News Highlights: European Parliament approves border funding, France equips Libyan coast guard, Testimony on organ trafficking in Egypt

(U.S. Navy photo/Released)

In this week’s News Highlights:  Sudan student rallies ramp up as more arrests take place; UN Security Council discusses Eritrea – Djibouti relations; UNHCR reports on plans for refugees in Ethiopia; the UN reports high levels of violence in South Sudan; More refugees flown from Libya to Niger; France provides equipment to Libyan Coast Guard; economic crisis in Libya hits migrant workers; testimony on organ trafficking in Egypt; LIBE Committee votes to increase border management funding; EU’s migration policy aids human trafficking, states article; Sea Watch 3 vessel still in Sicily; documentary on Mediterranean Sea boats nominated for Oscar; and Council of Europe reports refugees camp conditions in Greece.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Protests of the Sudanese students as universities remain closed
The protests in Sudan have led to the closure of 38 public universities and about 100 private higher education institutions on the same day in December 2018, states Al-Fanar Media. According to Mohamed Yousif, Professor at Khartoum University, the government is closing its universities due to a “fear of a revolution”. The Association of Professors at Sudanese Universities, Colleges and Higher Institutes affirms that “the regime aims at discouraging the revolution” and that the government falls back on universities’ closure, oppression and teachers’ arrests. In the past days, the opposition states that 10 opposition leaders have been arrested.

UN Security Council debates on Eritrea – Djibouti relationship
Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the members of the Security Council on Thursday 21 February on the relations’ status between Eritrea and Djibouti, as provided for in the UN resolution 2444 of the 14th of November 2018, states EritreaHub. In particular, this resolution lifted UN sanctions in Eritrea, without finding a solution to the border conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea (lasting since 2008). For this purpose, Djibouti transmitted a letter for a binding arbitration to the Secretary General on July 2018, expressing concern about its relationship to Eritrea. Meanwhile, an article by Tanja Müller looks at whether peace with Ethiopia will change Eritrea.

Ethiopia: UNHCR publishes Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) presented a report fixing the main strategic objectives of the refugee plan in Ethiopia, one of the largest refugee-supporting countries in the world, which hosts 905,8312 thousand refugees at the beginning of 2019. The main necessity identified is that of preserving and enhancing the protection environment and living conditions of refugees (including access to basic services, and promotion of peaceful coexistence with local communities). It also underlines the importance of strengthening refugee protection through the expansion of improved community-based and multi-sectorial child protection and sexual- and gender based violence programmes and to reinforce the access to education, health and nutrition, livelihoods, energy, and to sanitary items.

South Sudan: UN reports a surge in sexual violence towards women
Despite the peace agreements signed last September in Addis-Ababa, the northern region of South Sudan continues to see a high level of violence, particularly against women and girls. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) joint report, published on the 15th of February 2019, indicates that most of the victims are attacked on the roads and that sexual attacks are becoming normalised. The investigation counted 175 women and girls that had become victims of violence and sexual assaults over a 4 months-period, from September to December 2018. Of these 175 women, 64 were minors, including 8-year-old girls.

North Africa

Libya: France supports Libyan Coast Guard’s equipment and training
The Libyan Address relates that France will provide 6 equipped boats in June to the Libyan Coast Guard. Florence Parly, France’s Defense Minister, approved the Libyan coast guard training and equipping program during the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord on the 16th of February 2019.

Libya: Refugees flown from Libya to Niger
A group of 159 people has been transported from Libyan capital city (Tripoli) to Niger by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday 13 February. The group was comprised of Eritrean refugees who has been residing in Libyan detention centers. According to the UNHCR, the continuous evacuations are crucial for asylum seekers in the detention centers as they are are highly over-crowded and lacking basic living standards.

Libya: Economy collapse has severe implications for refugees
An IRIN article outlines the effect of Libya’s collapsed economy on refugee and migrant lives in Tripoli.  Philip Badou, a Ghanaian pastor who has lived in Tripoli for the past 25 years, stated: “Libya always provided many opportunities for Africans, and they just weren’t interested in going to Europe before because they could make good money here. This big problem with migration has really only started since 2011.” 

Egypt: Testimony of a young trafficked Eritrean migrant in Cairo
In the hope of leaving wars, insecurity and poverty migrants try to reach Europe. More, and increasingly young, migrants have no choice but to sell one of their organs – most of the time a kidney – for the promise of a better life, reports Bhekisisa, a organisation for health journalism. This illegal trade has become a lucrative and profitable business for traffickers and brokers, who take advantage of migrants’ vulnerability. However, while some African states and the EU appear to have tightened legislation and sanctions, the modus operandi of traffickers has evolved towards. Dawitt’s testimony on this is available on Bhekisisa’s website.


European Parliament: LIBE Committee votes on migration and border management funding
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament  has voted to increasing the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and to approve the creation of the new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF). The 2021-2027 AMIF budget will increase to €9.2 billion (51% more than in the previous financial framework) with the aim to contribute to strengthen the common asylum policy, develop legal migration and countering ‘irregular’ migration. The new Integrated Border Management Fund of €7.1 billion will provide funding to border control and visa policy. Both funds also relate to the reinforced Internal Security Fund (ISF) focusing on tackling terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.

EU: Human traffickers profit from EU externalisation of migration management
An opinion article on IDN-InDepthNews outlines how the EU’s migration policies are strengthening human traffickers, who profit from the increasing vulnerability of people. The cooperation with Libyan coast guard and governments such as Sudan and Eritrea, who have been accused of human rights abuses and aiding human trafficking, is creating an invisible wall that is effective, but detrimental to human rights, states the article.

Italy: Sea Watch 3 vessel still blocked in Sicily’s port
Twenty days after entering the port of Catania in Italy, the Sea Watch 3 rescue ship remains in one of the Sicily’s ports, as the inspection of the Dutch authorities requested further maintenance of the ship in order to ensure “the ship’s conformity to regulations in force”. The ship has been kept in the port by the Italian Coast Guard since the first inspection on 31 January 2019. Kim Heaton-Heather, who is responsible for the search-and-rescue operations of the Sea Watch 3, says that by blocking the vessel, the Dutch authorities fuel the anti-migrant sentiment that has been spreading among EU’s political powers, which intensifies the anxiety of refugees aiming to reach a safe country.

Greece: Council of Europe criticizes Greece over refugee camps conditions
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has published its report on the situation in Greece’s refugee camps, and it raised concerns over the “inhuman and degrading” conditions of several camps.  The committee’s report underline the particularly alarming situation at Fylakio camp near the Turkish border and the lack of doctors, medicines, food and drinking water in several camps along Turkey’s land border. The Greek minister for Migration Dimitris Vitsas spoke to Euronews, stating “I wouldn’t say that Fylakio is at the best possible situation but the tenders have already been completed and there are works going on so that the 250 people that this can host, to be done in better conditions. And what we do, we do it without any substantial help, without any valve of relief for the migration and refugee flows in the country.”

“Lifeboat”, short-documentary about refugees’ plight in Mediterranean Sea is Oscar-nominated
Lifeboat is an Oscar-nominated film directed by Skye Fitzgerald and produced by Bryn Mooser in 2018. This 34-minute-film recounts the dangerous and difficult journey of migrants and refugees, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. The documentary focused on the activity of Sea Watch, the German safe and rescue ship active in the Mediterranean sea. According to Non Fiction Film’s website, the documentary approaches the world’s biggest contemporary global crises with a human dimension and provides a glimmer of hope surrounding how civil society can intervene in the refugee crisis in a valuable way.