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Swiss re-start cooperation projects in Eritrea

Switzerland has resumed support for cooperation projects in Eritrea, having withdrawn from the east African country over ten years ago. Since the beginning of October, Switzerland has supported two vocational projects in Eritrea in a pilot phase scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the foreign ministry office in charge of Switzerland’s international cooperation, was active in Eritrea from 1993 to 2006 and ran a cooperation office in the capital Asmara from 2001 to 2006, mainly for humanitarian operations.

The office was closed in 2006 because the conditions needed for the SDC to carry out its activities were not met, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The first project, run by the private organisation Swiss Support Committee for Eritrea (SUKE), supports a vocational school in the port city of Massawa. The school’s instructors are themselves employed in companies in the region. They train workers, teach further training courses and also get the chance to develop their own skills. The programme is regularly adapted to local job market requirements.

The second project supports a training programme run by the Don Bosco organisation via the agency International Volunteer Service for Development. The programme assists vocational schools in the regions of Asmara, Dekemhare, Nakfa, Hagaz and Mai Habar. These schools give disadvantaged young people, especially girls, the chance to learn a trade.

Strengthen dialogue

“Switzerland hopes to see gradual improvements in the collaboration with the Eritrean authorities at the bilateral and multilateral level,” the foreign ministry said.

“Switzerland will also have the opportunity alongside the international community to strengthen dialogue with the Eritrean government on a number of issues, including the human rights situation, development and the rule of law.”

The SDC’s annual contribution to the two projects is around CHF1 million ($1.03 million).

About 20,000 Eritreans live in Switzerland, the largest Eritrean diaspora in the world. In addition, Eritreans make up the largest national group of asylum seekers in Switzerland.

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