News Highlights: Race against time in Libya, Ethiopia’s Sidama people vote for autonomy, Libya returns are refoulement, says EU Commissioner

In this week’s news highlights: The situation in Libya is “a race against time”; Children in Libya are vulnerable and lack protection; IOM wants a different approach in Libya; Overturned boat causes deaths in the Mediterranean Sea; Commissioner for Human Rights addresses human rights violations in the Mediterranean Sea; MSF urges the EU to act on conditions in refugee camps; Greece meets criticism after plans of closing camps; UNDP argues for more evidence-based migration policies; Sidama people in Ethiopia vote in favour of self-governing rights; Prime Minister of Sudan visits Eritrea; US retrieves Ambassador in South Sudan in light of the country failing to form government; and Video allegedly shows military arresting people in Eritrea.


North Africa

Libya: The situation in Libya is “a race against time”
Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, refers to the situation in Libya as “a race against time” in a press release by the UN. He argues that if the conflict intensifies, this “would lead to disastrous humanitarian consequences.” Since April this year, Libya has seen an all-out conflict between two of the rivalling groups, Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Government of National Accord (GNA). The Security Council Report argues that “[t]he conflict is fuelled by support from other governments, including military support.” Salamé stresses that this external support must end in order for the Libyan people to reclaim autonomy.

Libya: Children in Libya remain vulnerable and lack protection
EritreaHub reports on the story of Daniel, a 15 year old boy from Eritrea. Daniel fled Eritrea when he was only 13 because there is “no freedom” in Eritrea. He was never able to tell his mom that he left or where he went because she does not have a phone. The journey to Libya was traumatising, as he saw people getting beaten, tortured and raped. Daniel has a sister in Sweden, who he wanted to join. However, due to a “mistake made in the system,” he can not participate in the UNHCR resettlement scheme and is stuck in Libya.

Libya: IOM urges different approach to situation Libya
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) expressed its concerns about the safety of migrants and refugees in Libya after 9 boats, carrying more than 600 asylum seekers, had been discovered in the Mediterranean Sea within 48 hours. Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission, argues that “Libya is not a safe port; there is a need for a predictable and safe disembarkation mechanism for migrants fleeing violence and abuse.” IOM urges the European Union to undertake action and find alternative solutions to protect the people in need.


Italy: Overturned boat near Lampedusa causes deaths in the Mediterranean Sea
On November 23, a boat overturned in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa, Italy, carrying over 170 migrants. 149 people were saved, 21 people were reported dead, and 20 people are still missing. SOS Mediterranee Search and Rescue Coordinator, Nicholas Romaniuk, says that “[t]he past few days have been particularly deadly in the Central Mediterranean. There is a need of urgent coordinated intervention to prevent further loss of life.” Several news agencies say that multiple rescue vessels have conducted rescue operations in the past few days; the Ocean Viking took 213 people on board and Open Arms rescued 73 people.

EU/Libya: Commissioner for Human Rights speaks of human rights violations in letter
Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, has sent a detailed letter to the European Court of Human Rights calling out the human rights violations committed through intercepting of boats in the Mediterranean Sea. She finds that the return of people to Libya is a matter of refoulement, as human rights violations occur in Libya. In the letter, she argues that “the effective protection and promotion of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, at sea and on land, requires the full implementation of member states’ obligations, under international maritime law, human rights law and refugee law.”

UK: Eritrean man charged with assault for attack on journalist reporting on Eritrea
Amanuel Eyasu, the founder and editor of Assena TV which reports critically on Eritrea, had milk, eggs and flour thrown on him by a group of Eritrean individuals. He received kicks to the legs in the process. Amanuel was contacted by a woman claiming to have information from Eritrea, but he was instead met by the attackers. One man, allegedly Jacob Ghebremeohin, was detained – the same person attacked journalist Martin Plaut over his critical Eritrea-reporting in 2018.

Greece/Bosnia: MSF reports on conditions refugee camps and urges EU to act
President of Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) Dr. Christos Christou has requested the European Union (EU) to revise its migration policies in an official statement, calling the refugee camps in Greece a “collective punishment” and urges for the evacuation of people on the Islands to other EU states. Brussels Times further reports that Christou has said that migrants and refugees in the camps at the Greek islands are living in “total chaos and unworthy conditions”. MSF further criticises the situation in Bosnia, where Croation police is harshly defending its borders and where people live in inhumane conditions in the Vucjak refugee camp. MSF’s deputy field coordinator said: “People arrive at our clinic from Vucjak in flipflops, without socks or jackets, a lot of them suffering from respiratory infections and from skin diseases caused by the horrific living conditions.”

Greece: Plans for refugees in Greece meets criticism
The Greek government’s announcement of its intent to close the largest refugee camps, and instead open new ones with tougher rules, has been met with criticism from both the mayor of one of the islands, Samos, and various human rights groups. The mayor Giorgos Stantzos disagrees with the governments’ plans on “the fact that we will continue to have to accommodate 5,000 new arrivals,” states Deutsche Welle. Moreover, senior advocacy officer for the International Rescue Committee in Greece, Martha Roussou, says that “[t]he creation of closed facilities will simply mean that extremely vulnerable people, including children, will be kept in prison-like conditions, without having committed any crime,” reports The Guardian.

Europe: UNDP argues more evidence-based migration policy needed
Director of the UN Development Programme Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa, explained to EurActiv the findings that are presented in the reports ‘Scaling Fences’, on reasons to migrate. She argues that “a lot of policy is being made on the basis of emotions and perceptions rather than evidence”, suggesting that the EU must gather more data on those who migrate before making policies on the migration agenda. While data is essential, it is just as important to listen to the stories of refugees and migrants in order to avoid people just becoming a number, she says, as “[…] there are stories behind each number”.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Sidama people vote in favour of autonomy
The Sidama people, an ethnic minority group in Ethiopia, have voted in favour of autonomy and self-governing rights. Reuters reports that 98,5% of the votes were in favour of autonomy, which gives the Sidama people “control over local taxes, education, security and certain legislation”. However, because of the election, Head of Deutsche Welle Amharic, Ludger Schadomsky, doubts “whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will be able [to] hold the country together”.

Eritrea/Sudan: Sudan’s prime minister visits Eritrea
On November 25, the prime minister of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok, together with several ministers, visited Eritrean President Afwerki to discuss collaboration between the two countries. They agreed to “develop the cooperation and partnership agreement between the two countries including in the sectors of economic, education, health as well as the historic relations,” Eritrean government website Shabait reports.

South Sudan: The US retrieves Ambassador as a result of South Sudan failing to form a government
The US has decided to retrieve its Ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, as a result of the country not being able to formalise a government. In an official statement by the US Department of State, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus says that “Ambassador Hushek will meet with senior U.S. government officials as part of the re-evaluation of the U.S. relationship with the Government of South Sudan given the latest developments.” Reuters and Ortagus highlight that the work for peace in South Sudan remains a priority.

Eritrea: Military arrests people in the streets
On November 23, ERISAT posted what they state to be a smuggled video and several smuggled pictures from Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. According to Erisat, the video shows the Eritrean military forces arresting people in the streets and forcing them into a car. ERISAT says on Twitter that the pictures are “showing government forces kidnapping innocents” and demonstrate the brutality of the Eritrean military.