News highlights: Sudan and Libya join UN Human Rights Council, Floods affect South Sudan refugees, EU Summit outcomes on migration

In this week’s news highlights: Floods in South Sudan; UNSC pushes for peace deal in South Sudan; Ethiopia drafts new law to combat human trafficking including proposal of death penalty; First IOM international charter flight to resettle refugees from Ethiopia to Germany; Eritrean opposition group changes its name; Additional EU funds for humantarian assitance in Libya; Migrants left without food and water in Hungary; Unrest at reception center in Malta; UNDP report on motivations for migration to Europe; European Council supports  Eastern Meditterean countries on migration management; Libya and Sudan new members of the UN Human Rights Council; Worsening conditions in Libya; and African refugee women face increased sexual violence in Egypt.

Greater Horn of Africa 

South Sudan: Flooding affects 200.000 people
The UN Refugee Agency reports that Maban County in South Sudan, which houses over 150.000 refugees, was hit by heavy flooding. This disaster roughly impacts 200.000 people. The flooding resulted from a high amount of rainfall, which was more than double the average in the last month. Humanitarian assistance is at the location, but due to the flooding of roads the refugee camps are difficult to access. Many people are in urgent need of assistance for housing, water and food.

South Sudan: UN Security Council urges for the enactment of 2018 peace deal
Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) push for the peace deal in South Sudan to be carried out. In an official press release, the UNSC says that “[m]embers held lengthy meetings with President Kiir, Mr. Machar and other signatories to the peace agreement, urging them to expedite its implementation and meet the November 12 deadline for forming a unified transitional government.” However, leader of the opposition party, Riek Machar, states that his party does not support the opinions of the current government on security forces, which he argues might endanger the peace deal and current ceasefire.

Ethiopia: Possible death penalty for human traffickers
The Office of the Attorney General of Ethiopia drafted a new law that includes more severe punishments for human traffickers. No other English source has reported on this yet, but Ezega informs that these punishments range from “imprisonment to death penalty”. The Attorney General’s spokesperson finds the current law insufficient, and states to Ezega that the issue of human trafficking “is serious and worrying, and the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens”. The Ethiopian House of People’s Representative has to approve the draft bill before the new punishments will be enforced.

Ethiopia: IOM resettles over 150 refugees in Germany via plane
For the first time, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been able to carry out an “international charter flight” transporting over 150 Somali refugees from Ethiopia, reports IOM in a press release. Refugees were transferred by plane to Germany, who accepts the refugees as part of its new national resettlement programme. More refugees currently residing in Ethiopia are expected to be transferred to Germany in November for the second international charter flight as part of the same resettlement programme in Germany.

Eritrea: Eritrean religious opposition party changes its name to include all Eritreans
At a congress on October 19, the Eritrean religious opposition party, previously named Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice and Development, changed its name to Eritrean Nation’s Democratic Party to be more inclusive for all Eritrean people. During the congress, the party stated that they will proceed with supporting other opposition groups of the Eritrean regime as well as work on peace in the Horn of Africa region. Since the 1970s, the organisation has been trying to obstruct the rulings in Eritrea, working from Sudan, where the organisation is situated.


EU/Libya: European Commission funds an additional €2 million for humanitarian assistance in Libya
The European Commission has announced the funding of an additional €2 million to be used on humanitarian assistance in Libya. The funding must include “health care services, food, livelihood support and protection services” as well as education for children, reports the European Commission in a press release. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, says that it is important to support humanitarian partners who help to address the situation in Libya. However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated in September 2019 that they have “unmet needs of $44.4 million” for humanitarian assistance in Libya, suggesting that further funding is needed.

Hungary/Bosnia: Migrants without water and food used as new tactic
InfoMigrants reports that in Hungary asylum seekers are obliged to stay in transit zones without access to food, in order to apply for asylum. According to InfoMigrants; “[t]he objective behind this practice appears to be the intention to force asylum seekers to leave these transit zones voluntarily out of sheer hunger”. Meanwhile in Bosnia, similar tactics are used for different reasons. Local authorities stopped the water supply of the Vucjak migrant camp to “pressure the government into reducing the population of the overcrowded site”, AP reports. However, aid workers argue this action will only make the refugees in the camp suffer even more.

Europe/Africa: ‘Choice-lessness’ critical factor in migration towards Europe
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) interviewed 1970 “irregular migrants” from 39 different African countries. 71% of the respondents originate from West Africa, the other 29% from East, North, South and Central Africa.  UNDP published a report on their motivation to come to Europe along irregular routes. “Barriers to opportunity, or ‘choice-lessness’, emerge from this study as critical factors informing the calculation of these young people,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. The study also found that 93 percent would make the dangerous journey to Europe again, in spite of the risks.

EU: European Council wants to assist Eastern Meditterean countries on migration
During the EU Summit on October 17 and 18, The European Council, including state leaders of the EU Member States, agreed to “supporting those Member States that are facing the most serious challenges in terms of migratory flows in the Eastern Mediterranean”. Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, welcomes this recognition and calls for more support and solidarity from the EU.

North Africa

Libya/Sudan: Libya and Sudan among new members of the UN Human Rights Council
Mauritania, Namibia, Libya and Sudan are the four African countries that replace Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia in the UN Human Rights Council. The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and the Human Rights Foundation argue in a joint report that, among others, Sudan and Libya are “unqualified” for a seat in the Council. The report highlights Sudan and Libya’s human rights violations, which both include, but are not limited to: “[u]nlawful and arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances and torture”.

Libya: Conditions for refugees in Libya are getting worse
On October 17, over a hundred refugees were moved from the recently closed detention centre, Karareem, to other centres in Libya. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports that relocating these persons to other detention centres “only exposes people to further inhumane and dangerous conditions”.  Sacha Petiot, MSF head of mission in Libya, further states that closing the detention centre can only be considered an improvement if people are set free. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that “African refugees in Libya are so desperate that some are bribing their way into detention centers in the hope of eventually being resettled out of the war-torn, lawless country”, which suggests that people outside the centres are also desperate to leave the country.

Egypt:  Growing numbers of sexual assault among African refugee women in Egypt
Sexual violence is a growing problem for African refugee women in Egypt, Reuters reports. Many refugees are stuck in Egypt because of the intensified security measures on the routes to reach Europe. The conditions in Egypt are harsh for refugees, jobs are scarce and housing expensive; especially refugee women are affected by this. “The situation of them not having protection of a house, made them more vulnerable to the situation [sexual violence]”, Laurent De Boeck, head of the International Organization for Migration in Egypt, told Reuters.