Original source http://www.timbouquet.com/blog/2014/11/14/meron-estefanos
Meron Estefanos is a remarkable Eritrean radio journalist and activist who campaigns to save those fleeing from her home country. In Eritrea indefinite military conscription from 17 is compulsory and those who refuse are imprisoned. The twin currencies of one of the most repressive regimes in Africa are violence and corruption. It is no surprise that around 5,000 are escaping a month. Some head for Israel where many are captured en route by criminal gangs that roam Sinai kept in torture camps, raped and ransomed. Others suffer the same fate in Libya. These atrocities have been chronicled by Meron in a series of devastating reports, such as Human Trafficking in the Sinai: Refugees Between Life and Death (it’s on the web).
Those Eritreans and thousands of others from North Africa who make it to the Libyan coast seeking sanctuary in Europe risk drowning in the Mediterranean. According to the Migrants’ Files project―the most comprehensive database of deaths, compiled by an independent pan-European consortium of journalists―around 23,000 have died attempting to reach Europe since 2000, most of them drowning in unseaworthy boats.
It is not unusual for 200 people a day—most of them in distress—to call or text Meron who alerts the Italian Navy to rescue them. Now the Italian Navy is scaling back its rescue operation and the [cheaper and reduced] EU system which replaces it is not focused on rescue at all but border protection. The British government is not involved, something we should all be ashamed of. It seems to believe that those seeking sanctuary from war and dictatorship are benefit tourists who use the rickety boats as a ‘taxi service’.
It was my privilege to meet Meron in Sweden where she lives and where I interviewed an 18-year-old girl from Eritrea who survived a terrible sinking off the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013 when 363 drowned within 800 metres of shore. One of the first people to support the survivors on Lampedusa was Meron Estefanos.
No wonder those escaping Meron’s ravaged homeland regard her as a guardian angel. My feature about this problem is due early in the New Year. Meanwhile you can read more about Meron at http://www.ravishly.com/ladies-we-love/meron-estefanos-eritrean-radio-journalist. She tweets at @meronina