News Highlights: EU election results, Refugee evacuations needed amid threats of violence in Libya, Italy accused of ignoring boat in distress

In this week’s news highlights: Haftar promises that there will be no peace until government lays down arms; UNHCR calls for humanitarian corridors for evacuation; WHO reports on Libya deaths; HRW accuses Egypt of war crimes; Italian navy accused of ignoring boat in distress; Libya NGOs call upon EU to review its migration policy; Impact of EU elections on migration policy; Clashes on Greek island over overcrowded camps; 48-hour strike in Sudan; Eritreans demand freedom on independence day; EU increases IOM’s funding by 18 million for activity in the Horn.

North Africa

Libya: Khalifa Haftar states that fighting will continue, as hope for elections vanishes
Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar stated in an interview that the struggle between the LNA (Libyan National Army) and the GNA (Government of National Accord) will continue, unless government troops “lay down their arms”, reports Aljazeera. The article states that French President Emmanual Macron asked Haftar in a meeting held in Paris last week to “take a public step towards a ceasefire” without much luck. With this, political consensus in Libya is not getting any closer. The capital of Tripoli, besieged since early April, could again become the scene of violent fighting threatening civilians and refugees. AfricaNews states that the hope of having elections in the coming months has vanished. The UN Refugee Agency reported that it had evacuated 149 refugees from Tripoli directly to Rome, but that much more humanitarian evacuations were needed.

Libya: UNHCR evacuates 149 refugees, calls for more humanitarian evacuations
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that it has evacuated 149 refugees from Tripoli directly to Rome, but that much more humanitarian evacuations were needed. The UNHCR states that while it is grateful to the EU member states providing spots for relocations, it says people are arriving faster than they are leaving. Therefore, the “UNHCR reiterates its call to States to urgently come forward with further offers of humanitarian corridors and evacuations in order to bring detained refugees in Libya to safety.”

Libya: WHO reports on deaths in fighting
The World Health Organisation reports on the deaths and injuries in Libya’s clashes that started in April. Of the 562 deaths that have been recorded, 40 have been reported as civilians. of the 2.885 injured, 160 are civilians. Two health workers are among the dead. Around 80.000 people have been displaced. The WHO does not specify the record on injured and killed migrants and refugees.

Egypt: HRW accuses Egypt of war crimes in North Sinai
Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote a report accusing Egyptian security forces of committing widespread abuses, including against civilians, in the North region of the Sinai, of which some could amount to war crimes. The NGO urged the international community to halt military and security assistance to Egyptian authorities. According to HRW, the Egyptian military presence in Sinai has not been this large seen since the country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which strictly limited armed forces in the Sinai Peninsula. HRW reports that Egyptian authorities have arrested more than 12,000 people, while at least 3,076 armed fighters and 1,226 military and police personnel were killed in North Sinai from 2014-2018. HRW also followed up with a report that Egyptian state media had started a smear campaign following the initial report and that HRW staff were threathened.


European Parliament: What the EP election means for EU asylum and migration policies
The results of the European Parliament elections are in – traditional coalitions have lost ground, whereas the Green party and the far right have gained. However, the far right did not win by as much as some feared. InfoMigrants analyzes the advance of anti-migrant nationalist parties in Italy, France, Sweden, Hungary, Belgium, Poland, and Slovenia, questioning how this will affect European and national policies. The article looks at the influence that the bloc might wield in the Parliament. The parties do not see eye to eye on all points. In addition, the article points out that the pro-European parties with a more positive view on migration have a large majority.

Italy: Italian navy accused of not helping a boat in distress in the Mediterranean
The NGOs Sea-Watch and Mediterranea accused an Italian navy ship of staying away from a boat of migrants in distress off the Libyan coast, when it was only several dozen kilometres away, writes InfoMigrants. According to the Sea-Watch article and tweet (May 23), the Italian navy – which was in the vicinity of the boat – did not intervene. As shown on the images and videos from a Sea-Watch airplane, the 80 people aboard the inflatable boat were finally intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and sent back to Libya. On Thursday 30 May, the Italian navy also rescued Libya-survivors at sea, many of which were severely underweight, and took them to Lampedusa and Malta. The NGO Alarm Phone, which received the distress call, says the rescue could have taken place a day earlier.

EU: NGOs in Libya call on the EU to rethink its migration policy
International NGOs working in Libya on urged the European Union and its Member States to “urgently review” their migration policies, stressing that migrants and refugees – including women and children – are subject to arbitrary and unlimited detention in Libya, under “abominable” conditions. Signatories to the announcement include Première Urgence Internationale, Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and Terre des Hommes. NGOs have been denouncing the agreements between the EU and Libya, in particular Europe’s support for the Libyan coastguard, which imprison migrants and refugees in detention centres before sending them back to their countries of origin. In most cases, these detainees cannot exercise their right to seek asylum or access to international protection.

Malta: Maltese Navy rescues over 200 people
A Maltese search and rescue operations picked up 216 migrants, in the Mediterranean Sea and on Saturday, bringing them to Malta. Despite the vast majority of people being returned to Libya, some ships still make it out of Libyan waters. UN Refugee Agency data shows that the arrivals from the North of Africa to Europe in 2019 are 19.982, of which 1.495 reached the Italian coast, 13.606 arrived in Greece and 10.504 in Spain.

Greece: New clashes on Samos Island between police and migrants and refugees
EuroNews reports that on Saturday 26th of May, the Greek Police clashed with residents from a refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos. The inhabitants of the camp have protested the living condition since March 2019. On the island, the migrants and refugees live in overcrowded conditions. The camp was designed to host a maximum of around 650 people, while there are 4,000 people living in and around the camp. Sanitary conditions are very poor.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Civil society holds 2-day nationwide strike against the Transitional Military Council
Protesters in Sudan pushed for a handover of power from the Sudan military council by holding a two-day general strike, which disrupted flights and closed offices. Considering the deadlock in negotiations with the generals who took power after ruling out President Omar al-Bashir on April 11, the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) called for the two-day general strike starting on Tuesday 28 May. A pregnant woman was reported as killed by a stray bullet when a dispute broke out between two groups of soldiers. In addition, the Sudanese military, meanwhile, have threatened to close a central protest camp, stating it is a threat to security. In addition, Al-Jazeera’s Khartoum office was abruptly in what it calls an attack on press freedom.

Eritrea: Eritreans demand freedom on the occasion of Independence Day
On May 24, Eritrea celebrated the country’s 30-year independence from Ethiopia. This year, the independence day was marked by the follow up to the peace agreement and rapprochement with Ethiopia. Eritreahub states that Eritreans were hoping that the resolution of the conflict would change their daily lives: Ethiopia was considered for decades as an “existential threat” to the country. Yet, the mandatory and indefinite national service, the repression against the population and the arrest of religious groups continue. Aljazeera highlighted the current conditions in the Eritrean daily life with a video stressing the lack of freedom, rule of law and democracy in the country. Eritrean Law Society (ELS) analysed potential threats to Eritrea’s independence.

Horn of Africa/EU: EU to invest 18 million euros in partnership with IOM in the Horn of Africa
The European Union plans an increase in the budget for the EU-IOM Joint Initiative which is focused on Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan in the Horn of Africa. The EU funds the partnership from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, and states that the increase in funding aims at improving assistance to migrants along the migrant routes that depart from the region. The Internationa Organisation on Migration (IOM) said the additional funding brings the EU’s total commitment of the partnership in the region to 43 million euros.