News highlights: Refugees fear UNHCR investigation, EU elaborates on ‘disembarkation centres’, 18-month national service limit may arrive

Photo by Oxfam

In this week’s news highlights: news highlights on summer break; Indefinite national service for new Eritrean recruits may be limited, but diaspora remains cautious; Refugees fear lack of protection in UNHCR investigation in Sudan; Eritrean refugees in Sudan are losing faith in UNHCR; Report on Ethiopian man wrongfully deported from UK; New South Sudan peace deal met with scepticism; Somalia to prosecute in case of 10-year-old dying from FGM; European Commission elaborates on ‘controlled centres’ and ‘disembarkation centres’; European Commission defends development-migration fund link; MSF warns EU to stop return of migrants to Libya.

Due to the summer period, the news highlights will be on break from this week. You can expect the next news highlights on 23 August. If you see any interesting news in the mean time, do not hesitate to send it.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: hopes of an end to the indefinite national service, Israel threatens deportation
Reuters reports that new conscripts in the national service have been told that they will not serve longer than 18 months. However, Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel remarked that no official announcement had yet been made. Immediately after, Israel’s Justice Minister said that “Israel could return the infiltrators to Eritrea” if the conscription would be limited. Critics caution that limitation of the national service to 18 months for new recruits would only be a small step in ending forced conscription entirely. The Eritrean diaspora remains cautious, though hopeful. Some are using the hashtag #questionsforisaias on Twitter to ask for substantial human rights reforms.

Sudan: refugees afraid to cooperate with UNHCR investigation
In May, IRIN-News reported on corruption of employees in the UNHCR office in Khartoum, surrounding the resettlement process. Refugees have reported that they are being pressured by Sudanese officials not to testify in the UNHCR investigation. Refugees do not believe the UNHCR will give them sufficient protection and confidentiality.

Sudan: refugees frustrated with resettlement and the UNHCR
Africa Monitors
report that refugees in Sudan are losing faith in the UNHCR following the allegations of corruption and the resettlement programme being put on hold. The loss of faith in UNHCR leads to desperation and onwards migration, say Africa Monitors. Other issues in Sudan, such as roundups for extortion, are also still ongoing.

Ethiopia: man wrongfully deported to Ethiopia from the UK
The Independent
reports on the story of Solomon Getenet Yitbarek, who was deported to Ethiopia while fearing for his life. The Home Office then admitted that it had been a mistake. In Ethiopia, Solomon managed to escape and went in hiding until he could return to the UK. He now worries that a mistake could be made again.

South Sudan: new peace deal to be signed, but is unlikely to succeed
A new power sharing agreement between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar is to be signed on 5 August. If this sounds familiar, it is because a similar deal was signed this July, which was violated hours after.

Somalia: death of young girl prompts first prosecution for female genital mutilation
After a 10-year-old girl died from severe bleeding following female genital mutilation, Somalia’s Attorney General announced that a prosecution would follow. A team of investigators will reportedly be sent to find out what happened. Female genital mutilation is prohibited in Somalia under the constitution but there is no law for prosecution. However, causing harm to another is punishable.


European Union

European Commission: Commission reveals more on ‘disembarkation centres’
The European Commission has revealed more details of its plans for disembarkation centres. It would involve close cooperation between ‘controlled centres’ in the EU as well as development of regional ‘disembarkation centres’ in third countries. The purpose of the controlled centres is to quickly separate refugees and ‘irregular’ migrants. The disembarkation centres in third countries are planned at the other side of the Mediterranean Sea along the coast to support border management and returns. The UN-backed Libya government has stated that it will reject any centres in its territory. Italy has criticised the EU proposal to pay member states €6,000 per person held in the controlled centres.

European Commission: “migration fits well with EU development policy”
In response to criticism from NGOs on the EU’s budget linking development aid to migration, European Commissioner for development Neven Mimica said that tackling migration fits well with the EU’s development policy. In the EU’s next budget, funds are increasingly focused on migration origin and transit countries and 10% of the development budget will go to tackling migration causes and aiding migration management. However, NGOs fear that it will stop people from moving and divert funds from other critical areas.

EU: Stop the return of people to Libya, MSF states
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warns of the desperate situation of people returned to Libya, ending up in detention centres. Most people who are returned have been victims of traffickers and have severe physical injuries, MSF states. “The current situation is a result of attempts by European governments to prevent refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers from reaching Europe at all costs,” reads the MSF report.