News Highlights: Refugees protest mass-rejection of evacuation in Libya, Ethiopian Prime Minister wins Nobel Peace Prize, EU migration deals continue

In this week’s news highlights: Ethiopian Prime Minister wins the Nobel Peace Prize; Sudan transitional government and Sudan rebel groups are discussing peace; BBC journalist witnesses state control in Eritrea; Eritreans and Ethiopians stuck at US-Mexico border; EU member states defer export of weapons to Turkey, as President Erdogan’s actions are condemned; European countries unlikely to resettle promised number of refugees before deadline; New report urges Switzerland to improve protection of trafficking victims; Hungary likely to appear before the Court of Justice for non-compliance on EU migration law; Refugees protest mass-UNHCR rejection; journalist reports EU pays UN to keep refugees in Libya; Morocco and EU working on migration deal; and Rescue-boats save close to 300 people

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wins the Nobel Peace Prize
On October 11, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace deal and international cooperation. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Norwegian Nobel prize committee agreed that Ahmed’s attempt for peace “deserve recognition and need encouragement”. Some critics claim that this prize might be somewhat premature. Human Rights Watch (HRW) also notes that Ethiopia’s internal situation recently faced “increasing ethnic conflicts and an ongoing breakdown in law”. The East African Monitor points out that while Ahmed’s efforts are rewarded, Eritrea’s President Afwerki has not received recognition for the peace deal; this for the pertinent reason that no improvement in the human rights record of the country has happened. In July, the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea stated that “[t]he dividends of peace are not yet benefiting ordinary Eritreans, nor are there any signs to suggest they will.”

Sudan: Peace talks commence between the Sudanese sovereign council and rebel groups
Peace talks between officials of Sudan’s new sovereign council and several leaders of the rebel groups started on October 14. The talks took place in South Sudan.  These discussions aim to put an end to years of conflict and continue to bring “forward trust-building measures, including the extension of a ceasefire already in place”. The talks come roughly half a year after the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was removed by the Sudanese military after ruling for 30 years. The generals that removed al-Bashir and the Sudanese civilian pro-democracy movement signed a power-sharing agreement this summer, in which is stated that peace with the rebels needs to be achieved within the next six months.

Eritrea: BBC journalist witnesses strong state control in Eritrea
A BBC reporter has visited Eritrea and reports on the many restrictions set in place by the Eritrean government, which confine the daily lives of Eritreans. This includes the government having control over the internet and putting restrictions on among others withdrawal of money, television channels, breweries, and quotas on beverages. The government also decides on who is granted an exit visa and gives out passports to people when the compulsory national service is completed, which continues to be an indefinite and arbitrary amount of time. The reporter says that all of these factors, and many others, are causing young people to leave Eritrea illegally.

Eritreans and Ethiopians stuck at the US-Mexican border
Rebecca Alemayehu and Tsion Gurmu set up a fund to help Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers that are stuck at the US/Mexican border in Tijuana. Being allowed to cross the border can take months and people have to spend this time waiting in overcrowded migrant shelters. Many asylum seekers in Tijuana are traumatized and in need of legal council, states the fundraiser. The mayor of Tijuana announced the situation to be a humanitarian crisis. The aim of the fund is “to create a systemic response to meet the needs of Ethiopians and Eritreans through a novel partnership with Habesha attorneys and immigrant service providers in Tijuana and the U.S.”.


EU: EU member states agree to defer export on weapons to Turkey, as President Erdogan’s actions are condemned
As a consequence of the Turkish military actions in Northern-Syria, some EU countries have agreed to defer export of weapons to Turkey. Turkish President, Erdogan has threatened to open Turkish borders and send millions of refugees to Europe. President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, says it is unacceptable “that refugees are weaponised and used to blackmail us [the EU]”, reports The Brussels Times. The situation is expected to be discussed at the EU Summit on October 17-18. Here EU state leaders must find common ground on how to deal with Turkey in terms of both denouncing Turkish actions, while at the same time keeping the EU-Turkey deal in place.

Switzerland: Swiss political party accuses Google of censorship due to hate speech violation
YouTube, operating under Google, blocked a video the right-wing party SVP produced as part of their campaign, because of “reasons of violating YouTube’s hate speech policy,” Google spokeswoman Violeta Torres told AFP. In the video, the validity of Eritrean asylum requests is questioned, and it is stated that “Eritreans living in Switzerland are a drain on national resources” and was flagged for hate speech.

EU: European countries are unlikely to resettle promised number of refugees before deadline
Deutsche Welle reports that European countries might not resettle the promised number of refugees before October 31, the deadline for ending the resettlement programme. 50.000 refugees have been promised resettlement in Europe, including people held in Libyan detention centres and people fleeing from violence. The newspaper states that only 37,520 people have been resettled in Europe through the programme. According to a UNHCR press release from September 2019, over 3,000 people need urgent evacuation from Libya alone.

Hungary: European Court of Justice may start trial for non-compliance on EU’s Return Directive
On October 10, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion to the Hungarian government, one of the last steps before the case goes to the European Court of Justice. The reasoned opinion holds that Hungary has not been providing food for migrants and refugees in transit zones, whose asylum applications have been rejected. In a press release, the European Commission explains that Hungary “does not respect obligations under Article 16 of the Return Directive and Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union”. Hungary has one month to respond to the reasoned opinion or the matter will go to court.

Switzerland: New report states Switzerland should further improve protection of trafficking victims.
The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) released a report on the protection of human trafficking victims in Switzerland. According to GRETA, Switzerland has improved this protection in the past years, but should still “ensure a formalised victim identification procedure is put in place in all cantons” SwissInfo reports. The report further points out that extra efforts need to be made to avoid trafficking of unaccompanied children and that people working in the field need to receive extra training.

North Africa

Libya: Refugees protest as UNHCR rejects their evacuation
Eritrean, Somalian and Ethiopians have gathered to protest in Libya as a mass decision was issued by the UNHCR to reject their claims for evacuation. Among the main messages, the refugees demand a system of appeal be put in place. Refugees also state that they receive little to no information about their case, while many are forced to wait in detention centres such as Zintan, where lack of food, medicine and basic hygiene contributes to the continuing deaths of refugees from tuberculosis and other preventable causes.

Libya: Independent journalist reports on EU paying the UN to keep refugees in Libya
Sara Creta, investigative journalist, reports that many people from Libyan detention centers have been rejected in their evacuation request. Creta said in a tweet that “[b]asically people are left with the option to cross the sea or to ‘go back’ to where they came from”. The UN Refugee Agency in Libya blames the EU countries for not keeping up their promises regarding resettlement, however, Creta argues “the EU is actually paying the UN to keep people in Libya”. Meanwhile, people in the Zintan detention centre report that currently 140 people suffer from tuberculosis with lack of food and medication for relief.

Morocco/EU: EU-Morocco cooperation to strengthen migration management
James Moran, Researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies, states in Euractiv that the EU and Morocco are moving towards “an ambitious partnership”. A joint declaration was signed last June and both sides aim to work together in a number of fields including migration management. Morocco has already helped the EU to control migration, “in 2018/19, some 135,000 irregular migrants were prevented from reaching Europe via maritime routes off the Moroccan coast […],” Moran states. The researcher further argues there is potential for even bigger collaboration, as the EU wants Morocco to further intensify “cooperation on control of illegals, including on return and readmission”.

Libya/Tunisia: Rescue boats save almost 300 people
Rescue vessels, including the Ocean Viking and the Italian Coastguard, have saved almost 300 people in rubber boats, who are all reported to be well. The boats carried both pregnant women and children, the majority coming from Libya. InfoMigrants reports that while some people were rescued by the Italian Coastguard, The Ocean Viking is waiting for permission to disembark the rest. Doctors without Borders hope that “Malta and Italy […] step up with a dignified disembarkation”. Meanwhile, The Independent explains that Tunisian authorities prevented 110 people from embarking to Europe through a smuggling boat.