News highlights: Libyan decree to affect NGOs, Protests in Ethiopia, EU Parliament rejects motion on search and rescue

In this week’s News Highlights: Protests lead to killings of civilians in Ethiopia; Returnees to Ethiopia face difficult conditions; Follow the journey of Eritrean refugees; Human rights in Eritrea the topic of seminar in European Parliament; Right-wing groups in the European Parliament vote against improving rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea; Rescue ship waits 11 days at sea; Eritreans in the Netherlands protest against the presence of the Eritrean regime; Photographer reports on the inequality of the new lives of refugees in Europe; New decree to neutralize rescue NGOs in Libya’s waters; Arrest warrant for Libyan human trafficker; Libyan coast guard threatens rescue vessels with shots; Migrants and refugees evacuated from Libya to Rwanda still looking for safety; and new report on the Global Compact for Migration.

Greater horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Protests end in crisis and killings of civilians
On October 22, protests in Ethiopia broke out in support of activist Jawar Mohammed after an alleged attack on him by security forces. A local police officer tells Africa News that the protests ended in “an ethnic and religious conflict”, and later turned into riots, which resulted in the death of 67 people according to official reports, 52 of them reportedly Orthodox. Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed has condemned the attacks but is criticised by religious groups in Ethiopia for not protecting the people. Jawar Mohammed is supported by many for his focus on “ethnic agendas ahead of Ethiopian unity”, says Africa News.

Ethiopia: Ethiopian migrants are returning at quick pace
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) states that around 1,000 migrants per month are currently forced to return back to Ethiopia despite the fact that many people will “find themselves in the same dire economic situation which prompted them to leave”. Being returned puts people in difficult situations, as many have used their money on the journey, says IOM and further calls for stronger re-integration procedures of the returnees.

Eritrea: An interactive story follows the journey of an Eritrean refugee
The Middle East Monitor has created an interactive story to demonstrate the struggles Eritrean refugees endure on the routes they take to flee as well as the life choices they are forced to make. The newspaper explains this interactive storytelling to be an “opportunity to walk in the footsteps of an Eritrean refugee”. Many Eritreans try to escape the harsh conditions set in the country, including the indefinite and forced national service. On their way, they face torture, trafficking, and other life-risking situations.

Eritrea/Brussel: Seminar on human rights in Eritrea
On November 5 from 17.00-19.00, Member of the European Parliament David Lega (European People’s Party) in collaboration with Free Dawit, a Swedish NGO, will host a seminar on human rights in Eritrea. The seminar will include the story of journalist Dawit Isaak, who has since 2001 been held in captivity in an Eritrean prison and is yet to be taken before a court. His whereabouts are currently unknown. Other speakers at the event are spokespersons from Reporters Without Borders, PEN Eritrea, UN rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, as well as politicians from the European Parliament.


EP: Right-wing groups vote against improving rescue actions in the Mediterranean Sea
The European Parliament voted against a motion to intensify Member States’ efforts to rescue migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, The Independent reports. The majority of the center- and far-right groups voted against the proposal. The rapporteur of the motion and Spanish Member of the European Parliament, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, told The Independent that “[t]oday made it clear that political groups on the right are willing to abandon their legal and moral obligations. […] It is extremely disappointing that even MEPs on the centre-right do not share any sense of solidarity.”

Europe: Rescue ship waiting to dock despite new relocation system
Several newspapers report that the Ocean Viking rescue boat, after having saved 104 migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, waited for eleven days to get permission from Italy to dock. This comes despite the new relocation system that several EU member states have put in place to prevent ships from being stranded at sea. Jay Berger, Médicins Sans Frontières project coordinator of the Ocean Viking, responded to Al Jazeera that “[t]his, again, shows lack of care, lack of dignity that Europe puts on the people that are in need of rescue and care’’.

Netherlands: Eritreans protest against the long arm of the Eritrean regime
De Stentor reports that around 60 Eritreans gathered in Kampen, The Netherlands, to protest against the presence of the Eritrean regime in the Netherlands. The demonstrators state that “without that regime we would not be refugees in the Netherlands”, a protester tells Kampen Online. A trigger for the demonstration to take place was a visit of the Eritrean ambassador of Belgium, Mr. Negassi Kassa, to the Eritrean community in Kampen that same day. According to the protesters, the ambassador came “to organize a political gathering in order to find out who supports and who is against the [Eritrean] regime”, Kampen Online reports.

EU: Photographer follows refugees saved at sea and reports on their current state
Photographer Nicoló Lanfranchi joined Médecins Sans Frontières on one of its rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea with the aim of telling the stories of refugees after they have reached Europe. He followed different integration experiences of refugees who have been relocated in various EU countries. The rescued refugees who were taken to France reported relatively good conditions, including “work training, support from social workers in looking for jobs, [and] French lessons”, reports Lanfranchi in The Guardian. However, people sent to Luxembourg were kept in detention centres and being surveilled. According to Lanfranchi, this indicates that “[t]here is no justice” for people in an unfair system.

EU/AU: Change through education is discussed in Africa-Europe education conference
”Good Morning class!” With these words Narciso Matos, Vice-Chancellor at the Polytechnical University of Mozambique, started his opening statement at the Africa-Europe High Level Conference on Higher Education Collaboration on October 25. He made clear that in order to fulfill the sustainable development goals and alleviate poverty, we need to invest in human capital – in education. EU-AU collaboration is identified as a way to make use of opportunities to strengthen education and alleviate drivers of forced movement.

North of Africa

Libya: New law to give Libyan coast guard more control over rescue operations in the Mediterranean
Integration Arci
reports that the Presidential Council of the Libyan government of national accord issued a decree on rescue operations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Libyan area. The decree was translated by Arci and Repubblica. In its 17 Articles, the decree binds NGOs to adhere to the instruction of the Libyan coast guard, and provide regular detailed reports to the Libyan coordination center for sea rescue. If they do not respect the instructions, their permission to operate in the area will be withdrawn. The decree also holds that rescued people will no longer be escorted back to Libya. Filippo Miraglia, Arci’s head of immigration, argues that the decree is illegitimate as Libya is still engaged in civil war, and thus the decision of the internationally recognized government can not be seen as legally binding.

Libya: Arrest warrant issued for infamous Libyan human trafficker
The Libyan government ordered the arrest of Libyan human trafficker, Abd al-Rahman Milad (also known as Bija), The Guardian reports. The Libyan Address notes that in a UN security report in 2017 Bija is described as “a bloodthirsty human trafficker responsible for shootings at sea and suspected of drowning dozens of people”. The alleged human trafficker was present at Italy’s migration talks in 2017, after which he was sanctioned by the UN in 2018. However, Bija claims in an interview with l’Espresso that despite these sanctions, the Coast Guard of Tripoli reassigned him as ahead of the Zawiya coast guards on October 15 2019.

Libya: Libyan coast guards point guns at rescue vessel
Deutsche Welle
reports that the Libyan coast guard obstructed a rescue operation of one of the Sea-Watch rescue boats. The Sea-Watch crew was saving 90 migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea in a small boat, when the Libyan coast guards circled the rescue ship, pointed their guns at the crew and rescued people and fired “warning shots” in the air. “We are in shock, we have never been threatened in this way,” Sea-Eye spokesman Gorden Isler told AFP, Deutsche Welle reports. Isler further blames the EU member states for allowing this “brutal behavior”.

Libya/Rwanda: People evacuated from Libya looking for a better life outside Rwanda
interviewed migrants and refugees who had been relocated from the Libyan detention centers to the refugee camp in Rwanda and highlights some people keep looking for safety and “a better life somewhere else”. One of the interviewees, Abdullah Rodwa fled from Sudan and was detained in Libya. He said to Reuters: “I hear people say that we might get a chance to live in Africa but, you know, Africa today is good but tomorrow it can easily be bad. That’s why we need a better life somewhere else.”

Mixed Migration Centre publishes new report on the Global Compact for Migration
The recently published report on the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) by the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) looks on “the implementation and follow-up on specific commitments and objectives of the GCM since its adoption”, including a scrutiny on mixed migration. The report finds that several countries have started to alter existing policies in accordance with recommendations from GCM, but the MMC also discovers that “[d]ue to… political sensitivity, stakeholders are careful to advocate strongly around the GCM”. MMC therefore hopes that civil society organisations will be more involved in the implementation.