News Highlights: Eritrean involvement in trafficking, documentary on EU border management, UN chief and the EU’s “shameful” refugee policy

In this week’s news highlights: The Eritrean-Ethiopian relations today; Eritrean traffickers traffic their own people; Report on Eritrea’s mining sector; Refugees are questioned after UNHCR corruption was exposed; South Sudan government accuses rebels of blocking aid; Amnesty International calls for disbanding Ethiopian police unit; EU’s follow up on UN Libya sanctions; EU Funding for migration and border management to be tripled; Documentary shows consequences of EU border management; UN says at least 2.500.000 migrants smuggled in 2016; UN Chief ashamed of EU’s refugee policy; Joint Statement on Combating Human Trafficking; MEP Verhofstadt threatens the EU; and Italian vessel with 937 migrants docks in Sicily.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea-Ethiopia: Will the two neighbors make peace?
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the Executive Committee of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) formally stated that Ethiopia will fully honor the Algiers Agreement and the decision of the Boundary Commission so that relations with Eritrea are normalized. However, as Eritrea Digest states, “to the surprise of nobody, the Eritrean government has not made any official pronouncements about the Ethiopian announcement”.

Eritrea/Libya: Eritrean traffickers involved in the trafficking of fellow Eritreans
The UN Security Council has implemented unprecedented sanctions against human traffickers, four Libyan and two Eritrean, operating in Libya. An article on IDN-InDepthNews delves deeper into the trafficking of Eritrean refugees and the involvement of high-ranking Eritrean human traffickers and the Eritrean regime.

Eritrea: Report brings to light the harsh reality of the mining sector
Little is known about the Eritrean mining sector and its brutal nature. A new report by Eritrea Focus sheds light on the rapid expansion of the country’s mining sector that has been boosted by low wages and enforced labor. Gathered information shows how international investors, including UK-based institutions, are involved in the extractive sector of the country. “This is concerning, especially in light of the UK Government’s strong position on modern slavery”, EritreaHub reports.

Sudan: UNHCR investigation questions refugees involved in journalist report
The UNHCR Geneva-based headquarters responded last month to a corruption scandal that was brought to light by a report on IRIN news, based on information from refugees. In response, UNHCR temporarily suspended the resettlement program of refugees.Africa Monitors reports that in follow-up, refugees were called into the UNHCR office and were questioned by the UNHCR about their involvement with the journalist. The names of the refugees were published by the journalist contrary to their agreement to remain anonymous, says Africa Monitors.

South Sudan: The rebels are to blame for obstructing humanitarian aid, says South Sudanese government
On Friday June 8, Ateny Wek Ateny, Press Secretary of the Office of South Sudan, said that the armed groups are to blame for hampering humanitarian access to civilians in the rebel-held areas. Ateny told reporters that “the President already issued an order to government officials ensuring unlimited access to humanitarians. There are now few roadblocks in government territories but instead, the rebels are to blame for obstructing humanitarian workers” and further added that “The rebels should give humanitarian access in their areas instead of humanitarian workers talking about the government not granting relief access”.

Ethiopia: Amnesty International calls for police unit disbanding after unlawful killings
Amnesty International has issued a new call to the Ethiopian government to immediately disband the Liyu unit which is shown in reports to have recently killed 14 people unlawfully, something which may amount to extrajudicial executions. “The Liyu police unit must not be allowed to continue operating above the law, carrying out unlawful killings and destroying lives with impunity. This appalling loss of life must be investigated immediately and the killings brought to an end,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.



EU transposes UN Libya sanctions into EU law
Following the first-ever sanctions imposed to 6 people actively involved in human trafficking in Libya, the EU followed up by announcing they will transpose the sanctions into EU law sanctions. “It is the first time that the UN imposes sanctions against human traffickers. The decision by the UN Security Council committee was the result of coordinated efforts of several EU members states”, a press release of the European Council reads.

Read the press release here

New EC proposal to triple funding for migration and border management
On Tuesday 12 June, the European Commission (EC) proposed to almost triple funding for migration and border management. “Learning the lessons from the past, the Commission is now proposing to significantly increase funding across the board, with €10.4 billion for migration, €9.3 billion for border management, €2.5 billion for internal security […] In addition, support to EU Agencies in security, border and migration management will be increased from €4.2 billion to €14 billion”, EC announced. A new Integrated Border Management Fund will also be created, and around 10,000 border guards will be added to the European Border and Coast Guard.

EU border management: documentary shows the consequences
A new documentary that aired this week on ARTE and Le Monde, showing the consequences of the EU’s increased focus and funding towards border management. The documentary shows the role of African countries as ‘gatekeepers of Europe’, the regimes that are benefitting. The numbers of arrivals in Europe is decreasing, but this focus on short term strategies may have devastating consequences for human lives and the EU itself, shows the documentary.

At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016, new UN report shows
Yesterday, 13 June, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published its first Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants, showing that at least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016. The report gives detailed information about the key smuggling routes, the magnitude, the smugglers’ and smuggled migrants’ profiles, and it describes the modus operandi of the smuggling industry and the risks that smuggled migrants face.

UN Refugee chief urges EU to sort out its refugee policy
Following the incidents with Italy and Malta turning away a ship with 625 migrants and refugees, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi called on the EU to sort out its “shameful” refugee policy. “It is shameful. As a European, I felt shame – shame -that there was a boat- there is a boat – in the Mediterranean, and for several days nobody wanted to take these people,” Grandi told Reuters.

10 EU Agencies sign Joint Statement on Human Trafficking to step up action
Yesterday (June 13),10 EU Agencies (the Head of eu-LISA and his counterparts in EASO, Europol, EMCDDA, Eurojust, EIGE, Frontex, FRA, CEPOL and Eurofound) signed a Joint Statementin an effort to “deepen the multidisciplinary approach to trafficking in human beings” and to strengthen their commitment to “a comprehensive approach”. Furthermore, they committed to continue assisting EU Member States in implementing the EU Anti-trafficking Directive, to focus more on prevention, to end the impunity for perpetrators and to improve victims’ access to their rights.

Verhofstadt proposes drastic measures in case the European Council fails to agree on reform
Member of the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt suggested that, if in the next EU Summit of 28-29 June the EU leaders fail to agree on the reform of the Common European and Asylum System, the Parliament will have to bring the Council to the Court of Justice under article 265 of the Lisbon Treaty for ‘failure to act’.” “The Parliament said it was high time the EU leaders agreed on a common position on the Dublin system in order to find a genuine solution to the migration crisis”, EurActiv reports.

Italian vessel carrying 937 migrants docks in Sicily amid international row
An Italian coastguard vessel, the Diciotti, had picked up 937 migrants off the coast of Libya. Italy on Sunday had refused to allow the Franco-German ship Aquarius carrying 629 migrants to dock. However, the Diciotti was allowed to land as it is an Italian vessel carrying out a government mission. It sailed into Catania yesterday morning (June 13).