News Highlights: Eritrea takes over Christian and Muslim secondary schools, Sudan forms Cabinet, Controversial Greek emergency plan announced


In this week’s news highlights: Eritrea shuts down schools run by religious institutions; Criticism on Eritrea peace deal excluding the people; Dutch vessel docked in Eritrean port Assab involved in Yemen war; Sudan forms new Cabinet; Podcasts to fight domestic violence in refugee camps; Rescue ships make port in Italy in spite of the ban; Greek government announces controversial emergency plan for migrants and refugees; Eritrean government celebrates 25 years of national service training in Norway; Trauma of refugees in Europe illustrated; Former Prime Minister of Australia praises anti-migration policies in Hungary; Rwanda offers space for 500 evacuees from Libyan detention centres; and UN Tweet about refugees exposes private details of a minor.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Eritrean regime takes over the control of seven secondary schools
On Tuesday, 2 September, the Eritrean government authorities ordered the handover of schools run by Christian and Muslim religious organizations as part of an increasing crackdown on religious institutions in Eritrea. According to the BBC, the security agents have already entered the premises of seven schools, requiring the handover of the administration. The Eritrean government reportedly based its decision on the old law regulation from 1995 which limits activities of religious institutions. The seizure of secondary schools comes weeks after Catholic health clinics in Eritrea were seized.

Eritrea: Three-part interview states the peace deal with Ethiopia leaves out interest of the citizens
Last month, Asmarino published three interviews with political expert Yosief Ghebrehiwet in which he states that the Eritrean regime is aiming to create a peace deal that entirely bypasses its population and that only serves its own interests. According to Gebrehiwet, the Eritrean regime signed the Peace Agreement because it needs Ethiopia’s help on three fronts. To keep the country closed and in total control of its population, to normalize the internal situation in the eyes of the world and to provide an economic lifeline from outside. Several of these intentions of president Isaias have been met, adds Gebrehiwot, as the UN has lifted the sanctions it had imposed in Eritrea and Israel wants to start sending back Eritrean refugees.

Eritrea: Dutch naval vessels appear in the port of Assab
Various reporters revealed that Dutch ships that have been delivered to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2017, have been used in the Eritrean harbour of Assab. Assab provides a military base for the UAE for the naval blockade that causes a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. The Dutch Ministry of foreign affairs finds the issuing of these ships problematic. A spokesperson of the Ministry stated for the Pointer that: “Partly due to the involvement of the UAE navy in the blockade in Yemen, the arms export policy to that country has been tightened. A similar application for a permit would not have passed the stricter review”. Frank Slijper, arms trade expert at PAX, argues in Pointer that it was clear from the beginning that the UAE would deploy these ships and that they should have never been issued.

Sudan: New Cabinet revealed
After a delay in formation, the first new Sudanese Cabinet since the fall of Omar al-Bashir was announced in Sudan by new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The new Cabinet includes 18 ministers, with a further two still to be announced. For the first time in Sudan, a woman will take the post of Foreign Minister. Asma Mohamed Abdallah is one of four women assigned in the Cabinet.

Ethiopia: Podcasts is developed to combat domestic violence in refugee camps
The radio network Voice of America reports that a team of researchers and humanitarian professionals developed a podcast series to combat domestic violence in the refugee camps of Dollo Ado in Ethiopia. The aim of the podcast, named Unite for a Better Life, is to help reduce the underlying factors that contribute to domestic violence in the refugee camps. The creators of the podcasts believe that the podcast series could reach many people, as this tool can be downloaded and shared among peers in a humanitarian context.


Italy: Migrant ships confronts Italian ban on migrant rescue-ships, while Italy forms new government
Two rescue ships made port in Italy this week in spite of the outgoing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s ban on rescue ships. The captains made the decision due to illness on the ship Mare Jonio, and a state of emergency on the German NGO vessel, Eleonore. Mare Jonio was fined €300.000 by Italian authorities for making port in Italy. Meanwhile, the Alan Kurdi ship with 13 rescued people on board was banned by Salvini from docking at the Italian coast. NGOs are hopeful that this week’s fall of the Italian government may change the situation. The Guardian explains that “Campaigners and aid groups hope that, with the new government and above all the new minister of the interior [Luciana Lamorgese], Italian policy on the migration crisis can finally change”.

Greece: Greek government sets out emergency plan over increase in arrivals
Greek civil protection minister, Michalis Chrysochoidis, wants to set out an emergency plan due to the perceived increase in refugees and migrants. Chrysochoidis stated in The Guardian: “We are going to take measures to protect our borders and we are going to be much stricter, much faster in applying them.” Furthermore, he stated that “[w]e will start sending illegal migrants back to Turkey which, after all, is considered a safe country”. NGOs describe the camps on the Greek islands as stretched to breaking point with refugees forced to live in squalid conditions. According to the EU Observer, a spokesperson from the European Commission criticised the Greek administration for not being able to process the relocation to the Greek mainland at a quicker pace, despite the € 2 billion in financial support from the European Union. The island Lesbos, for example, can only hold 3,000 people, instead of the 9,000 people it currently houses. With the new government vowing to abolish appeals to asylum rejections, there are fears of human rights violations as the emergency measures aiming to bring down migrant arrival numbers are enforced.

Norway: Several Norwegian Eritreans accused of collusion with Eritrean government officials
On Saturday, 3 August, a number of Norwegian-Eritrean refugees attended a party organized by the Eritrean regime to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the compulsory national service and the establishment of the Sawa training camp. The popularity of the event caused confusion, as Eritrea’s mandatory national service is one of the most often cited reasons for Eritreans to flee their country. Kjetil Tronvoll, seen as one of Europe’s foremost experts on Eritrea, responded to Sputnik news: “Yes, it’s paradoxical. Some come along because they want a community. Some join because they feel social pressure to line up. And some people celebrate the regime, because they are regime supporters, even though they have been granted asylum on the grounds of fleeing the regime”.

Europe: Impact of trauma on refugees in Europe
As illustrated by The Guardian, refugees who have fled to Europe face continued challenges in their new surroundings. Many of the refugees that The Guardian has spoken to suffer from both physical and mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. The stories each reveal different difficulties in their lives after fleeing their home countries, watching relatives being killed before their eyes, living or working on the street, and living in separation from their families. Some cope with suicidal thoughts and have attempted suicide. The slow pace of processing of their asylum claims furthermore leaves many in a state of insecurity.

Hungary: Australia’s former PM Tony Abbott promotes anti-migration policies in Hungary
At a summit held in Hungary, former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, praised the migration rules in Hungary, which are similar to the ones in Australia. Abbott stated to the audience of the summit that “[t]he problem with the people who have been swarming across the borders in Europe in very recent times is that you don’t get any impression that they come to join. You get the impression they come to change”, a statement which later caused an angry response from a critic.

Opinion: Climate Change influences migration
Former captain of the rescue ship Sea Watch 3, Carola Rackete, expresses fear that climate change will increase migration and insecurity. Rackete states that she is “scared of… the damage that we are doing to our planet, and the hostility that may be unleashed against those fleeing drought, famine, fires, and storms.” She therefore further highlights the correlation between climate change and migration, as climate change aggravates the already existing reasons for displacement. As put forward by a report by the United Nations the so-called “climate apartheid” suggests that people who have hardly contributed to climate change are often those most impacted by it.

North of Africa

Libya: Rwanda announces plans to take in evacuees from Libyan detention centres
The African Exponent informs of the plans of the Rwandan government to take in migrants and refugees who are currently being held in Libyan detention centres. Director-General for Africa in Rwanda, Diyana Gitera, explains that the country wants to receive 500 migrants from Libya with the financial help from both the EU and the UN. The Irish Times further reports that European migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and the UN aim to move 2,600 refugees from Libya this year. In an article to Politico, Avramopoulos stated: “We must make resettlement a priority if we want to support partner countries that have taken in refugees.” However, the Irish Times report on ongoing abuses in detention centres reveals the high priority of providing relief in Libya, with many fearing that current efforts may not suffice.

Tweet of the UN Under Secretary- General exposes private details of a refugee
Melissa Fleming, the UN’s Under Secretary-General for global communications, Tweeted an image of a child refugee that displayed personal details. Benjamin Thomas White, a historian specialising in refugees, has made an official complaint. He states for The Guardian that:” She disclosed a child refugee’s personal details to her 76,000 followers. The team she heads then made things much worse by retweeting them to the 2.3 million followers of the main UNHCR Twitter feed. Neither Fleming nor her team showed any consideration for the privacy and safety of this girl and her family.” Fleming acknowledged her mistake, deleted the tweet and seek apology with the child’s family. The Tweet was made on occasion of the release of a new UN report on the lack of education for child refugees.