice-Chair: Sir Henry Bellingham (Conservative, North West Norfolk)
The APPG on Eritrea was founded in 2016 to raise awareness of the gross human rights abuses in Eritrea, and to create a parliamentary forum for constructive debate around British foreign policy towards the country.
In 2018 the group held joint sessions on religious persecution in Eritrea, together with the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, and on the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative – known as the Khartoum Process – alongside the APPG on Refugees and the APPG for Sudan and South Sudan.
This year the APPG will raise key concerns about Eritrea and Eritrean refugees in Parliament, consult with the Government on UK policy towards Eritrea, and support the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.
Eritrea and its neighbour Ethiopia signed a peace deal in July 2018 that restored diplomatic and trade relations following two decades of conflict. While rapprochement efforts between regional partners are ongoing, Eritrea shows no signs of internal reform. It continues its practice of indefinite national conscription, and in September 2018 detained a former minister critical of the government. Following the opening of the border crossing points between the two countries last year, the UNHCR reported a “significant increase” in the number of refugees arriving in Ethiopia from Eritrea.