News Highlights: Italian MP visits Ethiopia and Eritrea, Amnesty to challenge Hungarian law in court; UNHCR evacuates refugees from Libya

In this week’s news highlights: Italian PM visits Ethiopia and Eritrea; nearly 10,000 newly registered refugees in Ethiopia last month; Eritrea elected to the UN Human Rights Council; IOM report on reducing vulnerabilities of migrants; new “peace ministry” in Ethiopia; almost half of South Sudanese face starvation says Save the Children; Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali politicians meet; migrants in Italian model town to be transferred away; Amnesty International challenges new Hungarian law in court; EU leaders want to cooperate with Egypt on migration; aid organisations warn against scapegoating migrants and not saving lives; UN human rights expert criticizes Algeria and Niger for alleged migrants’ rights abuses; and the UNHCR evacuates refugees from Libya.

Greater Horn of Africa

Italian prime minister Conte visits Ethiopia and Eritrea
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte visited Ethiopia and Eritrea last week to support the peace deal between the two countries. In Ethiopia Conte voiced support for Ethiopian prime minister Abiy’s economic and political reform agenda and discussed migration and investment opportunities in Ethiopia with his counterpart, reportedly signing loan and grant agreements worth €22 million. He also urged the African Union (AU) to help making bilateral agreements for repatriations of migrants and said AU leaders will attend a conference in Palermo on 12-13 November. In Eritrea, Conte said the visit was only aimed at supporting the peace deal, not to make any specific requests. According to Eritrean minister Yemane Meskel Conte said that Italy was ready to do its part ”in promoting investment, cooperation projects, education programmes [and] […] professional training.”

Ethiopia: Nearly 10,000 newly registered refugees from Eritrea in the past month
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 9,905 refugees from Eritrea were registered in Ethiopia between 12 September and 13 October. 5,475 new arrivals were transferred from the border to Endabaguna Reception and Registration centre. 6,987 new arrivals were transferred from Endabaguna to Adi Harush, Mai Aini and Hitsats. 79% of the newly registered cited family reunification as a secondary motive for movement while 79% declared having relatives in countries other than Ethiopia, most notably in Europe and North America.

Eritrea: Huge exodus after border opening, says The Guardian
Thousands of Eritreans have moved to Ethiopia since the border was opened on 11 September, many of which women and children who strove for family reunification, reports The Guardian. Their family members had either reached Ethiopia before the border was opened without any announcement to the population or had continued their flight to Europe. According to The Guardian, the new Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa denied Eritreans in Ethiopia passports and assistance to migrate further. Many of the newly arrived Eritreans are looking for jobs in the Tigray region near the Eritrean border and many fear the rumour that after registering as refugees they could be sent back to Eritrea.

Eritrea elected to the UN Human Rights Council
On Friday Eritrea was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, receiving 160 votes, along with 17 other countries. Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International USA, criticized the election, with its advocacy director, Daniel Balson calling it “a tremendous setback.” Also the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, criticized the “lack of standards” in the UN Human Rights Council. The Eritrean ministry of Information published a statement saying that Eritrea still “faces human rights challenges”, pledging to accede to international human rights treaties that Eritrea is not yet a party to.

IOM publishes report on reducing vulnerabilities and empowering migrants
The Regional Office for East and Horn of Africa of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) published a report on the reduction of migrants’ vulnerabilities aimed at “government officials and practitioners working on migrant protection”. The report shows how migrants can be protected by applying the IOM’s determinant of migrant vulnerability model, presenting examples of how parts of the model are already being applied.

Ethiopia: New “peace” ministry aimed at ending violence
Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday created a new “peace” ministry in a major government reshuffle. As 2.2 million out of 100 million Ethiopians have been displaced, the move is an attempt to end the violence in Ethiopia. The new structure has been criticized by some analysts for being dominated by security services, which are under the new ministry’s supervision, instead of civilian forces.

South Sudan: Almost half of the population is facing starvation, Save the Children reports
According to the aid organisation Save the Children, almost half of the South Sudanese population is facing starvation. Six million people, including one million children, are currently in need of food assistance. It is predicted that in four regions there will be high levels of food insecurity, with areas of conflict being the most vulnerable. The greatest challenges for humanitarian organisations are limited access and reduced financial resources. Children in the country have suffered from grave rights violations, among which abduction, recruitment, and violence, a new UN report shows.

Somalia: Eritrean and Ethiopian foreign ministers visit Mogadishu
Eritrean foreign minister Osman Saleh and Ethiopian foreign minister Workneh Gebeyehu visited Somalia for talks with Somali president Mohammed Abdulahi Mohammed and prime minister Hassan Ali Khayre on Wednesday. In a joint press statement the Eritrean and Ethiopian foreign ministers stated their support for the government and people of Somalia, calling upon the international community to support the Somali government and calling upon all stakeholders to make efforts towards peace and stability.


Italy: Migrants in Riace to be transferred to other migrant centres
The Italian interior ministry announced that all migrants from the South Italian town of Riace will be transferred to other migrant centres. The town became famous for its now arrested mayor Domenico Lucano whose efforts of integrating migrants were praised as a model for Italy. The mayor has been charged for his role in arranging “marriages of convenience” and fraudulently awarding public tenders for rubbish collection services to two community co-operatives.

Elcano Royal Institute and the International Peace Institute publish reports on EU migration policy
The Spanish think tank Elcano Royal Institute has published an analysis of the development of the EU’s migration policies since 2016. According to the analysis, a main challenge for European countries, the repatriation of migrants who do not qualify for asylum or refugee protection to countries that are not willing to readmit them, will pose an equivalent challenge to Northern African countries if the asylum process were to be outsourced there. The report from the International Peace Institute says that the EU cooperation with Libya has exacerbated the human rights situation there.

Hungary: Amnesty International challenges constitutionality of law criminalizing work on migration
International on Monday announced that the human rights group will challenge the constitutionality of a Hungarian law that outlaws distributing “’informational materials’ related to migration” and “providing legal and other support for asylum seekers”. According to Amnesty the law is worded too broadly and infringes on the freedom to assembly, which is protected under the Hungarian constitution and international human rights law. In the meantime, the Hungarian government has published a video in English that criticizes the EU for letting in migrants. A government spokesperson called it a retaliation for the “attacks on [the] country.”

Hate speech has silenced migrants, humanitarian NGO co-founder says
In an article published in The Guardian, the co-founder of Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a Malta-based humanitarian NGO, Regina Catrambone, has criticized the dehumanization of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in the media during the years. As the focus shifts on statistics only, the personal fates of those risking their lives remain unheard and subsequently ignored, says Catrambone.

EU leaders want to cooperate with Egypt on migration
In a draft statement ahead of the European summit in Brussels, EU leaders call for intensified collaboration with countries of origin and transit countries on the topic of migration. Human trafficking and smuggling should be prosecuted and a joint smuggling task force set up.  A new arrangement with Egypt would reportedly aim at making the Egyptian coast guard patrol in Libyan waters.

UNHCR and IOM warn against scapegoating migrants, demand continuation of sea rescue
Ahead of the EU summit in Brussels, the two leaders of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called upon European leaders to continue saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea, invest in regular migration, support countries with large refugee populations, prevent displacement and stop toxic political discourses. Two policy officers on asylum, migration and development at Caritas Europa, Leïla Bodeux and Davide Gnes, in an opinion op-ed in euractiv stated that the EU’s migration deals with African countries undermined the EU’s role as a promoter of human rights worldwide as human rights abusing regimes were gaining legitimacy by cooperating with the EU. Instead the authors support long-term solutions, consisting of legal and safe pathways for migration.

Northern Africa

UN migration rights expert criticizes Niger and Algeria for alleged migrants’ rights abuses
After an official visit to Niger, the UN Special Rapporteur on Migration, Felipe González Morales, praised Niger for its generosity towards refugees, but criticized the government for restricting and criminalizing migration in a way that forces migrants to choose more dangerous routes and violates their human rights. He also urged Algeria to abstain from alleged collective expulsions of migrants into the Nigerien desert.

Libya: UNHCR evacuates 135 vulnerable migrants to Niger
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the refugee agency of the UN, on Tuesday night evacuated 135 migrants from Libya to Niger, with its staff facing security challenges. Many of the migrants had been held in detention centres and were in a state of malnutrition and poor health. On the same day, 85 other refugees from Syria and Africa left Libya by plane, heading to Norway with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN Migration Agency. The UNHCR calls upon resettlement countries to speed up their procedures in order to resettle more refugees. Meanwhile, Libya remains an instable country ruled by rivalling militias that are involved in human trafficking, says an article in The New Arab.