News Highlights: NGO demands Libya war crime investigation, UN condemns Italy’s rescue fines, EU elections key for migration policy

(U.S. Navy photo/Released)

In this week’s news highlights: EU elections have started; UN and NGOs condemn Salvini’s rescue fines; France continues deporting Sudanese nationals; Activists protest EU cooperation with Eritrea; Federica Mogherini visits Horn of Africa; Frontex starts first operation outside EU territory; Testimony of a Ugandan woman on the Greek island of Samos; Amnesty states war crimes may have been committed in Libya; UN envoy warns international community to stop arms flow to Libya;  Khalifa Haftar refuses ceasefire; Christians in Eritrea arrested ahead of independence day; Concern for IDPs in Ethiopia; Eritrean President meets with Transitional Military Council in Sudan; Sudan protesters call for strike; South Sudanese Government is sued by civil society over unity delay.


European Parliament: EU elections take place
European Parliament elections have started in Europe, with some countries already having cast their vote. The elections are key for the course of Europe in the next years, including on migration policy. In addition, some fear that Euroscepticism may fragment the Union. In 2014, in the last elections, the turnout was very low across Europe with 42.6 percent. If you are an EU citizen, please take the time to cast your vote.

Italy: UN and NGOs condemn Salvini’s decree to fine humanitarian rescue vessels
Last week, the news highlights reported on Italian minister Matteo Salvini’s decree to fine humanitarian ships landing in Italy. The secretary of the league party would claim between €3500 and €5500 per person rescued at sea. According to an article of InfoMigrants,  this law has been judged as a “political attempt to criminalize search and rescue charities” by the UN Human Rights Office. According to Human Rights Watch, Salvini has “repeatedly sought to further restrict the already extremely tight Italian policies on rescues at sea and disembarkation of people rescued at sea”. Furthermore, independent experts declared that “the right to life and the principle of non-refoulement should always prevail over national legislation or other measures purportedly adopted in the name of national security”, writes the UN Regional Information Centre.

France: Deportation of Sudanese nationals back to Sudan continue in 2019
Five Sudanese nationals have been expelled from France since the beginning of 2019, while in 2018 it was twelve individuals. NGOs continue to be alarmed by these forced removals to a country where the political situation, despite the fall of Omar al-Bashir, is considered unstable. NGOs state that in reality, there were more than 12 forced removals in 2018. “There are direct expulsions and indirect expulsions” says the NGO Cimade. InfoMigrants recalls that at least one Sudanese national was tortured by the Sudanese regime in Khartoum after being expelled by France. 

International petition demands that European Union stops cooperating with Eritrea
On Wednesday May 15, during the International Day of Conscientious Objection, a group of activists gathered  in Bonn (Germany), to call attention to human rights violations in Eritrea, reports the German organisation Connection e.V.. Participants called for the termination of the EU project “reconnecting Eritrea and Ethiopia through rehabilitation of the main arterial roads in Eritrea” which will put €20 million in EU funding to building roads in Eritrea. This project will be realised using labour drawn from the indefinite national service, which has been characterised as forced labour and does not allow for conscientious objection to military service. The demonstration and petition also demanded termination of the collaboration between the Eritrean regime and the European Commission, as well as better protection for refugees and asylum seekers.

EU: Frontex launches its first operation outside EU borders
Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, launched its first-ever joint operation outside the bloc’s territory, in Albania. Frontex sent 50 officers with 16 patrol cars. According to the EU, the purposes are migration control, fighting against cross-border crime such as human trafficking and smuggling, as well as strengthening European cooperation.The EU Commission has prepared similar deals with Bosnia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. The EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said  during the launch ceremony in Tirana: “This is a real game changer and a truly historical step, bringing this region closer to the EU”

EU: High Representative Federica Mogherini visits Horn of Africa
High Representative for European Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini visited the Horn of Africa this week to discuss relations between the EU and the region, writes Africa News. During the 3-day visit, Federica mogherini met with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre in the capital and visited the European Union Training Mission Somalia Troops and EU Capacity Building Mission Somalia Personnel. The EU External Action Representative is expected to visit Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia during her visit.

Greece: Testimony of a Ugandan woman on the Greek island of Samos
A former political science professor in Uganda and a human rights activist, Sarah, fled her country and has been living in the “jungle” on Samos Island for several months. Sarah told Euronews about the terrible living conditions in the Greek camp. The refugee camp, originally built for 650 people, now accommodates 4000 migrants. Refugees describe themselves as survivors, living among plastic bags, garbage, rats and snakes, although refugee carpenters, plumbers, architects or engineers of the camp are trying to improve living conditions. 

North Africa

Libya: Amnesty International calls for international prosecution of possible war crimes in Libya
Based on the investigation of the past weeks of fighting in Libya, Amnesty International expressed concern over the indiscriminate attacks on civilian neighborhoods which occur amid Libya’s conflict. The NGO states that these acts may amount to war crimes under international criminal law. Amnesty calls for further investigation of these crimes by the prosecutor office of the International Criminal Court. Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, urged for immediate release of refugees and migrants detained in the centres close to active battlefields and appealed to the authorities for their protection and evacuation to safe areas including Europe.

Libya: UN’s special envoy calls on international community to stop flow of arms
Ghassan Salamé, the Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to Libya and a Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, expressed his concern over the situation in the country during his speech delivered to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, 21 May. He also pointed out that many countries are “providing weapons to all parties in the conflict without exception” and he called for the UN’s proactive action in order to stop the flow of arms and to prevent outbursts of violence in the civil war.  Mr. Salamé requested unification of international community as it currently lacks “a moral motivation to put an end to this war”.

Libya: Military leader Khalifa Haftar refuses ceasefire in Libya’s war
Military commander Khalifa Haftar refused to stop open hostilities and an unconditional ceasefire this week, claiming that conditions for a truce are not met, reports Al Jazeera. On Wednesday 22 may, French president Emmanuel Macron called upon Haftar to immediately stop the armed attacks. General Haftar rejected this demand, instead stating the need for a political dialogue with his opposition. Hafter is supported by many military groups that have been besieging Tripoli since 4 April 2019. One of the groups has been accused by the Libyan Government of National Accord of blocking the water flow water to Tripoli for several days, reports Reuters

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Eritrean Police has arrested more than 140 Christians in Eritrea, ahead of independence day
Ahead of independence day on 24 May, Eritrea has engaged in renewed action of repression against the Christian community. Several witnesses in Eritrea have reported to media that the Eritrean police has arrested more than 140 Christians (including 14 children) who were meeting in private in the capital Asmara. Christians who worship in unregistered churches are regarded as enemies of the state. After the arrest, officials separated the men and women, taking the women to Police Station Number 4 and the men to the main prison (Adi Abeito) for Asmara and the surrounding areas. On 24 May, Eritrea celebrates 28 years of independence. However, activists and journalists question whether the people of Eritrea have anything to celebrate.

Ethiopia: Refugee International expresses its concern on IDP policies
Organization Refugee International has published a statement expressing its concern on the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Ethiopia, and on the IDP policies followed by the government. Refugee International Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell said “I met displaced people who described horrific levels violence, including entire villages burned to the ground. The government pushing people to return to their home communities prematurely will only add to the ongoing suffering”. As reported by the Refugee International, last year the Ethiopia was one of the countries with the highest rate of IDPs, affecting mainly the southern area of ​​the country. Meanwhile, IOM reports that at least 8 migrants, mostly Ethiopian, have died in Yemen due to diarrhoea.

Eritrea: Eritrean delegation meets with Transitional Military Council (TMC) in Sudan
On Sunday, May 19, an Eritrean delegation, headed by President Isaias Afwerki, went to Khartoum, Sudan, to express its support and solidarity, Eritrean state news organisation Tesfanews wrote. The delegation was welcomed by the Transitional Military Council and met with representatives of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC) specifies Africa News. According to the Tesfanews information website, Sudan’s military leaders and the Eritrean President discussed the diplomatic relations and cooperation between the countries of the Horn of Africa, and the tripartite agreements between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan

Sudan: Talks are stalled
No breakthrough has emerged in the negotations between military and civilians in Sudan. Protest groups have called for a general strike. They demand that a three-year transition to democracy is headed by civilians, rather than the military leaders. Meanwhile, civil society groups have sent a letter to the African Union asking for urgent action to be taking with regard to violence used by the military in dispersing protesters.

South Sudan: Government is sued by civil society over government unity delay
More than 300 civil society groups are suing South Sudanese leaders for delaying the formation of a unity government. The government and rebel leaders had agreed to postpone the establishment of a transitional government for six months, a delay that civil society groups described as “illegal”. According to East Africa Monitor, Akuoch Ajang Nyanhom, the president of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leaders had no mandate to delay the formation of a unity government. However, South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth insists on the fact that the government is entitled to take all the measures it deems necessary to improve the country’s chances of establishing a lasting peace.