News Highlights: EU migration project in Sudan suspended, Eritrean Patriarch removed, Refugees arrested in Egypt

In this week’s news highlights: EU migration project in Sudan suspended since mid-March; “Solidarity mechanism” approved by 14 European ministers, Italy not included; €2 million for UNHCR in Libya from Germany; Critical report on EU migration policies; Italy wants to raise fines for NGO rescue operations; Band-sponsored rescue mission announced; Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch accused of heresy is removed from Church; IMF reports “disastrous” economic situation of Eritrea; Sudan Military announces failed coup attempt; Negotiations Sudan postponed; NGOs ask ACHPR to investigate human rights violations in Libyan detention centres; Tunisia unable to bury bodies of drowned refugees and migrants.


EU: European Union has halted its project addressing migration in Sudan
Deutsche Welle reported that the European Union (EU) has halted its Better Migration Management project in Sudan that aimed to contribute to migration control. The project, led by German development agency GIZ project, which supported training for Sudanese border control forces and police has been suspended since mid-March, although no announcements of this were made at that time. The Regional Operational Center in Khartoum, an EU-funded intelligence center combating human trafficking and smuggling networks, ceased its operation in June until “until the political/security situation is cleared,” stated the EU in response to Deutsche Welle. Critics have raised concern over the project in Sudan, stating that it could strengthen actors such as the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan. Dr. Lutz Oette, a human rights expert, said that “to work with the Sudanese government would have been incompatible with the European Union’s positions on human rights, and counterproductive to the goal of tackling the root causes of migration.”

EU: Fourteen European ministers approve a “solidarity mechanism” concerning migration
On Monday 22 July, European ministers met in Paris to reach an agreement on arrivals of migrants and refugees in Europe. Fourteen states and organisations such as the International Organisation on Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have agreed on a “solidarity mechanism” to distribute migrants and refugees in Europe, reports InfoMigrants. According to VOA News, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and President Emmanuel Macron have stated that a European coalition is possible and desirable. However, this decision was taken in the absence of Italy, which refuses to take part in the France-Germany alliance, the newspaper adds.

Germany: German Foreign Ministry provides €2 million support for refugees and migrants in Libya
The UN Higher Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) has received €2 million from Germany to continue supporting migrants, refugees and displaced persons in Libya reports The Libyan Address. Oliver Owcza, the German Ambassador to Libya, stated on Twitter that the financial support of Germany follows recent emergencies and it aims to support vulnerable populations “affected by the ongoing conflict” in Libya.

EU: European Union’s migration policies are being critically analysed in the new report
NGO Saferworld has published a report which reflects on the impact of EU migration policies on migrants and refugees who are often caught in a vicious circle. The report critically looks into the externalisation of border security controls and punitive systems which, the NGO states, contribute to instability on Europe’s borders. Greater power has been granted to several countries, such as Tunisia, Libya and Niger, as well as non-state actors who are not held accountable and therefore they “often employ coercive methods including arrest, detention and forced returns to contain and control migrants”, says the report. The research concludes with several recommendations to re-focus migration policies of the EU, think beyond numbers and shift more towards “existing EU commitments to human rights, conflict prevention and sustainable development.”  

EU: Sea-Eye boat starts a new mission off the Libyan coast to rescue migrants and refugees
The boat “Alan Kurdi” of the German NGO Sea-Eye is starting a new mission to rescue migrants on the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya, said a spokesperson of the NGO. According to the German newspaper the Mitterlbayerische, the boat will spend four weeks at sea. The first week of the operation is funded by the German band Revolverheld, reports the article. The boat is currently on its way to international waters bordering Libyan waters with eight crew members and a dozen volunteers. However, Sea-Eye spokesperson Nicole Grimske warned that the boat could not “provide for many people over a longer period of time”, reports InfoMigrants.

Italy: New law amendment aims to fine NGO rescue operations up to €1 million
Italy’s League Party led by Matteo Salvini, Interior Minister, introduced a new amendment to the second security and immigration decree which aims to tighten up rules for rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea, reports InfoMigrants. Under the new amendment, captains, operators and owners of the rescue ship may face fines up to €1 million and “NGO skippers will be arrested if they fail to obey orders of police or navy ships”. 

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Eritrean Patriarch removed from Church after being accused of “heresy”
On 17 July,  Eritrean Orthodox Church Patriarch Abune Antonios was accused of having committed “heresy” by six bishops, including the general secretary of the Holy Synod Bishop Lukas. The Patriarch was deposed and put under house arrest since 2007 for his criticism of the Eritrean government, writes Independent Catholic News. According to the letter written by the bishops, “his name should never be mentioned and remembered and those who do will be punished severely.” Although he was expelled from being a member of the church, the bishops stated he could still live in a church building. BBC News specifies the Eritrean government may have full control of the Eritrean Orthodox Church following Patriarch Antonios’ removal. An interview with Patriarch Antonios dated April 2019 was posted online.

Eritrea: the International Monetary Fund publishes its conclusion about the economic situation in Eritrea
On 22 July, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its conclusions on consultation with Eritrea Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, which aims to collect information on the country’s economic developments and policies. The report indicates the Eritrea’s macroeconomic situation is “disastrous”, aggravated by deficits, external borrowing and over-indebtedness. IMF states that the Eritrean authorities have “made considerable progress” in the health and education sector. According to the report, the banking sector is weak and fragile. Concerning the economy, the IMF states that there has been a succession of negative growth rates. Agriculture and mining, key sectors of the Eritrean economy, are “extremely vulnerable to shocks”.

Sudan: Negotiations between the civilian and TMC postponed
After a long period of negotiations, the Sudanese civilians, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) signed a deal on Wednesday 17 July to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council that will rule the country by rotation for just over three years, after which elections will be held. However, negotiations between military authorities and the civilians have been postponed, writes Al-Jazeera. Members of the Sudanese alliance of opposition groups has expressed some doubts over a power-sharing deal. “We need more internal consultation to reach a united vision” said opposition leader Omar al-Digeir, reports Al-Jazeera.

Sudan: Military announces failed coup attempt, arrests follow
In addition, the Sudanese military announced a failed coup attempt on Wednesday which led to the arrest of several military officers and political leaders. Reportedly, the aim of the coup was to restore power to Omar al-Bashir. It is reported that General Bakri Hassan Saleh, former vice president and prime minister of Bashir, was arrested. Arrests continued on Thursday.

Sudan: violence against women during protest have to be sanctioned
Sudanese women have played a leading role in the demonstrations that led to the eviction of Omar al-Bashir and the citizen revolution, stated Sudanese women’s rights activists. During these months of dissent, women suffered sexual violence from military factions, violence that may now be forgotten with the signing of a power-sharing agreement, reports Reuters. According to activists, measures must be taken to address the many rapes committed during the deadly repression of the security forces in June, as well as sexual harassment on the streets. “The role played by women in the Sudanese revolution has been widely acknowledged, but no one is now addressing the sacrifices we have made,” said activist Hala Al-Karib from the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa.

North Africa

Egypt: Eritrean refugees at risk of deportation after protesting UNHCR in Egypt
Africa Monitors and Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) report on demonstrations of Eritrean refugees in Cairo, Egypt, which have led to the arrest of  around 80 protestors. It is reported that 70 of those were released, but that 10 face possible deportation without adequate legal representation. The Eritreans were protesting against alleged corruption within the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) office in Cairo. The protests were violently dispersed, state the refugees.

Libya: NGOs ask the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for an investigation in Libya
On 22 July, three NGOs published an open letter urging the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to investigate the “gross human rights violations against refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres”. The Commission has been requested to urge the Government of National Accord to end of abuses against refugees and migrants detained in Libyan centres, such as Tajoura, Zawiva and Zintan.  According to the letter, this request is the result of “close cooperation and joint commitment among African and European organizations” and aims to challenge illegal policies. The NGOs also refer to the decisions of the EU and EU states members contributing to the illegal detentions and conditions of migrants in Libya, like the “pushback” strategy adopted by Italy.

Tunisia: Corpses of drowned migrants and refugees go unburied
According to the JordanTimes, a “string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the north African country overwhelmed with bodies”, so that the bodies of refugees and migrants remain on the streets of Gabes. The Tunisian government struggles to find an adequate policy on burials of those that have drowned. Under pressure from civil society groups, Tunisian authorities systematically collect the DNA of each unidentified drowned migrant, said Gabes hospital director Hechmi Lakhrech. Media note that the sea journeys are becoming more and more dangerous, notably because humanitarian aid at sea is restricted.