News Highlights: Eritrea Foundation summons EU over forced labour, Fighting around Tripoli, Roundtable discusses Libya

In this week’s news highlights: Eritrea Foundation summons the EU to stop supporting use of forced labour in Eritrea Project; Roundtable at the EU parliament hosted by MEPs and EEPA; EU increases on FRONTEX capacity and reach; UNHCR Senior Official raised concerns on the situation of 35 children in Calais; 250 NGOs ask Angela Merkel for a Mediterranean solidarity plan; Dutch government blocks Sea Watch 3 and other NGOs; The UN Human Rights Committee expresses grave concern on the human rights situation in Eritrea; Fighting in south Tripoli, UN expresses concern; report describes the shift from smuggling to trafficking in Libya; and UNHCR calls for more funding for refugees in Libya.


European Union: Eritrean Foundation tells EU to Stop Supporting Use of Forced Labour in Eritrea Project
The  Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans, a Netherlands-based organization of exiled Eritreans, is taking legal action against the European Union. The Foundation reports that the EU is providing €20 million to the Eritrean government under the ‘EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa’ for a road reconstruction project. The Foundation claims that Labour will be provided by ‘national service’ conscripts, who are trapped for an indefinite period within the service. Emiel Jurjens, a lawyer at Kennedy van der Laan (Amsterdam), representing the Foundation sent letters to the EU institutions to ask an immediate stop of the financing of the project, or legal action will follow. Mulueberhan, Chairman of the Foundation, recalled how he was employed in the national service, having no choice in the work and being separated from his family. “You can find Eritreans in every place in the world. We are fleeing because we have no human rights in our country.”

European Parliament: Roundtable at the EU parliament hosted by MEPs and EEPA
On Monday 1 April 2019, the roundtable “Inhumane treatment and trafficking of people in Libya – The EU’s and EU Member states’ responsibility” was held in the EU Parliament. Human rights activists, refugees, journalists, NGO representatives from Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières and Amnesty International, Members of the European Parliament and legal experts spoke during the roundtable. All panellists mentioned and attested to the horrific living and detention conditions of refugees in Libya and the indifference of the EU institutions and member states. Some of the speakers stressed the complicity of the EU and some countries, by financing, training and equipping the Libyan Coastguard, with full knowledge.

European Union: EU expands its border control capacity
On 1 April 2019, EU ambassadors confirmed the agreement reached between representatives of the European Parliament and the Presidency of the Council on the new rules directed to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard Agency  (Frontex) in terms of staff and technical equipment. Frontex will be equipped with a standing corps of 10,000 border guards with an executive powers, more support on return and a stronger cooperation with non-EU countries. The proposed new rules will also incorporate the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) into Frontex structures.

France: UNHCR Senior Official raised concerns on the situation of 35 children in Calais
In a series of emails seen by The Guardian, a senior official of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) raised concerns with the Home Office about the health and welfare of at least 35 children held at a centre in Calais. The Children were kept at the center for up to a year, where they waited to be transferred to the UK by the Home Office. Under the Dublin III regulation, the family reunification provisions oblige authorities to act within two months. The Guardian reports that there was at least one case of a child attempting suicide.

250 NGOs ask for solidarity on the Mediterranean Sea
More than 250 organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and Sea Watch have signed an open letter to the German chancellor Angela Merkel, asking for an emergency plan to rescue migrants from the Mediterranean. The signatories also have condemned the criminalization of non-government aid workers and criticized EU states for failing to provide an assistance. The organisations have also called for a distribution of refugees in European countries as a way of solidarity and not to return refugees who were rescued at sea to Libya.

The Netherlands: Dutch government blocks the ships of NGOs citing security
A policy change imposed by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is likely to have a significant impact on NGOs, writes Sea Watch. The implementation of this new regulation prevents civil society actors from continuing their search and rescue operations, in particular organisations with ships operating under the Dutch flag. The Dutch government stated that it has “safety concerns” about the shipwrecked people that Sea-Watch may get on board. President of Sea Watch, Johannes Bayer: “We cannot be held accountable for the current state of inhumane standoffs at sea. Instead, this situation is a damning indictment of certain European states who are abusing their powers”.  According to the NGO, internal communication between Dutch ministries shows that safety concerns have never been the driving force for this policy change, but rather that it is part of the European repertoire of tactics to hinder civil Search and Rescue.

Horn of Africa

Eritrea: The UN Human Rights Committee expresses concern on the human rights situation in Eritrea
Eritrea is one of seven countries examined by the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the conclusions of its report, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed primarily its concerns on the lack of a constitutional implementation in the country; the compulsory and indefinite national service, describing it as forced labour; the extensive and methodical use of torture in civilian and military detention centres; the lack of independence of the judiciary; and the arbitrary detention and disappearance of journalists, opposition, students and other dissidents to the current regime.

Eritrea: New mining project will be launched by Danakali
A new potash mining project will be launched in Eritrea’s Colluli deposit. The project will be spearheaded by the Danakali company.

Sudan: UNICEF warns more funding is needed for children in Sudan
UNICEF states that more funding is needed to assist children in Sudan who are in need of urgent care. The organisation states that long-term conflict, displacement, natural disasters, epidemics and malnutrition have been to the detriment of children in Sudan and the economic crisis made this worse. Without immediate aid, the situation will rapidly worsen, says UNICEF.

North Africa

Libya: Fighting in south Tripoli, UN express concern
The Tripoli-based Presidential Council (PC) has issued a statement denouncing the escalation where eastern military forces have moved west and fought with rival forces south of Tripoli. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres express his concerns “I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation”. The fighting is feared to cause great distress and problems for the refugees and migrants trapped in official and unofficial detention centres in the area.

Libya: Report on human trafficking in Libya explores the changing situation
A new report assesses the changing situation in Libya. After the legitimisation of some militia in Libya as security officials, the smuggling networks within Libya experienced a collapse, describes the report. Instead, income from some militia started to depend more heavily on human trafficking – particularly slave labour and trafficking for ransom.

Libya: UNHCR calls for more funding for refugees in Libya
The UNHCR stated that urgent funding is needed to support refugees in Libya. There is a need for 88.1 million U.S. dollars, at least, in order to secure the work of the UNHCR in Libya for this year, states the organisation. According to UNHCR there are more than 57,000 refugees and more than 170,000 internally displaced persons in the country who need the assistance.