News Highlights: Open borders between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Europe proposes large border force, new government in Sudan

In this week’s news highlights: Eritrean-Ethiopian border reopens at two points; former Eritrean minister publishes book demanding change in Eritrea; campaign to protest long-term political imprisonments in Eritrea; dozens of migrant child slaves freed in Sudan; South Sudan government and rebels sign “final” peace agreement; Sudanese president to form new leaner government; hostilities continue in Libya, Eritreans hold demonstrations to free refugees; European Commission head Juncker proposes to upgrade Frontex, tighten asylum rules; more migrants die on sea after crackdown on NGO rescue missions; and UN to investigate attacks on migrants in Italy and Austria.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Border reopens at two key points
The Eritrean-Ethiopian border has been reopened at two points, at Burre and at Zalambessa, for the first time in 20 years. People on both sides celebrated as families were reunited. The Ethiopian prime minister also announced the withdrawal of troops from the border. Questions remain though, such as what will happen to the nationality of the border populations in the areas that are about to switch countries?

Sudan: Dozens of child slaves freed during Interpol mission who were EU-bound
Dozens of EU-bound young migrants were forced to work in illegal gold mines in Sudan. Interpol says many of the children were likely traveling to Europe when they were kidnapped in Sudan and subsequently enslaved. The victims were from Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan.

Sudan: President to form new government
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced the formation of a new reconciliation government with a new prime minister as well as a reduction from 31 to 21 ministers. The move comes amid an economic crisis that has caused high inflation in the past months and a shortage in hard currency. Rare nationwide protests had broken out due to the cut of bread subsidies. The new government is supposed to cut spending, eradicate corruption and boost investment.

Eritrea: former Eritrean minister of finance publishes book calling for change in Eritrea
In a recently published two-part book, former Eritrean finance minister Berhane Abrehe attacks Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki. The book titled “Eritrea Hagerey” (Eritrea my Country) calls for an urgent convening of the Eritrean parliament (the National Assembly) in order to assess the agreements currently being made. The book also calls for Isaias to step down as president.

Eritrea: Campaign demands to know where prisoners are
The One Day Seyoum organisation is launching a campaign to protest the large-scale disappearance of politicians, journalists and other Eritreans that happened nearly 17 years ago. The organisation is planning to organize silent protests of 17 minutes around the world.

South Sudan: government and rebel groups sign ‘final final’ peace agreement
After signing several preliminary deals, rebel groups and the government have signed a ‘final deal’, saying this was the definitive version. The agreement was signed in Ethiopia. The agreement comes after a period of a stable cease-fire which had been agree upon in early August. The Troika of Norway, Britain and the US, however, remains “concerned about the parties’ level of commitment to [the “final” peace agreement]”.

Northern Africa

Libya: Violence continues to trap refugees in Libya
Rockets have been fired at the airport in Tripoli, breaking the fragile peace enforced by the United Nations last week. Nobody was hurt, but it illustrates the tension in Libya, where migrants and refugees have found themselves trapped and abandoned in detention centres. In several European cities, including The Hague and London, protests will take place to evacuate Eritrean refugees, who cannot be returned, and offer them humanitarian visas.


European Commission: Juncker proposes to upgrade European Border Agency Frontex
In the annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker proposed on Wednesday to transform Frontex into a 10,000-strong border patrol of armed guards by 2020. Frontex’s mandate would also be extended to intercepting migrants and refugees at sea, stopping secondary migration, and deporting rejected asylum-seekers.  What this means for free movement in the EU is as yet unclear. European rules will also be reviewed to facilitate repatriations, including strengthening Frontex’ role in repatriations. On the other hand, legal paths of migration to the EU should be expanded, says Juncker. Member states still need to approve before the proposal takes effect.

Oxford researchers find significant increase of number of drownings after crackdown on NGO maritime rescue missions
According to a paper written by Oxford University researchers seen by EuroNews, European Union policy has cut migration regardless of the humanitarian cost. The death toll in the Mediterranean Sea rose after private rescue missions were forbidden to dock in Italian ports, the report states. Although the total numbers of migrants leaving North Africa’s shore towards Europe is at a historic low, deaths have risen, especially in front of the Libyan coast where the Libyan coast guards are responsible for sea rescue.

Italy and Austria: UN will investigate attacks on migrants
High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said she wanted to assess the recent attacks on migrants in Italy and Austria, with a team of investigators visiting Italy. This caused an angry response from Italy’s interior minister Salvini, who called the announcement ‘biased’. Michelle Bachelet also expressed concern over violent anti-migration protests in Germany and called upon the European Union to deploy a comprehensive rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, it was reported that Italians overestimate immigration: a survey showed that they believe 25% of the population to be non-EU migrants, while in reality it is only 8%.