News Highlights: Deaths in Libyan detention centres, “peace did not change Eritrea”, NGOs criticise returns to Libya

In this week’s news highlights: conditions deteriorate in the Zintan detention centre in Libya; MSF reports the degrading conditions for refugees in Tripoli centre; Refugees in Tunisian UNHCR shelter driven to suicide attempts; Political and economical instabilly and protest continue in Sudan; UN Human Rights Council discusses lack of progress on human rights in Eritrea; EU’s continued engagement in Eritrea criticised; Ethnic violence and humanitarian crisis threaten to escalate in Southern Ethiopia; Head of mission Libya of MSF criticises Europe’s and France’s migration policy; NGO Alarmphone alarmed by European policy to deter refugees and migrants; and asylum applications in the EU in 2018 decline to pre-2014 levels.



North of Africa

Libya: Situation quickly deteriorating in Zintan detention centre
On March 12, the Dutch minister Mark Harbers went to Libya to visit some detention camps says Eritreahub. However, the delegation did not visit Zintan, possibly the worst of the Libya detention centres, where the sanitary and hygienic conditions are terrible, states the article. 700 refugees are being imprisoned in Zintan, at least 17 of whom are said to have died of tuberculosis in the last five months. Although the UNHCR has been made aware of those facts, the organization has still not visited Zintan, despite the request of migrants, explains Eritreahub. Meanwhile, an estimated 60.000 Nigerians are trapped in various detention centres in Libya, says France24 in a video report.

Libya: Degrading conditions in the Sabaa detention centre in Tripoli, according to MSF
Refugees and migrants arbitrarily detained in the Sabaa detention centre in Tripoli suffer from alarming acute malnutrition rates, according to a new report by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Among them, some have recently been locked up in a small cell with 0.7 m2 of space per person. More than 100 children and adolescents out of 300 refugees are detained. MSF calls on the Libyan authorities and the international community to take urgent action to put an end to the inhuman and dangerous conditions in Libyan detention centres.

Tunisia: Refugees driven to attempt suicide in Tunisian UNHCR shelter
Journalist Sara Creta reports in Al Jazeera on the testimonies of six refugees who attempted suicide: Nato, 16; Senait, 15; Amin, 19; Aaron, 16; Awate, 24; and Aklilu, 36. The interviewees represent a group of migrants and refugees which include many juveniles, mostly coming from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan or Somalia, which have tried to make it through Sudan, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. All attest to the despair and misery they have experienced, and deplore the incapacity of Tunisia to host refugees and especially the lack of a coherent asylum system. According to Al Jazeera, the asylum seekers and refugees have no access to medical screenings or to psychosocial support, nor are they informed clearly of their rights in Tunisia.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: New demonstrations of Sudanese people after 3 months of protests
According to the Lebanese newspaper L’Orient le Jour, popular protests and claims continued in the Sudanese capital, under the slogan “Freedom, peace, justice”. Despite the limitation of the state of emergency from one year to six months, instability and protests continue, writes the East Africa Monitor. However, President al-Bashir continues to reject the economic and political reforms demanded by the Sudanese people and recommended by the international community says the English think tank Chatham House.

Eritrea: The international community calls on Eritrea to change its human rights policy
On 11 March 2019, Human Rights Council held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Eritrea following the Council’s resolution 38/15 in Geneva. Despite the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore said that “Eritrea has missed a historic opportunity because the government has not implemented urgently needed judicial, constitutional and economic reforms”. Eritrean rights groups criticise the government for not being transparent on the peace process and refusing to improve human rights, including the continued arbitrary detention of political prisoners.

Eritrea: The European Union’s  seeming indifference to human rights in Eritrea
An analysis of Benoit Lannoo, expert on policy strategies, interreligious dialogue and communication, criticises the apparent indifference of the European Union on the human rights situation in Eritrea. The peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia has not improved the living conditions of Eritreans, writes, Lannoo; the population  therefore continues to seek security elsewhere. Despite this, several European countries have normalised their relations with the president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki.

Ethiopia: Warnings of developing human rights crisis
Tom Gardner, reporter for The Guardian, states that despite progress such as the new refugee policy made in Ethiopia, the south of the country is developing a humanitarian crisis. During the 2018 more than a million Ethiopians were forced from their homes by ethnic violence. It is  the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) of any country last year, even more than in Syria. In the Guardian article, it is reported that some cynical humanitarian operators believe that the government wants to “erase” the issue of displaced people before it spoils the new administration’s international image.


European Union: MSF Mission Head Libya: “Europe fosters the return of migrants to Libya”
Julien Raickman, Head of Mission Libya in Médecins Sans Frontières, was interviewed by Radio France International (RFI), after he published an open letter in the French daily newspaper Le Monde to ask Emmanuel Macron about European migration policies. According to the humanitarian NGO, which is trying to provide support to refugees trapped in Libya’s detention centres, France is endangering lives and countering their principles. The article goes on to state that the French government will soon hand over ships to the Libyan coast guard, and accuses Europe of subcontracting the security of its borders to Libya. Meanwhile, another rescue ship is denied docking by the Italian government.

Europe: NGO Alarmphone condemns European Union’s refoulement policy in the Mediterranean sea
The NGO Alarmphone published a report on the period February-March 2019 on European migration policy, which includes repelling migrants in Libyan waters. The European agency Frontex found this measure necessary to strengthen and secure European borders and thus limit refugees’ access to Europe. However, the toughening of European legislation is increasing the number of tragedies and accidents in the Mediterranean sea: The NGO speaks of a ‘refoulement industry’ in the Central Mediterranean, where a range of authorities collude to prevent those escaping to come, and send them (back) into “inhumane camps where severe atrocities are being committed daily.”

European Union: Asylum applications numbers return to 2014 levels
Eurostat reports the data of asylum applications in Europe during 2018. The report shows that the number of first time asylum applicants in the European Union in 2018 was 581.000, 11 percent less compared to 2017, and constituting a return to pre-2014 levels. The country in which the most asylum applications have been submitted is Germany (28%), followed by France (19%), Greece (11%), Spain (9%), Italy (8%) and the United Kingdom (6%). The largest number of asylum applications were submitted by Syrians(13.9 %), followed by Afghans ( 7.1 %), Iraqis (6.8 %) and Pakistans (4.3 %).