News Highlights: Brussels Conference demands refugee protection, VP of Pan-African Parliament denounces slavery, UN migration deal causes trouble in EU

In this week’s News Highlights: Eritrean diaspora conference in Brussels calls for protection of refugees; African leaders demand end to modern-day slavery; another testimony sheds doubt on prosecution in human trafficking trial; AU Commission Chairperson criticizes refusal to sign UN migration pact; HRW alleges human rights abuses at Greek-Turkish border; Eritrean president sidelines his own cabinet: article; state of emergency after protests in Sudanese city; Eritrea among top five journalist-jailing countries; Ethiopia starts withdrawing troops from Eritrean border: report; Eritrean Professor accuses Eritrea president of undermining Eritrean sovereignty; and Amnesty International criticizes MENA countries for violating migrants’ rights.


Belgium: Eritrean diaspora conference in Brussels calls upon EU to protect refugees
A grassroots conference of over 200 diaspora Eritreans, activists and academics met in Brussels from 12 to 14 December. Under the slogan “We the people: Peace in the Horn & the Safety and Future of the Eritrean people” participants from Africa, Europe, Israel and Canada discussed pressing issues facing the Eritrean people inside of Eritrea as well as on migration routes. The conference ended with a declaration aimed at the High Representative of the European Union Federica Mogherini, and was handed over to the European External Action Service during a demonstration in which protestors demanded an end to financial support to dictatorial regimes for stopping migration as well as the protection of refugees in Libya.

Belgium: African leaders demand refugee integration and end of modern-day slavery
During the Brussels conference “We the people: Peace in the Horn” African leaders called for the protection of refugees, a more positive, integrative approach towards refugees and an end to EU money for the Eritrean regime. Rt. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, Vice President of the Pan African Parliament, said in his opening remarks that the EU “must be louder in calling for the end of ill-treatment of migrants”, denouncing modern-day slavery. Nobel Peace Prize nominee and priest in Italy, Father Mussie Zerai, said that “we are asking the EU to stop providing political support and finance to regimes in Northern and Eastern Africa which are colluding with human traffickers.” Rt. Hon. Zamina Malole, member of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Uganda, called for a more positive, integrative approach towards refugees and their economic potential.

Italy: Brother of wanted human trafficker tells court that they have the wrong person
In the trial against alleged human trafficker Medhanie Yehdego Mered in Palermo, Italy, the brother of the man told the judge via a phone conference that the defendant in court was not his brother and that the prosecutors had arrested the wrong person. Instead, the person on trial is Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, a 29-year-old refugee, according to friends, relatives, and the overwhelming evidence presented in court. Several other witnesses as well as a DNA test have indicated that the man in custody is not the wanted human trafficker, but prosecutors have declined to comment on the exonerating evidence.

Austria: AU Commission Chairperson criticizes EU countries for not signing UN Migration Pact
The African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat criticized the eight EU member states that did not sign the migration compact during Tuesday’s Africa-Europe summit on digital cooperation in Austria, saying “[w]e must not let political difference divide us.” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government did not sign the compact, did not expand on migration in his opening remarks. He said that “for too long the relationship was seen as based on those who give and receive, and based on migration alone. Today’s summit is not about migration, but a summit between equals.” Later at the summit, Kurz met Egyptian president Al-Sisi to discuss migration.

Greece: HRW alleges human rights abuses and illegal pushbacks at Turkish border
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
has accused Greek law enforcement of illegally pushing back migrants at the Turkish land border in North-Eastern Greece. The human rights organization has counted 24 incidents of pushbacks, most of them between May and November. Migrants from Asia and Africa reported that police or unidentified masked persons stripped them of their belongings, including identity documents and clothes, beat and kicked them. In one case a masked man reportedly subjected a migrant to a mock execution with a knife.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: President Isaias sidelines his own cabinet, says article
In an article published on africanarguments, Abraham Zere writes that Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki has moved to make most decisions by himself in recent months, sidelining his cabinet who have no information about major policy plans. According to the author, Isaias did not inform his ministers about the peace deal with Ethiopia for months and gives orders directly to middle-ranking officers in the army. He spends most days in his office where only four people are allowed to visit him. Reportedly, ministers have been complaining and speculation is rife that Isaias is selling out Eritrean interests to Ethiopia, unsettling the Eritrean population.

Sudan: Authorities declare state of emergency in city of Atbara due to violent protests
Sudanese authorities declared a state of emergency in the city of Atbara in the River Nile state after protests against increasing bread prices and shortages of commodities. Due to financial constraints and demands from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the Sudanese government cut subsidies and devalued the currency, which in turn led to a doubling of bread prices. Protesters in Atbara set the main office of the ruling party on fire as well as the headquarters of the city government.

Eritrea among top five journalist-jailing countries according to CPJ
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published its 2018 report, detailing how many journalists were jailed due to their work. Eritrea is the fifth biggest jailer in the world, with currently 16 journalists in jail. It is unknown if all of them are still alive. With at least 25 jailed journalists, Egypt is leading the list in Africa. For the first time since 2004 no journalists in Ethiopia are behind bars because of their work, the report states.

Ethiopia: troops withdraw from Eritrean border
According to Africafeeds, Ethiopia has begun to withdraw its troops from the Eritrean border. The move is part of the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace deal signed in July.

Eritrea: Professor Bereket accuses Isaias of undermining Eritrea’s sovereignty
Professor Bereket Habte Selassie, one of the principal authors of Eritrea’s constitution -which was never implemented – criticized Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki on undermining Eritrea’s sovereignty in a video published on Eritreahub. He said that by refusing to demarcate the border with Ethiopia, Isaias was giving up Eritrean sovereignty and that when Eritreans elect a legitimate leader, it will be unclear whether the secret agreements Isaias struck with Ethiopia will be upheld.

North Africa

Amnesty International calls upon MENA countries to end discrimination and abuse of migrants
Amnesty International
has called upon Middle East and North African (MENA) countries to end discrimination, exploitation, abuse as well as arbitrary arrests, detentions and unlawful expulsions. Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s MENA Research and Advocacy Director said “[g]overnments across MENA are abysmally failing to protect migrants living in or passing through their countries, fuelling shocking levels of abuse.” Amnesty criticized Algeria for unlawfully deporting migrants to Niger and Mali; Morocco for bringing migrants close to the Algerian border and abandoning them there; Libya for keeping migrants in detention where they face torture, rape and extortion; and Israel for unlawfully deporting African asylum-seekers to “third countries” or indefinitely detaining them.

MENA governments must end discriminatory crackdowns and abuse of migrants