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.
At the beginning of March, European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen spoke with the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the situation of unaccompanied migrant children on the Greek islands. They agreed to put in place a process to ensure the protection and care of some of Europe’s most vulnerable people, unaccompanied migrant children. Later in March, the Commission announced a plan to relocate unaccompanied children and teenagers from Greece to other EU member states. So far, member states have pledged 1.600 places, but the going has been slow. Several relocations took place and key recommendations were established for further relocations.
This week’s news highlights: UK withdraws embassy staff from Eritrea; Rumours about the situation in Eritrea; Ethiopia destroying homes leaving hundreds of people homeless; Thousands of migrants returned to Ethiopia amidst COVID-19; Inadequate preparedness slows COVID-19 response in Somalia; Record of internally displaced persons in 2019; NGOs state that EU policies facilitate the abuse of migrants and refugees in Libya as organisations launch ECA complaint; EU to bolster Libya’s coastguard amidst MEP backlash; WFP says 104.793 people assisted in March amidst COVID-19; Migrants and refugees discriminated in Tunisia; Announcement closure Greek migrant camp; German experts advise on migrant working permit scheme; Asylum seeker in Germany wins court case; Bosnian minister proposes migrants and refugees should be deported; Proposal to map undocumented migrants south Italy; Less people granted Asylum in Europe 2019; Migrants and refugees first victims of COVID-19 containment; And refugees and migrants provide support in medical and agricultural sectors to curb labour shortages