In this week’s news highlights: No improvement in Eritrea’s human rights situation; Eritrean profiles in mixed migration flows; Worries over starvation in Dankalia, Eritrea; Eritrea urged to release political prisoners; Sudanese alleged war criminal in ICC custody; Thousands of Ethiopian migrants return amid COVID-19; Ethiopia’s upper house speaker resigns; UK parliament questions situation in Eritrea; Belgian Parliamentary inquiries about human rights in Eritrea; Sea-Watch 3 sets sail to Libya; Migrants and refugees to relocate from Malta; Declined security in Libya causes more IDPs; Bangladeshi media reports arrests of traffickers related to deaths of 30 migrants in Libya; Attacks against civilians in Libya condemned by Amnesty; 250 refugees and migrants intercepted at sea by Libya; Doctors on the frontline of two Libyan battles; IOM releases guidance on recruitment of migrant workers; UNHCR calls for environmental action to protect refugees; And over 200.000 COVID-19 cases in Africa.
Between May 24 and May 27 around 400 migrants and refugees have been picked up by the Libyan coastguard and returned to Libya. Two of them drowned during the operation. An additional 90 migrants and refugees have been stopped by a commercial ship and have been returned to Libya as well. The pushback operations are funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and individual member states like Malta and Italy. While Libya has been an unsafe place from the start of the EU’s so called externalized border policy, COVID-19 brings even more risks as detention camps in Libya are high-risk areas for the spread of the virus and rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea have been minimized. An additional element of danger is the intense civil war in Libya, which has turned into a geopolitical conflict and a proxy war between Russia and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the one hand and Turkey on the other. The war takes its toll on the civilian population; on June 1 another 5 civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a rocket attack near Tripoli.
On February 28, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey “opened the doors” to Europe, warning that “millions” of immigrants would soon be flocking towards the European Union (EU). Over 35.000 refugees gathered at the Greek border only to be stuck there without shelter in the rain and cold upon arrival. Multiple European leaders have expressed their criticism of Turkey using refugees as a bargaining chip. EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said that “Turkey has a big burden … and we have to understand that […] but at the same time, we cannot accept that migrants are being used as a source of pressure”. Nevertheless, the EU is willing to provide more money to Turkey, financially rewarding the behavior they condemn. A short history of the EU’s external deals shows how this situation evolved.