News Highlights: Israel cancels refugee plan with UN, Dutch Minister calls for closing of Libya detention centres, Ethiopian President speaks of peace with Eritrea

In this week’s news highlights: Netanyahu cancels plan with UNHCR for refugee resettlement; new Ethiopian President expresses efforts for peace towards Eritrea; Al-Shabab attacks AU troops in Somalia; Four African countries set to cooperate to fight crime;The story of an Eritrean refugee from Africa Monitors; Dutch Minister urges for closure of  “inhumane” Libyan detention centers; European Commission announces new emergency aid to Greece; Frontex says smuggling activity is more organized now; and UN chief economist worried about food security.


Cancellation of plan with UNHCR might boost human trafficking
This week, Israeli PM Netanyahu signed a deal with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to send half of the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Western countries and give the other half asylum in Israel. Less than 24 hours after, the plan was cancelled, something that is set to have severe negative effects both for refugees but also for Israel itself. The article below outlines how Eritrean and Sudanese refugees will be forced to embark on trafficking routes that will lead to Libyan detention centers, and the Israeli government, already internally split, will face further tension and instability.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Newly elected President of Ethiopia makes first effort for peace with Eritrea
Abiy Ahmed, newly elected President of Ethiopia, has appeared ready to solve the country’s longstanding disputes with Eritrea. Mr. Abiy talked about putting an end to “years of misunderstandings”, showing the readiness of the country to tackle the issues between the two countries” not only intertwined in interests but also in blood”. However, Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Gebre Meskel said that relations will be resolved only after Ethiopia withdraws “from the occupied territories”.

Somalia: AU troops repulse attack, kill al-Shabab fighters
The African Union (AU) said that their troops in Somalia killed at least 30 al-Shabab fighters that were attacking them. On Sunday 31 March, al-Shabab fighters attacked the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) blowing up vehicles and fighting with guns. AMISOM announced that four of their soldiers were killed and six wounded. Contradicting this statement, an al-Shabab military operations spokesperson claimed that “the Mujahideen fighters entered the crusaders’ base and killed at least 59 of them. Our fighters also attacked five other bases”.

Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger reported to cooperate on fighting crime
On Tuesday 3 April, Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger agreed to coordinate their armed forces to fight transnational crime in the region, says the Sudan Tribune on the basis of statements from Sudan and Niger. Border security is also named as a focal point for cooperation. A statement issued in Niamey after the meeting names specifically the southern area of Libya as a “hotbed of serious persistent threats for the four countries” adding that it serves as the basis for human trafficking groups, as well as armed groups and terrorist organisations. A follow-up meeting is reportedly taking place on 3 May.

Eritrea:Yasmin’s story – a manifestation of the migrants’ tragedies
Published by Africa Monitors, Yasmin’s story, the description of an Eritrean woman trying to survive her route to a safe haven, shows how refugees fleeing their homelands suffer along the way. The story describes how these people do not have options other than following their instinct of survival and accepting their tragedies as fate. “Among the most difficult costs of illegal migration is the loss of precious time of childhood and youth along the perilous journeys”, the piece reads.


Dutch minister Sigrid Kaag calls for closure of Libyan detention centres
After paying a visit to Libya, the Dutch minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, has declared that the conditions are inhumane.  She calls for the closure of the detention centers as soon as possible. She is reported to be the first EU policy maker to openly state this, while she is also a supporter of the idea that open reception centers should be created as alternatives. According to the United Nations, 700.000 refugees are locked up in around 30 detention centers around Libya. Minister Kaag, having seen the conditions there, stated that they are not fit for human habitation.

European Commission: new emergency funding for Greece
The European Commission announced €180 million in aid to be given to Greece as emergency funding to address humanitarian needs of refugees. This includes shelter, education and health. Whereas the European member states have yet to agree on burden sharing and relocation of refugees, EU Commissioner Stylianides referred to the aid as “a clear and loud signal of European solidarity.”

Frontex reports more smuggling activities, EU struggles for desired results
Fabrice Leggeri, head of EU’s border agency Frontex, reported more smuggling activities noticed lately in the Western Balkan region, while he also informed Members of the European Parliament that there are now “more flexible organized criminal groups” and “criminal coalitions dealing with trafficking in human beings”. According to the EUobserver, Legerri’s admission “appears to counter EU and national claims on curbing the smuggling trade in general.”

Food insecurity numbers alarming, UN WFP official says
According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), war and drought have left people in conditions of serious food insecurity across the world. The figures are increasing; this year the number of people at risk has increased to 124 million from 108 million in 2016 and 80 million in 2015. Arif Husain, chief economist of WFP, said that the numbers of food insecure people, and therefore the numbers of migrants who are forced to move, are not expected to go down until there is peace.