News Highlights: Sudan bans protests, Leaked documents on EU Operation Sophia, video shows abuse in Libya

In this week’s news highlights: Politico publishes leaked documents on EU operation Sophia; Germany confirms communication problems with Libya coast guard; EU-Arab League Summit discusses migration; African Union objects to ‘disembarkation platforms’; Video shows torture for ransom in Libya; Refugees threatened after abuse in Libya detention centre; State of emergency and protest ban in Sudan; Emergency state Sudan used to legitimise excessive force; Eritrea ranks high on slavery list; and militant guarding of Eritrea’s capital Asmara reported.


European Commision: leaked documents shows EU was aware of danger in its migration policies
Internal EU documents on Operation Sophia, the EU initiative to disrupt smuggling and trafficking on the Mediterranean Sea, has revealed internal EU considerations around the operation. The documents, starting from around 2016, were published by Politico and reveal confidential information from the European External Action Service (EU foreign policy arm), disclosing that the EU was aware that its policies increased the danger of crossing and still went ahead with it. Politico also notes that the documents reveal EU officials were aware that Libyan coastguards (financed, equipped and trained by European funds) were collaborating with smuggling networks. According to the EU officials as phrased in the leaked document, “through the capability and capacity building of the Libyan Navy and Coastguard we will be able to give the Libyan authorities something in exchange for their cooperation in tackling the irregular migration issue.”

Germany: German Government confirms communication issues in operation Sophia context
In a response to a parliamentary inquiry of Parliament Member from the German left party, Andrej Hunko, the German Government confirmed that in the context of the military EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia, there have been “difficulties in the availability electronically and by telephone” of the Libyan ‘coastguard (JRCC). The Government also confirmed the difficulties on operation with regard to language barriers in communicating. 

EU Leaders push for security and border control in the first EU-Arab League Summit
On February 24th and 25th, in Sharm el-Sheikh, European and Arab League leaders took part in the first League of Arab States-European Union summit. Migration was one of the main topics that was discussed. The central aim of the meeting was to create a dominant role for Egypt in the Mediterranean ‘migration police’. Despite the declarations of unity during the Summit, the EU and Arab League foreign ministers could not agree earlier this month on a text for a joint summit statement after Hungary objected to the section on migration.

EU: The African Union criticizes the EU’s disembarkation platforms
The African Union (AU), with Egypt as the current chair state, is hoping to halt the plan to establish so called regional disembarkation platforms proposed by EU leaders during the summer of 2018. The Guardian’s article reveals that the AU member states, in their ‘common African position paper’, discourage African coastal states from any cooperation with Brussels as the EU’s proposition would go against international law and would cause a creation of “de facto detention centers”.

Italy: A Protestant Christian community helps refugees
An article in The Economist describes the Waldensians, a small reformed Christian group dating back to the 12th century, tries to respond to the migration crisis in Europe through the “Humanitarian Corridors”, a humanitarian cooperation that takes charge of the entire migrant journey. This initiative was set up 3 years earlier by this community, in partnership with the Italian government.

North Africa

Libya: Human rights lawyer reports abuse in a detention centre in Libya
Giulia Tranchina, a human rights lawyer, is in touch with a group of refugees detained in the Libyan Triq al Sikka detention centre who have reported that they were beaten with metal rods and batons by the Libyan police, after the refugees refused to hand over their phones. The phones are the instrument to have a connection to outside world, but it is often dangerous to use them, as they may be used to expose the conditions and abuse – so their use can cause aggression. The Italian lawyer calls for the UNHCR and the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) to seek urgent access to the refugees, and for the EU to offer immediate relocation.

Libya: Video shows torture by traffickers and shocking conditions in Libya detention centres
The summit between the EU and the Arab League concluded with a joint promise by both sides to resolve the migration challenge. In parallel, a Channel 4 news video shows the living conditions of refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres. The report establishes that EU is complicit in the Libya detention centre policy – with the EU financing and equipping the Libyan coast guard. The video also reports on the physical and moral violence inflicted by traffickers in return for ransoms. MEP Ana Gomes (Socialists & Democrats Party), interviewed at the end of the video, says that criminal and terrorist networks have been paid by the EU to repel migrants outside the Mediterranean borders, and that the Commission and complicit national governments refuse to admit this.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Omar al-Bashir declares a state of emergency and dismisses government
On Friday 22, the Sudanese president declared a year-long nationwide state of emergency and announced that the government and provincial leaders were dismissed. President Al-Bashir added that he would postpone steps to amend the constitution to seek for a third term. East Africa Monitor states that all the new governors appointed by Al-Bashir are former military personnel. The information hub writes that the emergency state will give security forces the right to search any building, restrict movement of people and arrest individuals. Following this announcement, protests and popular revolt – demanding Bashir step down – increased, but they were suppressed by tear gas.

Sudan: Sudan’s emergency state legitimises the use of force and increases the death toll
Following the announcement of the state of emergency, President al-Bashir announced on February 27 the implementation of four emergency laws prohibiting demonstrations and strikes, and imposing restrictive economic measures, says VOA news. Amnesty International added that the state of emergency attempts to justify the abuses of the Sudanese authorities, who increase the use of live ammunition and tear gas against protesters, and torture detainees. On February 23, the NISS (National Intelligence and Security Service) and the police abused and arrested 40 doctors from the Khartoum Teaching Hospital. On the following day, the authorities repressed in the same way a demonstration at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman and Khartoum Hospital, where a child died after being hit by a security car.

Eritrea: Eritrea 2nd place in the ranking in terms of slave-like conditions (after North Korea)
An article from The Guardian highlights a Global Slavery Index (GSI) report, revealing that today more than 40 million people live in slavery. According to this report, women and girls represent 71%, and children overall  are 25% of all modern slavery victims. The article and the report specify the appalling living conditions of enslaved people: sexual exploitation and state-sanctioned forced labour (military conscription, forced construction, agriculture…), and explain exactly what is slavery and why it happens. Concerning Eritrea, GSI estimated that 69.5% of the Eritrean population is vulnerable to modern slavery.

Eritrea: Eritrean Government reportedly intensifies search operations for all entry routes to Asmara
Eritrea Watch, an initiative of citizen journalists inside Eritrea, reports that all entrances and exits of Eritrea’s capital of Asmara are guarded by military personnel since Sunday, 24 February. Military is intensively searching permits and identification documents of all incoming and outgoing people, including military and governmental vehicles.