News Highlights: EU policies contribute to abuse in Libya, Eritrea mining case in Canada, EU-AU meeting in Brussels

In this week’s News Highlights: EU policies contribute to abuse against migrants in Libya: HRW; continuing protests in Sudan; Nevsun case about human rights abuses in Eritrea before Canadian top court; Italy to be engaged in planned Ethiopia-Eritrea railway link; Ethiopian ruling coalition happy about peace deal; UNICEF report on humanitarian situation in Eritrea; Kenyan president visits Eritrea, reportedly considering opening an embassy; EU and AU ministers meet in Brussels; IGAD and EEAS meeting; Italy to evict over 500 migrants from centre; Italy to decide about continuation of Operation Sophia; and WHO report on refugees’ and migrants’ health in Europe.

North Africa

Libya: EU policies contribute to “extreme abuse against migrants”, says HRW
A new report by Human Rights Watch details how European Union policies contribute to severe human rights abuses in Libya. The report holds detailed information about the conditions in official detention centres, which includes overcrowding, lack of food and sanitation, as well as abuse by guards. The EU knows about the dehumanizing conditions, yet continues to support the Libyan coast guard to return refugees and migrants to the centres.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Protests continue as al-Bashir traveled to Qatar
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s President, travelled to Qatar this week as protests against his government continued. The media and social media crackdown continued, as journalists reporting on the protests had their permits withdrawn. An analysis article looks at what might happen, as protesters are determined to see al-Bashir stepping down, while he is determined to repress them.

Eritrea: Canadian Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Nevsun case
The Canadian Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case where Eritrean refugees are seeking damages from Canadian-based mining firm Nevsun which operates a gold and copper mine in Eritrea. The Court will decide whether the case will move forward to be heard in a Canadian court as Nevsun disputes they can be held liable under Canadian law. The plaintiffs allege that Nevsun was aware of human rights violations in its mines, specifically forced labour. Justice Malcom Rowe critically questioned a legal argument by the plaintiffs, calling it an unacceptable “moral argument”.

Ethiopia: Italy to finance first phase of study for planned Ethiopia-Eritrea railway connection
Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed visited Rome, the Vatican, the World Economic Forum in Davos and Brussels this week. After the meeting Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, it was announced that Italy will finance the first phase of a study for a planned railway connection between Addis Ababa and Eritrean port city Massawa. Abiy also met with heads of Rome based UN agencies, namely the World Food Program (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In Davos, Abiy met with investors and philanthropists to discuss investments in Ethiopia and in Brussels he held talks with the presidents of the European Council and the Commission.

Ethiopia: Ruling Coalition content with Eritrean-Ethiopian peace deal
The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Executive Committee said in a statement that the peace deal with Eritrea has been a “big success”. Participants of the meeting of the EPRDF said that they were concerned about insecurity in parts of the country and that the media was a key player in order for Ethiopia to develop a multi-party system.

Eritrea: UNICEF publishes report on humanitarian situation in 2018
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has published a report on the humanitarian situation in Eritrea in 2018. In 2018, UNICEF said that they supported the Eritrean government with reaching over 46,000 malnourished children under five and helped over 632,000 children in total, spending $14 million. The report describes the population’s vulnerability due to droughts and floods. Children in Eritrea suffer from sporadic outbreaks of diarrhea and measles and according to 2010 government data, half of all children under five were stunted.

Eritrea: Kenyan president to visit Asmara
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is visiting Eritrea on Thursday. He is the first Kenyan president to visit Eritrea since 1999. Reportedly, Kenya is planning to open an embassy in Eritrea. The Kenyan-Eritrean relationship was strained in the past years since Kenya accused the Eritrean government of providing weapons to Al-Shabaab militant groups in Kenya, an accusation disputed by Eritrea.


EU: EU and AU Ministers meet in Brussels
European Union and African Union foreign ministers met in Brussels this week. They discussed economic and political cooperation and migration. According to the joint statement, ministers welcomed the actions taken under the Joint Valetta Action Plan and the EU Trust Fund. They also “recognized […] progress” on the cooperation on migration, including the Khartoum process and expressed support for “broader cooperation in this respect.”

 EEAS: IGAD and EEAS meet to discuss the Horn of Africa
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
Ministers and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini together with Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica met this week to discuss progress and strategies for the development of the African continent. Participants expressed their support for reforms undertaken in Somalia and the African Union Mission to Somalia. They also expressed their willingness to strengthen regional integration in the Horn of Africa in areas such as trade, migration, climate change, food security, peace and security as well as maritime security.

Italy: Over 500 refugees to be evicted from refugee centre
In Italy’s first eviction since the new government enacted new stricter guidelines on refugee protection, more than 500 refugees will be evicted from a refugee centre in Castelnuovo di Porto near Rome by 31 January. By Wednesday 105 people were evicted. Interior minister Matteo Salvini said the centre was a place of “drug-dealing and crime”, announcing that similar moves were planned for other refugee centres which would save the state €6 million a year and that refugees who “have rights” will be relocated. The mayor of Castelnuovo di Porto protested the eviction with local politicians, priests and staff members from the centre.

Italy: EU Commission says Italy must choose whether or not to continue Operation Sophia
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU Commissioner for migration, on Wednesday said that it was up to Italy to continue the naval rescue Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea which has rescued around 50,000 people since 2015. Germany announced that it would not replace one ship due to return to Germany as the Italian command had sent it to areas in the Mediterranean where there are “no migration flows” according to Germany’s minister of defence, Ursula von der Leyen. However, Germany wants the mission to be continued beyond March. Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly threatened to end the mission if EU member states do not agree to take in more refugees from Italy.

WHO releases report on migrants’ and refugees’ health in Europe
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe on Monday released its first “Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region.” The report concludes that “migrants and refugees are likely to have good general health, but they can be at risk of falling sick in transition or while staying in receiving countries due to poor living conditions or adjustments in their lifestyle.” While the risk of refugees and migrants transmitting infectious diseases to the host population, they still need “timely access to quality health services, as everyone else” according to WHO Regional Director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab.