News Highlights: Extremist groups funded by human trafficking in Libya, EU ‘deepens partnership’ with Morocco on migration, UNHCR pressures people to leave GDF in Libya

In this week’s news highlights: EU to fund North Africa to fight irregular migration, UNHCR pressures refugees to leave the GDF; UN experts release report on foreign armed groups in Libya, stating IS in Libya is funded largely by human trafficking; State Representatives discuss Libya at the Rome Mediterranean Dialogues; Sudanese citizens abused by human traffickers in Libya; Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed avoids talking to the media; Africa requests funding to fight climate crisis during COP25; Eritrean girl Ciham Ali Abdu held incommunicado since she was 15; New initiative to assist internally displaced persons introduced in Ethiopia; Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces plans to categorise immigrants in the UK ahead of election; Asylum seekers at risk when crossing the Croation border; Eritreans protest in Norway; President Ursula von der Leyen meets representatives from AU to discuss cooperation; New Return and Reintegration Platform initiative formalised; New app to assist refugees in Italy; And EU to strengthen cooperation with Morocco on migration through new funding.

North Africa

North Africa: EU announces new 150 million EUR funding for North Africa to tackle irregular migration
The European Union, through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, has announced an additional €147.7 million to tackle smuggling and irregular migration. Most of the funding, over 100 million, is going towards Morocco. The remaining money will be going to various organisations to tackle irregular migration in Libya. The EU commissioner Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement stated that “[w]ith this new package we are deepening our partnership with Morocco to further reduce irregular arrivals on the Western Mediterranean route and prevent people risking their lives.” The extra aid comes after the European Court of Auditors released a critical report on EU development aid to Morocco, calling progress on key issues “limited.”

Libya: UNHCR tries to make asylum seekers leave the GDF
APnews reports on the inhumane conditions in the overcrowded UN run Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli. Aid workers stated to APnews that the UN lost control over the GDF and that the facility is turning into a detention center where abuse is possibly taking place. Tuberculosis is also a big problem in the center. The patients receive medicine, but not enough food is provided for the medicine to be effective. The New Humanitarian has seen the flyer the UNHCR has been handing out to people in the GDF; “[y]ou will not be considered for evacuation or resettlement if you stay,” the flyer highlights. An anonymous UNHCR source calls this blackmailing and tells The New Humanitarian that “[a]sylum seekers are asylum seekers and can’t be denied the right to seek asylum on the basis of their stay at the GDF”.

Libya: Extremist groups in Libya are funded through human trafficking, says UN
A group of UN experts presented a report to the United Nations Security Council, concerning the involvement of foreign armed groups in the conflict in Libya. The report states that Sudanese and Chadian armed groups are fighting in the conflict. An anonymous diplomat also mentioned Russian mercenaries. In addition, the report states that Libya is seen by the Islamic State as a key area of its activities – activities that are largely funded by human trafficking, including extortion of ransoms.

Libya/Italy: Rome Mediterranean Dialogues addresses conflict in Libya
The conflict in Libya was a focus point at the Rome Mediterranean Dialogues (MED) conference on December 5 to 7. Both the Italian foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, and Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that the situation in Libya must not end in a military intervention and is instead to be tackled through political dialogue. Di Maio said that “it is crucial that the various international players involved in the conflict stop their external interference and violations of the UN embargo,” reports ANSA News. Regarding this, the UN accuses Jordan, Turkey, and the United Emirates of exporting weapons to Libya and thus breaching the arms embargo, reports The Guardian.

Libya: 11 sudanese citizens abused by human traffickers in Libya
Malek el Dejawi, working at the Programme for Voluntary Repatriation of Sudanese Communities in Libya, said in a press statement that 11 Sudanese people became victims of human traffickers and are being held in North East Libya, Dabanga reports. According to Dabanga, the victims are held in a camp where they are being tortured by the traffickers, who demand roughly 45.000 USD for their release. The victim’s relatives urge human rights organizations, the Libyan and Sudanese governments to act and help release their family.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia/Oslo: Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize but does not engage with the media
On december 10, Abiy Ahmed collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. In his speech, he praised Eritrean President Afwerki for his collaboration in the peace deal. However, human rights organisations stress that the situation in Eritrea has not improved after the peace deal. The Nobel Prize winner gave a speech, but refused to engage with the press. Senior officials of the Norwegian Nobel Institute find this “highly problematic”, because “free press and freedom of expression are essential conditions for a lasting peace in a democracy”, AFP reports. Abiy’s staff explained to AFP the situation in Ethiopia needed Abiy Ahmed’s attention and the public character of the prize does not align with Abiy’s “humble disposition”.

Africa: COP25 – Africa needs funding to adapt to climate crisis
During the UN conference on the climate crisis, African representatives demanded  financial support to adapt to the effects of the climate emergency, BBC reports. “If we don’t receive money, we will not only fail to adapt to climate impacts… we will also have no choice but to carry on with carbon-intensive economic development, like burning fossil fuels,” said an anonymous African negotiator to BBC. Experts indicate that it is crucial Africa adapts soon because the continent is very vulnerable to climate change due to its geographical location and prevailing poverty. However, BBC argues states that compensation of developing countries for climate change damage is not acknowledged by most developed countries.

Eritrea: Ciham Ali Abdu has been held incommunicado since she was 15
On december 8, it was exactly seven years ago that Eritrean-American citizen Ciham Ali Abdu, daughter of the former Eritrean information minister Ali Abdu Ahmed, was imprisoned in Eritrea at the age of 15 without a trial, after she tried to leave Eritrea without an exit visa. She is still held incommunicado and no one has heard from her since. The campaign One Day Seyoum wants to make sure that she is not forgotten, they keep advocating for her release and urge others to do so as well.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia introduces new initiative to assist internally displaced persons
Ethiopia has introduced the Durable Solutions Initiative (DSI) to help internally displaced people start over. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that the programme “seeks to ensure internally displaced communities in the country are supported to either return, integrate or relocate voluntarily” and is helped by amongst others the government of Ethiopia and international non-governmental organisations. Minister of Peace in Ethiopia, Muferihat Kamil says that development actors and the local areas must assist in the integration of internally displaced people.


UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposes to categorise immigrants
Ahead of the UK elections on 12 December, Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, has proposed a new migration system to limit the amount of immigrants coming into the UK. The Guardian explains that “[t]he scheme would separate future immigrants into three tiers with entry for exceptional and talented people, skilled workers with a job offer, and unskilled for short-term schemes.” The Financial Times emphasises this means that so-called low-skilled workers can only remain “in the UK in industries where there [is] a labour shortage”. Policy director of the Confederation of British Industry, Matthew Fell, argues in the Financial Times that “the proposals put too much emphasis on “the brightest and best” and risked making foreign workers feel unwelcome”.

Croatia: Asylum seekers risk crossing the croation border
There is a growing number of evidence that migrants and refugees trying to cross the Bosnian/Croatian border are being abused by Croation officers. While this is known by the EU, Croatia still receives funding to protect the border, Foreign Policy reports. Asylum seekers that are caught are often forced to undress, hand over their belongings and are beaten. Plans are made to move people from the Vucjak refugee camp near the Croatian border to another camp in Bosnia, because of the conditions in Vucjak. However, Abdulah Walli, a refugee stuck at Vucjak, told Reuters: “We do not want to go anywhere. If we are going to other camps then let us cross the border. We do not want to stay in Bosnia or Croatia. We are trying to go to Germany, France, Belgium for a better future.”

Norway: Eritreans protest against presence of Eritrean government in Norway
Around twenty Norwegian Eritreans protested outside the international cultural center in Bergen (Norway) where a closed meeting of the Eritrean Association Hordaland was taking place, NRK reports. While the Eritrean association claims to be neutral, NRK’s sources say the association is strongly influenced by supporters of the Eritrean government. The demonstrators state the meeting took place to promote the Eritrean regime in Norway and want to make clear that the Eritrean association is not representing all Eritreans in Norway.

EU/AU: President Ursula von der Leyen meets Chief Faki in Ethiopia to discuss cooperation, climate change, and migration President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has met with Chief of the African Union (AU) Moussa Faki Mahamat and President Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia to discuss cooperation, climate change, and migration, where she highlights that the AU is an essential partner of the EU. Euractiv reports that von der Leyen expresses a desire to facilitate further cooperation on the migration agenda by saying that “[h]onestly I don’t have all the answers to these challenges [of security and migration] but I am convinced that together we can find answers.”

EU: IOM and the EU collaborate on the new Return and Reintegration Platform initiative
A new initiative jointly formed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the EU aims at improving returns and reintegration of migrants by sharing best practises. IOM explains in a press release that “[t]he platform is intended to share knowledge, expertise and lessons learnt among practitioners in host, transit and origin countries.” Users of the platform can participate in online discussions with peers and can follow online courses to gain more knowledge about return and reintegration.

Italy: New app set to improve conditions for refugees in Italy
People with a refugee background working for Mosaico Association, a refugee support group, have created a new app, OASI, to assist other refugees and migrants in Northern Italy. The app is designed to provide refugees with localities of where they can receive immediate help and information. Infomigrants reports that the app will point out “dormitories; meal delivery; clothes distribution points; health care services; public toilets; libraries and neighborhood houses”. The group Mosaico Association was founded in 2018 after several people died trying to cross through the Alps to France.