News highlights: Europe’s wall, Fr. Mussie Zerai under investigation, drought consequences

EEPA’s news highlights are back after the summer break. In the past weeks’ news highlights, Eritrean priest living in Italy is under investigation by the Italian prosecutor because he helps refugees and migrants; European Union member states increasingly call for military solutions to migration; in Eritrea, Patriarch Abune Antonios is still held under guard; drought is threatening – among others – people of Ethiopia and Eritrea; and 1 million South Sudanese refugees are now in Uganda, as the peace process is still ineffective.


Italy: Eritrean priest working with migrants and refugees investigated for people smuggling
Fr. Mussie Zerai is under investigation for his work in helping refugees and migrants. It concerns allegations that he is aiding in illegal immigration. Fr Mussie often receives phone calls from people in distress on the Mediterranean Sea, which he passes to the Italian coastguard or some NGOs. He denies the allegations, and states that the accusations are part of a wider campaign to discredit NGOs and other people aiding and rescuing refugees and migrants.

Italy: Italian government strengthens wall to combat migration
Martin Plaut
has put together an overview of new initiatives taken to keep migrants and refugees out of Italy. However, the International Crisis Group thinks that the plans are unlikely to succeed, as the profit from human smuggling and trafficking is too high.

Spain: number of refugees and migrants increasing as EU makes deals to keep them out
The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Spain has increased threefold compared to the first half of last year, shows data from the International Organization on Migration (IOM). As the EU is scrambling to close down routes through deals with countries like Turkey and Libya, alternative routes are being found.

European Union: military solutions to stop migration
Meanwhile, the European Union member states are seeking increasingly military solutions for stopping migrants and refugees from crossing borders. Austria wants to deploy soldiers to stop people from Italy, whereas Bulgaria’s defense minister called for deployment of EU or Nato troops to protect EU external borders.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios still held incommunicado
Last month, the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, was present at a mass, sparking hope that he might be released. However, it has since become apparent that this is not the case. It is reported that he is now held in a new location, surrounded by guards and concerns for his wellbeing remain.

Ethiopia and Eritrea: Oxfam warns of drought consequences
Oxfam has warned that the drought is having a devastating effect on communities in Ethiopia. 8.5 million are facing severe hunger, while 700.000 are on the verge of starvation, Oxfam reports. The organization warns that predictions show that rain will continue to be below average, while the ground water is severely depleted.

Meanwhile, UNICEF also warns about the effects of recurrent drought in Eritrea, especially in the Northern Red Sea Region.

South Sudan: number of refugees from South Sudan passes 1 million in Uganda
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reiterated its call for support from the international community as they reported that the number of refugees from South Sudan in Uganda has now reached 1 million. Other countries, such as Sudan and Ethiopia, also host large numbers of refugees. Much more aid is needed to cope with the situation, stated the UNHCR.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has visited Sudan officially for the first time this week. He asked for more support from the international community, as well as recognition, for Sudan’s efforts in hosting refugees.

South Sudan: EU, US, UK and Norway express frustrations over peace progress
Sudan Tribune
reports that in a confidential note to the IGAD countries at the end of July, the EU, US, UK and Norway expressed frustrations over the implementation of the peace agreement and stated that they could not indefinitely support the peace instruments if no progress was made.

Egypt: Eritrean refugees stuck after crackdown on smuggling
News Deeply
reports on the situation of Eritrean refugees that are stuck in Egypt after attempting to cross to Europe from Egypt. Since the crackdown on people smuggling, more refugees are finding themselves stuck with no legal means of getting out of the country, where they have no right to work.


The EEPA-team