News Highlights: Eritrean official declared ‘persona non grata’ in Netherlands, tension Horn of Africa mounts, more Sudanese troops deployed

In this week’s news highlights: Horn of Africa tension update; Sudanese officials have deep-rooted collusion with human traffickers, says Sudanese media organisation; Protests in Sudan met with police violence; Ethiopian opposition leader freed after one year; African high level panel focuses on migration; Dutch government declares head of Eritrean embassy office ‘persona non grata’; ECHR accepts appeals from Sudanese people against Italian police for possibily illegal returns; Hungary proposes taxes over NGOs dealing with migration; 1400 people saved in Mediterranean Sea by Italian coast guard, at least 2 die.

Greater Horn of Africa

Rising tension in the Horn of Africa region
Last Thursday, Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud stated that Sudan will  continue security arrangements on the eastern Sudan borders, after being briefed about possible threats from Egypt and Eritrea in the region of Sawa.” Following this statement Sudan deployed more troops to reinforce the army presence at the Eritrean border. The Egyptian answer came on Monday when president Al-Sisi denied conspiring to fight by saying “let’s always look for peace and development, our people need that.. Egypt will not fight its brothers … I‘m saying this as a message to our brothers in Sudan.” Finally, Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki denied any presence of the Egyptian army in Eritrea during an interview with Eritrean TV and furthermore accused Ethiopia of  being behind the military action by the Sudanese government at the border with Eritrea.

Sudan: Relations between Sudanese officials and human traffickers run deep
Despite the EU’s collaborative efforts to fight human trafficking and migration in Sudan through the Khartum process, the practices still continue through deep-rooted collusion between Sudanese authorities and human traffickers. An article published by Sudanese media organisaion Ayin on Mail&Guardian outlines the situation.   Kassala state, principally due to its strategic position, is considered a hot-spot for smuggling and trafficking of people who try to reach Europe. Furthermore, despite arrests of both traffickers and officials accused of cooperating with them, the presence of criminal organisations remains strong in the country.

Sudan: Protesters beaten by Sudanese police during protests in Khartoum
Sudan’s capital saw hundreds of people protesting in the streets due to rising prices of bread and devaluation of the currency, a measure recently approved by the parliament to combat the economic crisis. The Associated Press released a video showing the Sudanese police intervening by chasing and beating people in an effort to break up the protest. This episode has been the last in a series of protests which have occurred in the country over the past two weeks.

Ethiopia: Oromo opposition leader freed after more than one year in prison
The Oromo leader Merera Gudina was released from detention on Wednesday morning after more than one year in prison. Mr. Merera was arrested in November 2016 on the charge of violating  “Ethiopia’s state of emergency by having contact with terrorist and anti-peace groups.” Human rights organisations accused the Ethiopian government of impeding the free movement of opposition leaders. Amnesty International’s African Program Director Netsanet Belay stated that “Hundreds of prisoners of conscience continue to languish in jail, accused or prosecuted for legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression or simply for standing up for human rights.”

Africa: High Level Panel on international migration in Africa stresses migration issues
The first meeting of the High Level Panel on International Migration (HLPM) placed emphasis on regional migration priorities and actionable commitments that will make the implementation of the work plan of the final report successful. Participants agreed on the need for effective cooperation to deal with migration. The main report of the Panel is to be presented in July.


Europe: Head of Eritrean embassy office in The Hague declared ‘persona non grata’
The Dutch Government has declared the head of the Eritrean embassy office in The Hague ‘persona non grata’ and has demanded his immediate departure. The decision followed a motion issued by the Dutch parliament to close the Eritrean embassy. The decision for dismissal was made after reports of the intimidation and coercion, especially connected to the collection of the 2% Eritrean diaspora tax, stirred political and societal unrest in the Netherlands. In addition, the Dutch government was shocked by evidence of coercion to pay the tax and to sign a ‘regret form’ recorded by Dutch radio programme Argos.

Europe: The European Court of Human Rights accepts Sudanese nationals’ appeal against Italian government
The ECHR accepted the appeals for the Sudanese nationals’, who say that they were illegally rounded up and forcibly removed through of a deal made by the Italian and Sudanese police chiefs. The Court has asked for further details from the Italian government in order to investigate whether the European Convention was violated. The Italian Government is to reply by March 30.

Europe: Hungary vs. NGOs – new program proposes taxes for migration assistance by Hungarian groups
According to proposed measures, any organisation that ‘aids illegal migration’ and receives foreign funding would have to register and provide their data to the courts. These measures would be in force “until the end of the migration crisis”, the Hungarian government says. Further details of the proposal are to be published on Thursday.

Europe: Arrivals of migrants to the Italian coast declines after deal with Tripoli
On Tuesday, around 1,400 migrants in overcrowded boats were saved and two bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard said. Neither their nationalities nor further information about the ones that passed away were given. Until now, the number of migrants arriving in Italy’s coast has been 974, compared to last year’s count of 2,393, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.