News Highlights: UN Sanctions on Eritrea lifted, Eritreans escaped and recaptured in Libya, Valetta Migration Plan discussed in Ethiopia

In this week’s news highlights: UN Security Council sanctions on Eritrea lifted; IOM says most Horn of Africa migrants move within region; leaders of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea meet; abuses and accidents on the refugee route to Sudan; Eritrean refugees escape from Libyan detention camp and are recaptured; Netherlands cannot ban Eritrean diaspora tax outright: report; migration meeting with European and African officials in Ethiopia; Italy receives 51 refugees via resettlement; and Czech Republic another EU country that will not sign UN Migration Compact.


Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: UN Sanctions on Eritrea lifted, Somalia arms embargo extended
The Security Council of the United Nations (UN) lifted the targeted sanctions on Eritrea on Wednesday. This came after Ethiopia had concluded a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea. The Security Council, meanwhile, extended the arms embargo on Somalia for another year. The office of Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed said that the lifting of the sanctions will help improve stability and build peace in the region. The sanctions were imposed in 2009 during an investigation on Eritrea supplying weapons to Somalia’s Islamic extremist al-Shabab rebels and refusing to resolve a border dispute with Djibouti. The UN ambassador of the Netherlands, Karel van Oosterom, reminded the Council members of their 2011 decision that Eritrea should “cease using illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea.”

Eritrea: AU and China welcome lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, Eritrea Focus warns against giving Eritrean president a pass
The African Union and the Chinese government have welcomed the United Nations Security Council resolution which lifts the sanctions on Eritrea. In a press release, the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, offered to help regional leaders achieve peace and prosperity for the region. The UK-based association Eritrea Focus said it was concerned about the lifting of the sanctions as Eritrea continues to violate human rights and called upon the British government “to keep the pressure on President Isaias until Eritrea is a democratic nation that respects the rights enshrined in the UN Charter.”

Ethiopia: Leaders of Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia meet in Addis Ababa
Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed met in Addis Ababa on Friday and Saturday to discuss regional cooperation. In a joint statement after the meeting they pledged to strive for more integration in the Horn of Africa region and welcomed the lifting of the sanctions on Eritrea.

 Ethiopia: Eritrean refugees heading to Sudan face high prices and abuses, says Africa Monitors
Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia who are heading towards Sudan are charged between $1,200 and $7000 according to an article on Africa Monitors. It is expected that more Eritreans will try to reach Sudan although on the journey refugees can become victims of road- and natural accidents, human rights abuses and rape. According to the article, one reason for the rushed exodus of Eritreans to Ethiopia is the lack of information in Eritrea about the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace agreement.

  • The opening of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border: a cause for heightened exodus of Eritreans

Horn of Africa: Most migrants from the Horn of Africa move within the region, says IOM
In a press release, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) states that most migrants (51%) from the Horn of Africa move within the region. The IOM recorded almost 400,000 movements from January to June 2018 in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia. About 36% of movements recorded were towards Gulf Cooperation Council countries via Somalia and Djibouti. Only 8% and 5% moved northward and southward respectively. Almost a million Ethiopians were forced to flee their homes between April and June 2018 and as of May 2018 there were an estimated 2.6 internally displaced Somalians.

Eritrean author critically reviews Eritrean ex-minister of finance’s book
In an opinion piece on Eritrea digest American-based author Saleh Younis critically reviews the book by former Eritrean minister of finance, Berhane Abrehe, who was arrested in September. The author describes Berhane’s political plan which Berhane had laid out in his recently published book “Eritrea Hagerey” written in Tigrinya. The plan consists of several steps, including a 7-9 member Political Power Transfer Coordinating Committee, the release of prisoners, the return of exiled opposition members, the engagement of the Eritrean youth, different political and administrative committees, the arrests of certain key people and president Isaias Afwerki. Younis also criticises Berhane as hostile towards Tigrayans and hyper-nationalist, but supports his idea of a transition to democracy in Eritrea.


Northern Africa

Libya: Eritrean refugees captured by soldiers after escape from prison, says human rights lawyer
According to a tweet by London-based human rights lawyer Giuglia Tranchina, a group of Eritrean refugees escaped from Al Furhaji Sebha detention centre in Tripoli on Friday. Reportedly, they had been left without food for three days. After their escape, they were trying to reach offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Libya. However, soldiers surrounded them and brought them back to the detention centre by force. According to a report, the police had abused the refugees, threatening to withhold food and lie to the IOM.


Netherlands: No legal way of prohibiting Eritrean diaspora tax, only its illegal collection, says report
The Dutch ministry for foreign affairs informed the Dutch parliament on Friday that a report by the non-profit International Bureau for Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) concluded that the Netherlands cannot ban the Eritrean diaspora tax outright.  Dutch fiscal law only applies to Dutch taxes on Dutch nationals and residents in the Netherlands and therefore cannot be amended to ban the Eritrean tax. However, a ministerial regulation from 2016 already states that the collection of the diaspora tax is illegal if it is done by means of coercion, fraud or blackmailing or if it violates UN sanctions. This was shown to be the case by an earlier research report on the 2% tax commissioned by the Dutch government.

Europe and Africa take stock of ‘Valetta progress’ in Addis Ababa meeting
Senior officials from across Europe and Africa are meeting on the 14th and 15th November 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to follow up on the progress regarding the Joint Valletta Action Plan which was adopted by the European and African leaders at the Migration Summit in 2015. The EU High Representative  Federica Mogherini gave positive remarks on the Action Plan during the meeting. The EU detailed how it has mobilized more than EUR 11.7bn for more than 1,200 projects and policies within the four Valletta priories, namely regular channels for migration and mobility, ‘Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’, saving and protecting lives, as well as the ‘fight against irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings.’

Italy: 51 refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan have arrived by plane
Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini admitted 51 refugees from Niger who are mostly women and children from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan arriving in Italy on Wednesday as part of a UNHCR resettlement programme. Salvini claimed that “[i]t shows that Italy is a welcoming country of generosity and solidarity”, adding that” the only way for women and children in difficulty to arrive is by plane”. Salvini made the decision in June to close Italy’s ports to humanitarian rescue ships and made deals with Libya’s coast guard. A London based human right lawyer, Giulia Tranchina, criticized that only a small number of refugees was taken in by plane, calling the action hypocritical after Salvini had referred to Libyan detention centres as “luxurious”. On Saturday Salvini threatened to block the EU’s budget over a dispute on migration policy in Europe.

The Czech Republic will not sign UN Compact on Migration
The Czech Republic will not sign the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration which addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them and how to return them to their home countries, according to a government source. The Czech Republic is not the only country in the EU that has rejected the accord. Hungary and Austria also said they will not sign the agreement in Morocco this December. Bulgaria has also dropped out of the accord and has voted on the issue on Wednesday. Poland said it might follow suit.