News Highlights: Refugees killed in Libya detention centre attack, Organisations sue France for Libya coast guard aid, meeting calls for democratic change in Eritrea

In this week’s news highlights: Detention centre shooting kills at least three migrants and refugees in Tripoli; 325 migrants and refugees evacuated from the Tripoli detention centre to other prison; Sudanese people continue protests as three military council leaders step down; Former UN Secretary General Africa Representative calls for democratic change in Eritrea; Eritrea can follow example of Sudanese revolution; Somalian and Eritrean Presidents meet in Asmara; South Sudan President calls on leader Riek Machar to return to the negotiation table; Correction issued on news of Eritreans called to hand over IDs; 8 organisations sue France for assistance of Libyan coast guard, increasing the legal challenges to the EU; Migrants try to find hope and solace in Greece’s Moria Camp; and European Parliament passed legislation to strengthen Frontex.

North Africa

Libya: Migrants and refugees shot in the detention centre while war rages in Tripoli
On Tuesday, April 23, an attack took place at the Qasr bin Ghashir detention centre for migrants and refugees, south of Tripoli. A video on The Guardian shows footage of an attack. Witnesses report that between two and six people were killed, including at least three refugees, and at least 20 were wounded; the UN only confirms a dozen wounded, writes InfoMigrants. Witnesses at the centre also report that medical care for the injured is lacking. NGOs such as Alarmphone and Migrace report several victims among the 728 refugees and migrants in the detention centre, states InfoMigrants. Indeed, migrants and refugees were trapped in the detention centre on the front line of conflict in Tripoli for weeks, specifies Aljazeera. According to the Libyan IOM office “defenseless migrants were reportedly subject to random shooting and several of them were seriously injured.” Half of the refugees and migrants were reportedly transferred to the Tajoura detention centre in Zawiya.

Libya: 325 migrants from Qasr bin Gashir detention centre evacuated by UNHCR
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) evacuated 325 refugees on Wednesday 24 April, from Qasr bin Gashir detention centre in southern Tripoli because of deteriorating security and escalating violence, states Reuters. The refugees – mainly Eritrean, Sudanese and Nigerian – were taken to the Tajoura detention centre in Zawiya, a town west of the Libyan capital. Witnesses state that the remaining refugees and migrants will be evacuated today. However, according to the director of the centre, Jour Eldine Qarilti,  authorities in the Tajoura detention centre have not supplied any food or water since before fighting started last week. In the words of the director, no assistance from international organizations has been received and NGO support is not enough, reports Reuters.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Military-civilian agreement presented
The ruling transitional military council in Sudan announced “an agreement on most of the requirements” presented by the protest leaders at a meeting on Wednesday, which ended with the resignation of three lieutenant-generals, members of this Council. The transitional military council has been in power in Sudan since the overthrowing of the president. Relations between the military and demonstrators have not been stable since then, writes VOA News: on Sunday, April 21, the protesters announced the suspension of discussions with the military council because of its refusal to transfer power immediately to a civilian authority. On Wednesday, April 24, hundreds of people chanted “we […] demand civil power”, according to witnesses, says VOA News. One of the leaders of the protest, Siddiq Farouk, threatened to prepare a general strike across the country, in case the military council refused to give in to the protesters’ demands. Ahmed al-Rabia, a member of the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) called for a “one million people march”, which drew thousands of people on Thursday, demanding power be handed over to a civilian council.

Eritrea: UN Secretary General’s former African Union representative calls for democratic change in Eritrea.
On Wednesday 24 April, a conference in London was organised by Eritrea Focus, in partnership with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study. The conference brought together more than 70 delegates from the USA, Europe and Africa, including academics, campaigners, members of the Eritrean diaspora, and international experts. During the conference, former Ambassador Haile Menkerios, who served as the United Nations Special Representative to the African Union, and was Eritrea’s ambassador to Ethiopia from 1991 to 2000, called for a “national conference of representatives of the Eritrean people that would decide on a transitional arrangement to ensure an inclusive process of building participatory democracy in the country”.

Eritrea: Activists say the revolution in Eritrea is underway
After four months of popular protests in Sudan, the protesters succeeded in unseating  their long-time dictator, and the military yielded and detained Omar Al Bashir, along with a few of his accomplices, and Eritrea seems to follow this example, states Eritreahub. In the recent few months, the Eritrean ruling party’s diaspora support base was almost completely decimated by the growth in the numbers of Eritrean dissidents who are either new refugees or were fence sitters. The #Enough Campaign and other movements are indications of the major shift in the support base of the ruling party, reports Eritreahub.

Eritrea: Somalian President meets Eritrean president in Asmara
Wednesday 24 April 2019, President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed of the Republic of Somalia arrived in Asmara to visit the Eritrean President. According to Eritrean national news, TesfaNaws, Somalian President was given a warm welcome by President Isaias Afwerki, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other high officials. They discussed reinforcing bilateral, regional and international relations, states Tesfanews. They also mentioned the status and progress of the Eritrean-Somalian cooperation, notably concerning the matters pertaining to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

South Sudan: President wants to accelerate formation of the Government of National Unity
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir called on rebel leader Riek Machar on Saturday to return “urgently” to Juba to form a national unity government and to implement the peace deal signed last year. The president’s statement comes after Riek Machar last week suggested that the formation of a unity government should be postponed for six months writes East Africa Monitor. “We must work together to expeditiously resolve the process of forming a revitalized transitional government of national unity” Kiir said in a statement to the press on Easter, reports BBC News.

CORRECTION: Eritreans instructed to hand over identity documents
Last week, the news highlights reported that a notice had been issued instructing Eritreans to hand over their identity cards. However, we have been informed that this news is incorrect and that the notice circulated is likely false and contains many spelling mistakes.


France: Eight aid groups sue France for contribution to Libyan coast guard
Joining the string of legal challenges to the EU and its member states on migration pushbacks, a new lawsuit targets France’s contribution of 6 vessels to the Libyan coast guard. The aid groups state that the boats will be used to return refugees and migrants to horrific abuse in detention centres and trafficking warehouses in Libya. Earlier, legal challenges were issued by Nigerian migrants to Italy for its support of the Libyan coast guard and an Ethiopian asylum seeker has started legal action against the UK’s DFID for its support to Libyan detention centres. Eritrean refugees have announced legal action against the EU for its support to Eritrea, in which forced labour will be used.

Greece: Moria camp in Greek Island Lesbos described as “hell”
A large number of refugees and migrants continue trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. Increasingly, the numbers consist of African migrants and refugees desperately trying to avoid Libya on their quest to safety. On the island of Lesbos, the Catholic Church has become a shelter and a haven for refugees living in the Moria camp. According to InfoMigrants, the camp is considered by migrants as “hell” and is nicknamed “the prison” or even “Guantanamo”. But refugees have no choice but to wait on average one year for their asylum requests to be processed. The congregation at the island’s small Catholic church has grown significantly, offering a dose of much-needed comfort and peace, states InfoMigrants.

European Parliament: New legislation strengthening Frontex by 10,000 officers adopted
The European Parliament has adopted legislation to strengthen the European border and coast guard to 10.000 officers by 2027. The changes to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which have already been approved by EU ministers, aim to resolve the current perceived shortcomings and better respond to the present ‘needs in security and migration’. According to the EU Parliament’s resolution, a new standing corps will be set up to support EU countries on the ground on border control and return tasks, as well as in the fight against cross-border crime. Starting with 5 000 operational staff in 2021, the standing corps will be fully operational by 2027 with 10 000 staff.