News Highlights: Ride for Justice to support refugees in Libya, Sudan tensions grow, Fighting stops activity of Libyan Coast Guard

In this week’s news highlights: Border between Eritrea and Ethiopia is closed, but refugees continue to escape; Eritrea summons UNHCR over return conditions for refugees as fears over ‘voluntary’ return of Eritreans remains; Sudan protests continue, as AU extends – again – the deadline for transfer of power; EU delegation visits Khartoum; US lobbyists helped South Sudan to battle sanctions; Meeting in Ethiopia to revitalise peace agreement South Sudan; More details on militia group attack of detention center in Libya; Libyan Coast guard stops safe and rescue operations amid fighting, says NGO; Ride4Justice demands safety for refugees in Libya; Migrants in the suburbs of Dunkirk kept away from emergency accommodation; Italy takes 146 evacuees from fighting in Libya; and Germany postpones decisions on asylum for some Syrians.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia-Eritrea: Closing of the border, but no decrease in refugees
Since last December, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea has slowly been re-closing. The reason is not known as both governments remain silent.  The Eritrean Information Ministry, in a statement on its website, posted that the closure is for “legal arrangements”. Meanwhile, witnesses report that the closing of the borders has not led to a significant decrease of refugees crossing the border from Eritrea to Ethiopia.

Eritrea: Eritrean government summons UNHCR representative over guidelines stopping refoulement
According to Africa News, the Eritrean government has summoned the UN Refugee Organisation UNHCR because it wants to return Eritreans from Libya to Eritrea.  In the words of Eritrea’s information minister, 50 Eritreans have returned home voluntarily from Libya while another 18 are scheduled to arrive on Friday under IOM’s voluntary relocation scheme, states Africa News. However, there are serious concerns over the return of Eritrean refugees to Eritrea, because they have fled ongoing human rights abuses and repression by the Eritrean government. Due to the inhumane situation in Libyan detention centres, Eritreans may come under undue pressure to return ‘voluntarily’.

Sudan: Protest continues as tensions grow over continued military rule in Sudan
A large number of demonstrators took to the streets again in another “one million march”. Tensions remain high as a compromise between civilians and military leaders does not yet seem to be near. Africa news reports that the leaders of the protest intend to maintain pressure on the military while negotiations on a transfer of power to civilians are stalled. The leaders of the protest, who are calling for a civilian government, agreed on Saturday with the ruling military to create a Joint Council to replace the Transitional Military Council, but disagreements remain over its composition.

Sudan: African Union extends deadline for Sudan military, another 60 days to hand power to civilians
The African Union has given Sudan’s military rulers another 60 days to hand over power to a civilian authority or face suspension, after an earlier deadline was missed. In a statement issued on Tuesday, April 30 the AU Peace and Security Council said it “notes with deep regret, however, that the Sudanese Military has not stepped aside and has not handed over power to a civilian-led transitional Authority”. It announced “an additional period of up to 60 days for the military in The Sudan to hand over power to a civilian-led Transitional Authority.”

Sudan: EU delegation visits Sudanese lawyers
The European External Action Service Horn of Africa delegation head, Patrick Simonnet, visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum to meet with Sudanese lawyer representatives to discuss current affairs. Several European Ambassadors were present at the meeting. According to Dabanga, the delegation will also meet with humanitarian organisations, students and journalists.

South Sudan: $3.7 million payment to a US lobby firm to lift war crimes sanctions
According to a contact published by several media outlets, United States lobbyists were hired by the government of South Sudan to work on achieving the withdrawal of US sanctions and to prevent the establishment of a war crimes court. The contract shows that South Sudan agreed to pay $3.7 million to the Californian lobby firm “Gainful Solutions”. Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson, commented on the prevention of the war crimes court: “the hybrid court would try those most responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious crimes”.

South Sudan: Meeting takes place to relaunch peace agreement in Addis Ababa
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) called a meeting between the two main parties in South Sudan which took place in Addis Ababa. The meeting was organised in an effort to relaunch the peace agreement signed in September 2018 in the Ethiopian capital. The agreement provided for a transitional period ending on 12 May, after which a government of national unity was supposed to be formed.  Rebel leader Riek Machar, currently residing in Sudan (Khartoum), is expected to become vice-president again under the terms of the agreement. However, fearing for his safety, he requested a six-month postponement for the formation of the government of national unity. The “Troika” countries (United States, United Kingdom and Norway) called on the protagonists to find a compromise. 

North of Africa

Libya: More details on militia group attack of refugees and migrants in detention center in Tripoli
On 23 April, an attack on the Qasr bin Ghashir detention centre in southern Tripoli has caused killing of at least 3 people and injuring around 20 refugees, reports InDepthNews, after independent sources confirmed the report of Sally Hayden in Aljazeera. According to witnesses, the attack was deliberately aimed at the migrant center by the militia group of General Khalifa Haftar. UNHCR evacuated refugees from the detention centre to a prison in Zawiya.

Libya: Libyan coast guard has abandoned search, rescue and return operations
According to civil rescue organisation Sea Eye, the Libyan coast guard  has not been operating in its area of ​​competence since 10 April. The claim is supported by a UN official in Tripoli with access to “official information,” according to the Italian newspaper Avvenire. After the clashes started between General Haftar’s Libyan National Army and the internationally-recognized Government, all efforts, including the military navy capacity,  have been focused on this. Gorden Isler, spokesperson for Sea Eye stated: “obviously, the government of Tripoli has its own problems instead of dealing with EU border protection.”


Europe: Ride4Justice, biking from Frankfurt to Brussels in support of refugees in Libya
A group of Eritreans is biking from Frankfurt to Brussels from 1-5 May in order to draw attention to the situation of refugees trapped in inhumane conditions in Libya. The group states that the conditions are “an immediate result of the EU’s policies of containment and objective to curb migration”. The group demand evacuation, resettlement and rescue of those in Libya. On 6 May, they will hold a demonstration starting at 12pm CEST in front of the European External Action Service building on Rond-Point Schuman in Brussels.

Italy: 146 refugees arrive in Italy via humanitarian corridors – more needed, says UN
146 refugees were evacuated from Libya to Italy in an operation by the UN Refugee Agency, together with the Libyan government and the Italian government. The refugees were trapped in detention centers near the fighting in Tripoli, and arrived in Italy on Monday.  Italy is the first country to receive victims evacuated from the recent fighting in Libya, UNHCR states. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that “it’s now crucial that other States match this gesture and offer similar evacuation places for refugees caught up in the conflict. Turning a blind eye will have real and tragic consequences.” During the post-Easter prayer, Pope Francis has called for the installation of humanitarian corridors for refugees and migrants trapped in Libyan detention centers. Many more refugees remain stuck in Niger after evacuation.

France: Migrants in the suburbs of Dunkirk kept away from emergency accommodation
In Grande-Synthe, a suburb on the outskirts of Dunkirk, several migrant aid organisations denounced the presence of Iraqi-Kurdish smugglers who intimidate migrants and try to control access to accommodations offered by the municipal authority, reports InfoMigrants. On a regular basis, some 40 Pakistani and Afghan migrants continue to set up makeshift camps outside of the gym. According to InfoMigrants, they refused to join the gymnasium: “the problem is that there are smugglers” explained a volunteer from the NGO Auberge des migrants. A member of the NGO Salam added that Pakistanis do not dare going to the gym because they are not accepted.

Germany: Germany postpones decisions on asylum for some Syrians
German authorities have stopped processing some Syrian asylum applications. Refugee organizations fear for the protected status of Syrians. According to a recent report, Germany will put off ruling on asylum applications for some Syrians pending an assessment of the security situation in the war-torn country, states Deutsche Welle. Refugee organizations said they are concerned more asylum-seekers from Syria will see their applications denied because the ministry no longer views all of Syria as a war zone. The policy shift comes as the Interior Ministry pushes a tougher line on asylum-seekers and other migrants. More than a million people, mostly from Syria, have arrived in Germany since 2015, triggering a political backlash and a shift in public sentiment towards migration even as new arrival numbers decline.

Eritrea Focus organises a conference on human rights situation in Eritrea
Eritrea Focus, an association of organisations, exile and refugee groups as well as individuals concerned with the human rights abuses in Eritrea,  in partnership with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, organized a two-day conference in London which discussed the political and institutional situation in Eritrea. Habte Hagos, Chair of Eritrea Focus, responds to reactions from the Eritrean government in relation to the conference, and elaborates on the next steps.