News highlights: Eritrean refugee released from Italian jail, Sudan massacre in videos, Eritrea Special Rapporteur mandate extended

In this week’s news highlights: Eritrean man released after wrongful accusation of human trafficking; Italian foreign minister asks for solidarity in a migration solution; German Minister Heiko Maas calls for a global ‘coalition of willing’ to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean Sea; NGOs call on EU Foreign Affairs Council to take ‘immediate action’; Report on Egypt cooperation with the EU ; Refugees living in dire conditions in Libya; UNHCR and IOM urge the international community to enhance protection f; Videos and pictures of Sudanese Paramilitary group opening fire against civilians; Eritrean Catholic Secretariat clarifies false information Health Centre seizures; and UN extend mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.


Italy:  The Italian justice system releases an Eritrean man wrongly accused of human trafficking
On Friday, 12 July, the Italian justice system in Palermo released an Eritrean refugee accused of running a large network of human traffickers. The Italian authorities had mistaken him for Medhanie Yehdego Mered (nicknamed ‘the General’), one of the most wanted human traffickers, reports the Guardian. However, since his arrest in 2016, the accused had stated that he was not the wanted trafficker. The process lasted three years, during which evidence was gathered supporting the refugee’s innocence. During the verdict, the Eritrean family and community expressed their joy and accused his gratitude, in particular to his interpreter, states France 24.

Italy: EU should rethink its migratory policy, says Italian Foreign Minister
According to the website European views, the Italian Foreign Minister has called for recent  problems around solidarity in Europe in relation to migration to be resolved. “We need a structured, stable mechanism,” Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi told newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview, states Bloomberg. The Minister added that “migrants are seeking to go to Europe, not to Italy, Malta or Greece. Therefore we must find a solution within a European framework.”

Germany: German Foreign Minister urges for a European ”coalition of willing”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the country and other member states should create a “coalition of willing” to rescue people in the Mediterranean Sea, reports German newspaper Deutsche Welle. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, an impetus from Germany must be given. Heiko Maas stated that Europe needs “an alliance of those who are willing to help for a mandatory distribution mechanism”.  The Deutsche Welle added that European policy on Libya, which consists in blocking the crossings of the Mediterranean Sea, must be reviewed; Europe must push for the closure of the centres and support the reconstruction of the country, writes the newspaper.

Europe: NGOs ask the EU Foreign Affairs Council to “take immediate action”
On 15 July, EU’s foreign ministers gathered in Brussels for the Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the situation in Iran, Iraq, Central African Republic and migration, with a focus on the Mediterranean Sea and Libya. According to NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) this meeting “should issue a clear call to Libyan authorities to close their migrant detention centers […] and take immediate action to help evacuate those most vulnerable and at risk”. Under the report of the Foreign Affairs Council, ministers touched upon the external aspects of migration, in particular the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Progress on the issue of disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea needs to be made, reports the EU council.

North Africa

Egypt: EuroMed Rights warns the EU about its cooperation with Egypt
EuroMed Rights published it’s a report entitled “EU-Egypt migration cooperation: at the expense of human rights,” which describes the cooperation between Europe and Egypt concerning migration and border management. The study highlights the impact of this cooperation on the rights of refugees and migrants in Egypt and offers concrete recommendations for action. Although there is evidence of Egypt committing human rights abuses, the country wishes to strengthen its image as a regional leader; as well as gain European support for its counter-terrorism policy and obtain funds for its domestic projects, according to the report. Wadih Al-Asmar, President of EuroMed Rights urges the EU to consider NGOs’ work “inside and outside Egypt, on migration cooperation, assess the human rights impact of EU-Egypt agreements and funding, report to the European Parliament on cooperation between Frontex and the Egyptian authorities, and reject any proposals for a readmission agreement with Egypt.”

Libya: NGOs denounce ‘catastrophic conditions’ refugees face in Libya
According to NGOs,refugees face ‘catastrophic’ conditions when sent back to Libya under the European ‘push-back’  policy. Aid groups like Amnesty International warns of high risk of exploitation, violence and torture migrants face in Libya. Aid organizations say the agreement reached between European Union states and Libya’s coast guard to prevent people reaching Europe by boat (under operation Sophia) has contributed to the dire situation of refugees in Libyan detention centres. 50,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers are in Libya, along with some 800,000 migrants, say the UNHCR and the IOM

Libya: IOM and UNHCR call for greater protection of refugees in Libya in a joint statement
On 11 July, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) urged the international community to enhance protection for migrants and refugees and adopt a different approach in addressing human rights abuse in Libya. The release of 5,600 refugees and migrants from detention centres should be a priority for the relevant authorities according to the statement. “Countries must step forward with more evacuation and resettlement places,” the UN organisations state. The IOM and UNHCR further emphasize that refugees must not be detained after being rescued in Mediterranean Sea and disembarked in Libya.

 Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Paramilitary group opens gunfire on civilians
On Sunday, 14 June, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) opened gunfire on protesters in El-Souk, Sudan, killing one man and injuring several others. According to medics and witnesses, people gathered in front of the National Intelligence and Security Service to protest against the practices of the RSF and demanding their discharge in the town. This act of violence has raised a new wave of protest in Khartoum on Monday, 15 June. Participants condemned the attack of the RSF and called for an end to the killings of civilian people by paramilitary groups.

Sudan: Video evidence shows the massacre in Sudan conducted by police and paramilitary groups
On 12 July, BBC Africa Eye released a video gathering documentation of  the massacre that occurred in Sudan on 3 June 2019. Several videos were shot by eye-witnesses on the streets of Khartoum, revealing violence against civilians participating in a peaceful sit-in. Video analysis shows that the attack was initiated by Sudanese Police forces and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group operating under the Sudan’s governing military council. Protesters, including women and doctors treating wounded people, were shot at and beaten by police and RSF. BBC also disclose the testimony of two RSF soldiers who confirmed that orders to start the attacks on 3 June came from the top leadership, commander General Hemeti.

Eritrea: Statement by Eritrean Catholic Secretariat clarifies false information in media
Eritrean Catholic Secretariat (ECS) published a statement as a response to the nationalization of twenty-one Catholic Church Health Centres in Eritrea in June 2019. In the statement, ECS provided clarification to misleading information which was presented in media in the past weeks. The ECS opposed the statement by Mr. Tajadin Abedel Aziz, Official of the Ministry of Health in Eritrea, who said that the nationalization was a mere “matter of administrative actions of delivery”. According to witnesses, the clinics’ staff has been intimidated by Eritrean officials in several cases. The whole process of nationalization was a unilateral decision, and done without following proper and transparent procedures.

Eritrea: The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea is extended

On 12 July, the United Nations Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the special rapporteur on Eritrea for one more year, reports Africa News. Out of the 47 countries 21 voted in favour of the new mandate and 26 voted against or abstained vote. None of the 12 participating African countries voted in favour of the mandate extension. According to the UK, the extension of the mandate can help to enhance “real improvements for the human rights of the people of Eritrea, so that Eritreans no longer leave their country to escape indefinite national service, arbitrary arrest or detention.”

Human Rights Watch offers a full-time position as a Researcher on human rights in the Horn of Africa
The Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) is seeking applicants for the full-time position of Researcher on human rights in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia). Research, monitoring and documenting human rights abuses are the main missions. The application deadline is July 31, 2019.