News Highlights: Calls for protest in Belgium after refugee suicide, Documentary on corruption in South Sudan war, MEPS vote for humanitarian visas

In this week’s news highlights: Indefinite national service in Eritrea still in place; indigenous Afar group from Eritrea calls for rights to be restored; further opposition to Eritrea’s desire to join UN Human Rights Council; eyewitness report about torture in Eritrean prisons; UAE reportedly violating Somali arms embargo; neighbouring countries allegedly financing South Sudanese civil war, states new documentary; millions of Ethiopians require  international assistance, states OCHA; NGOs call for protests after Eritrean commits suicide in Belgian detention centre; European Parliament demands European humanitarian visas, Italy’s PM Conte visiting Ethiopia and Eritrea; Climate Change will cause large migratory flows; and Italian minister Salvini claims growing support for closing ports for migrants.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: indefinite national service still in place, no major changes despite hopes
The indefinite, ill-paid national service in Eritrea for people between 18 and 50 years has not been abolished despite hopes of Eritreans for political reforms after Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace accord in July, states an article in The Guardian. Political and religious prisoners remain in jail and although new conscripts reportedly were told that their services would be limited to 18 months, no changes in the country have occurred, the article describes. The only option to escape the national service for many is to flee the country, but many refugees end up in Sudan, Libya or die during their flight. Meanwhile, the UNHCR reports that the number of Eritreans leaving the country remains high, and that in contrast with the current refugee population in Ethiopia, 90% are women and children. UNHCR states that Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) “is requesting new arrivals to present their asylum applications at temporary collection centres situated along the border, namely Zalambessa, Rama, Humera, Gerhusirnay, Adinebrieid, and Chilla, within 15 days of crossing the border.“

Eritrea: Eritrean Afar Traditional Elders call for their rights to be restored
In a declaration posted on Facebook the Eritrean Afar National Congress (EANC), an organization of exiled indigenous Eritrean Afar people, condemned attempts by the Eritrean government to coerce Eritrean Afar people to return to Eritrea without guarantees for their life and property. They also demand compensations for crimes committed by the Eritrean government, the right to political autonomy in their indigenous region, sharing of resources and a right to UN-supervised return. In the meantime, an opinion article criticizes privileges for Ethiopian businessmen in Eritrea that anger the local population.

Eritrea Focus joins opposition to Eritrea’s bid for membership in the UN Human Rights Council
Eritrea Focus
, a UK-based association of Non-Governmental Organisations concerned about human rights in Eritrea, called upon the United Nations (UN) in an open letter not to elect Eritrea into the Human Rights Council for the next term from 2019 to 2021. Supporting the same request from Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRC-E) Eritrea focus cites gross human rights abuses as reasons to dismiss Eritrea’s bid.

Eritrea: families remain in the dark about the whereabouts and deaths of prisoners
Africa Monitors reports stories of Eritreans who witnessed torture, killing and death by wilful default in Eritrean prisons. In many cases, family members are not informed about the location of prisoners or if and how they died. The eyewitnesses report that medical conditions in Eritrean prisons are extremely poor and that necessary medical treatment is often withheld from prisoners.

South Sudan: Neighbouring countries allegedly involved in financing civil war
The Sentry
, an organisation comprised of a range of experts working to expose and stop dirty money flows that benefit human rights abusers and war criminals, reports that parts of its investigative findings were used for a new Africa Uncensored documentary called “The Profiteers”. According to the organisation’s findings, governments, banks and businessmen in East Africa have helped finance illegal activities linked to the South Sudanese civil war and were involved in other corrupt activities.

Somalia: United Arab Emirates violating arms embargo against Somalia, unpublished UN report alleges
According to Al Jazeera, an as of yet unpublished UN report will state that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has illegally brought weapons into Somalia, breaching the UN arms embargo while constructing a military base in Somalia’s Somali region, which declared independence in 1991, despite opposition from Somalia’s government. A spokesperson for the UAE government denied any wrongdoings, stressing that the UAE complied with international and Somali law.

Ethiopia: 7.9 million people will require food assistance in the second half of 2018, says OCHA
In its Mid-Year review of the Humanitarian and Disaster Resilience Plan 2018, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) reports that in the second half of 2018, 7.9 million people in Ethiopia will require food assistance and 9.5 million will require non-food assistance. Displacements due to conflicts across various regions as well as due to flooding and poor rainfalls were the main challenges for the aid organisation.

Ethiopia: IOM reports on East and Horn of Africa for September
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
reports that in September, it trained health professionals from various countries in the Horn of Africa to recognize and treat victims of human trafficking and that 400,000 internally displaced Ethiopians have returned home. However, many returnees still lack water, sanitation and health services.


Belgium: demonstration planned this Saturday after Eritrean man commits suicide in detention centre
Several migrant rights associations have called for a demonstration in front of the detention centre in Vottem, North of Liège, at 3PM this Saturday, after an Eritrean detainee, who had been described by other detainees as highly depressive, committed suicide this week. While human rights and migrant rights association denounced the detention centre’s “harassment policy”, the Director-General of the Asylum and Immigration Office called the living conditions in the detention centre “excellent”.

EU Parliament Committee votes for issuing humanitarian visas
The EU Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) on Wednesday voted in favour of asking the European Commission to propose a legal framework for a European Humanitarian Visa. Applicants would have to show that they are at risk of persecution and after a security screening would be eligible for a legal entry into the EU where they could apply for asylum. At the moment 90% of those who enjoy international protection in the EU arrived by irregular means, often risking their lives. The new visa is aimed at fighting human trafficking, better managing arrivals, reducing spending on border protection and law enforcement as well as saving lives in the Mediterranean. In November the plenary will vote on the issue. The European Commission called upon the Parliament and the Council to approve its proposal on interoperability of EU information systems for security, migration and border management before the 2019 European elections.

Migrants face different borders than Europeans, new map shows
A new map, created by staff from the Swansea University in the UK, shows that migrants in Europe perceive borders at the continent differently as they are restricted in their freedom of movement in places where European citizens are not. The project aims at changing the perspective on migration to Europe which is often portrayed as a form of invasion, according to the author.

Italy: Prime minister Conte visiting Ethiopia and Eritrea
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday for talks with Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed for bilateral talks and will visit Eritrea to talk to president Isaias Afwerki.

Climate Change to increase numbers of migrants drastically
Climate Change will likely trigger larger migratory flows than currently, studies show. The main destinations for “environmental refugees”, whose likely number is estimated between 50 and 200 million, are the USA, Europe and some other highly-industrialized countries. Unlike those who flee temporary disasters, climate refugees become “permanent disaster refugees” according to a 2015 report from the University of Hamburg. Primary reasons for migration will be soil degradation, increased population density, coastal flooding and extreme heat.

Salvini wants the Australian model for migration, announces legal refugee arrival by plane
Italian minister of the interior, Matteo Salvini, told the press after a G6 summit in Lyon that he has support from other EU member states for the “Australian model” which means closing Italy’s ports for all migrants arriving by boat. According to Salvini, officials from the US, the UK, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands agreed with his proposal. However, he claimed that those fleeing war should be able to enter Italy legally, announcing that in October dozens of women and children from war zones would arrive in Italy by plane. The Polish interior minister, Joachim Brudzinski, stated at the meeting that he would recommend the prime minister not to sign the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration as it “does not guarantee Poland’s safety.”