News Highlights: Dutch parliament motion to close Eritrean embassy, businesses shut down in Asmara, EU divided over relocation

Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs, Halbe Zijlstra, during the Eritrean tax debate

This week’s news highlights will be the last in 2017. We want to thank you for your interest and wish you a merry Christmas and happy New Year, and we will see you again the first week of January 2018.

In this week’s news highlights: Dutch parliamentarians express their concern over the influence of the Eritrean regime and ask the government to close the Eritrean embassy; European Union sets June 2018 deadline for divisive relocation quota vote if no compromise is found; migration needs long term solutions, says European Commissioner; businesses in Eritrea close in what activists say is a move to control people; Human Rights Watch fears mistreatment of activists in Sudan; more clashes in the Oromia region of Ethiopia; and UN Refugee Agency wants to move 5.000 – 10.000 people out of Libyan detention centres in 2018.


Netherlands: Dutch parliament issues motion to close Eritrean embassy
In a debate in the Dutch parliament on Wednesday 20 December, a motion has been issued by parliament members to close the Eritrean embassy. The Dutch parliament and government have debated multiple times in the previous years over intimidation, threats, 2% diaspora tax and the role of the embassy and Eritrean government in the Eritrean diaspora community in the Netherlands. The recent report on the 2% diaspora tax in Europe has further fueled the concerns, and it is now supported by recordings from the Dutch radio programme Argos that show the coercion in action.

European Union: June 2018 is the deadline for refugee relocation decision
Last week, the European leaders were in fierce debate over burden sharing between European countries and over mandatory relocation. Some member states are strongly opposed to hosting refugees to ‘share the burden’ of countries such as Italy and Greece. European Council president Donald Tusk called mandatory quota ‘ineffective’, angering member states that are in favour of solidarity. If no compromise is found, member states will vote by majority in June 2018.

European Union: Commissioner for Migration urges acceptation of migration
On the International Migrants Day, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulous urges people to accept the reality of migration and to adopt long-term forward thinking policies. In an opinion piece, he responds to growing right-wing sentiments in Europe: “It is foolish to think that migration will disappear if one adopts harsh language. It is naïve to think that our societies will remain homogenous and migration-free if one erects fences.”

Europe: Austrian government about to change its migration policy
The newly elected far-right government of Austria announced radical changes in the migration policy of the country. Over the weekend, a deal introducing sanctions for “immigrants who are judged to be refusing to integrate” was agreed upon. Furthermore the agreement calls for “a cut to the basic level of support payments for asylum seekers [..] faster deportations of asylum seekers and undocumented immigration will be halted, as well as vowing to stop the creation of parallel societies.”

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Eritrean government closes private businesses
A number of private businesses have been closed by the Eritrean government, say Eritren radio broadcasts and Eritrean activists from the Freedom Friday (Arbi Harnet) movement. It is reported to include many famous bars and hotels in Asmara where people gather. The government claims that the closed businesses failed to follow financial regulations by hoarding cash or evading taxes; activists from Freedom Friday respond by stating that “if they [business owners] deposit their money  [into the national bank] they can’t have access to it easily as there are limits of 5000 Nakfa [per month] (about $330), and this includes their personal expenses” and again “this is clearly a measure to control people and their activities.”

Sudan: Human Rights Watch fears mistreatment of activists
The NGO Human Rights Watch asks for the immediate charge or release of American-Sudanese human rights activist Rudwan Dawod and other activists imprisoned in Sudan. The organisation says that it has recorded dozens of cases of mistreatment over the past years. “Torture and prolonged, arbitrary detention are still routine practice in Sudan, used as a means to stifle dissent and dialogue,” says Jehanne Henry, researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ethiopia: clashes cause casualties in the Oromia region
It is reported that at least 61 people died this week following the ethnical clashes in the Ethiopian Oromia region. It was speculated that the clashes followed after soldiers shot and killed 16 ethnic Oromos at a protest last Tuesday. The news was announced by Oromia government’s spokesperson Adisu Arega on his Facebook page. He also added that the fights took place in the region’s Hawi Gudina and Daro Lebu districts.

North Africa

Libya: UN Refugee Agency wants to move 5.000 – 10.000 people out of Libya
The UN refugee agency plans to move between 5.000 – 10.000 people out of Libya’s controversial detention centres in 2018. Many of these will be repatriated to African countries willing to take their citizens back, but the UN wants to convince European countries and Canada to take in refugees from Libya too.