News Highlights: Eritreans sent back and mistreated in Libya, Resettlement issues Sudan, UNODC meeting on trafficking

In this week’s news highlights: Refugees publish shocking videos, then are violently forced to disembark in Libya; EU push to manage migration in Morocco could come at cost of human rights; reactions to lifting of Eritrea sanctions; US congressmen push for human rights reform in Eritrea; rising number of refugees to Ethiopia; UNHCR resettlement activities remain suspended in Sudan; Eritrean victims of human trafficking freed in Sudan; Ethiopian rebels return from Eritrea; Italian prosecutor orders seizure of Aquarius and NGO asset freezes; UNODC meeting in Vienna on human trafficking; Hungary grants asylum to fugitive ex-PM of Macedonia; and NGOs warn against rising humanitarian cost of immigration barriers.

North Africa

Libya: Eritrean refugees violently forced to disembark in unsafe port in Libya
Libyan security forces raided a ship, using rubber bullets and tear gas to force a group of Eritrean refugees to disembark in the Libyan city of Misrata. A commander of the Libyan coast guard said that some migrants were wounded during the operation, but claimed they were “in good condition” after being brought to the hospital. Reportedly, two underaged Eritreans were among those seriously injured. The group published distressing videos in four different languages, reporting they had gone for a week without food, but that refused to leave the ship as they feared abuse and being sold to people traffickers who extort them for ransom. One person expressed having been a victim to trafficking for ransom three times already.

Morocco struggles with migration management as Libyan coast is sealed, says ECFR
In a commentary for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) Chloe Teevan says that Spain and Morocco fear an increase in migration flows as migrants are deadlocked in in Libya. The Moroccan government is financially and politically backed by the EU. However, Morocco remains politically unstable, and further pressure from Europe to prevent migration could have adverse effects on the rule of law and the respect for international and human rights law in Morocco, says the think-tank European Council of Foreign Relations.


Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Lifting of sanctions improves Isaias’ international standing, but Eritreans still suffer: op-ed
In an op-ed for Aljazeera, Abraham Zere, executive director of PEN Eritrea, says that Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki’s international standing has improved due to the lifting of the Eritrea sanctions and enables him to achieve his regional ambitions. However, Eritreans have neither benefited from the lifting of the sanctions nor the recent peace deal with neighbouring Ethiopia, states the author. In fact, Eritrean businesses have suffered from new competition from Ethiopia since the border opening. The author says that Isaias’ grip on power and oppression could grow in the absence of outside pressure. An article in World Politics Review states that European nations pushed to “re-brand” Eritrea as a partner to facilitate migrant repatriations and prevent a failed state at the Red Sea.


Eritrea: The U.S. congressmen urge the government to push Eritrea for human rights reforms
Congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P. McGovern, Co-Chairs of the U.S. Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, are calling the government to push Eritrea to undertake urgent human rights reforms. The Co-Chairs wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to ensure human rights objectives are in the centre of any reset relations between the U.S. and Eritrea.  The letter further addressed “the four steps” that Eritrean government should take in delivering clear and measurable outcomes.


Eritrea: In-depth article explores increase of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia
looks at the ‘refugee surge’ from Eritrea to Ethiopia. “The relationship between the two countries has improved, but the internal situation in Eritrea is still the same” says Tekie Gebreyesas, regional coordinator in Tigray for the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA).


Sudan: Government cracks down on human traffickers and smugglers in exchange for money: report
According to Africa Monitors, the Sudanese government has received a list by the EU with names and addresses of human traffickers and human smugglers residing in Sudan. The report states that the EU promised the Sudanese government substantial financial aid if they arrest the wanted individuals in a short time span. The Sudanese government has started to arrest smugglers, an effort that has so far been hampered by the corrupt cooperation between government officials and traffickers. However, some traffickers and smugglers have been escaping to Uganda and South Sudan. In the meantime, the Sudan is preparing for talks with the US to be removed from the US Terror List.

Sudan: UNHCR’s resettlement services in Sudan still have not resumed
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resettlement programme in Sudan has been suspended since May 2018 because of the investigation into illicit practices of the office staff, according Africa Monitors. As a result, the resettlement process to the refugees to third countries has been delayed, states the article, in which the author further expresses the concern that a humanitarian crisis could unfold if the UNHCR does not act on the misconduct in time.


Sudan: 84 Eritrean victims of human trafficking freed in the eastern state of Kassala
The Sudanese government reported on the 19th November that a joint Sudanese force freed 84 Eritreans at the Karid EI Reid Forest in the western part of Kassala state, according to the Sudanese news agency SUNA. The victims were both men and women who were being held by human traffickers. Director of the National Intelligence and Security Services in Kassala, Alam al-Din Hashim says the victims were mistreated and were in bad shape. He added that 10 human traffickers were captured who had demanded victims’ families to pay ransoms. “All the hostages came from Eritrea and some of them have been freed after their families paid the ransom,” he said.


Ethiopia: Ogaden rebels return from Eritrea after peace deal with Ethiopian government
On Wednesday, former rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) returned to Jijiga, capital of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia, with an Ethiopian Airlines flight and were greeted by Somali people. The return comes after a peace deal the ONFL signed in mid-November with the Ethiopian government in Asmara after the Ethiopian parliament had removed the group from a terrorism list.



Austria: UNODC brings together experts from Africa to combat migrant smuggling and trafficking
In Vienna, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) brought together 20 law enforcement practitioners, prosecutors and intelligence officers from Northern and Eastern Africa as well as academics in order to discuss the combat against Illicit Financial Flows deriving from Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in Eastern Africa. The meeting focussed on multi-stakeholder cooperation and financial evidence of crimes, “following the money”. A representative of UNODC also met with Eritrean minister of justice in Asmara to discuss crime prevention.

Italy: Prosecutor orders seizure of Aquarius vessel, orders MSF assets to be frozen
An Italian prosecutor from the Sicilian port city of Catania ordered the seizure of the Aquarius, a rescue vessel jointly operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, based on charges of illegal waste disposal. Italian authorities also ordered bank accounts belonging to MSF to be frozen. The vessel remains in Marseille and both organisations deny the allegations and announced to appeal the decision. The ship has rescued 30,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea so far and it is estimated that ships carrying migrants have gone missing without a trace.

Red Cross and Doctors without Borders warn against rising humanitarian cost of immigration barriers
Speaking at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference, the president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Francesco Rocca, said that “[r]estrictive immigration policies are creating a new world order where barriers to basic services turn migration into a real humanitarian crisis” and that those barriers are “a gift to the traffickers” who often exploit vulnerable migrants for forced labour. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, a humanitarian affairs adviser with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), lamented the criminalization of humanitarian aid workers.

Hungary: Convicted FYROM ex-prime minister receives asylum, EU seeks answers
The EU is asking the Hungarian government why fugitive former prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and friend of Orbán’s, Nikola Gruevski, has received asylum in Hungary. This year he was sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of power, but escaped to Hungary on 9 November. Gruevski said that Hungary granted him asylum because he was politically persecuted.