News highlights: More EU money to road project Eritrea despite forced labour, EU funding benefits Libyan militia, Refugee sit-in protest escalates in Niger

In this week’s news highlights: Additional €60 in EU funding for road project in Eritrea despite criticism for use of forced labour; Spanish authorities allegedly sent back asylum seekers illegally; Important developments in the last decade that impacted migration; Fine withdrawn for captain of rescue vessel; Migrant deal EU-Sudan possibly contributes to abuse migrants and refugees; Red Sea-bordering countries establish a regional council; Ambassador to Eritrea becomes new Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs; Funding to Libya in hands of militia; Shelling close to refugee facility in Tripoli; Libyans increasingly try to cross the Mediterranean Sea; Drawings of circumstances in Libyan detention center; UNHCR officials accuse asylum seekers of setting fire in a refugee camp in Niger; And 300 people intercepted at the Algerian coast.


EU/Eritrea: The EU funds an additional €95 million to Eritrea to stop migration
The EU announced new programmes under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, including €95 million for Eritrea. The money for Eritrea is set to be used on job creation for young people and women in the agricultural sector and “evidence-based policy formulation”. However, the majority of the money, €60 million, is to be used on the road rehabilitation project between Eritrea and Ethiopia. This is despite a long history of criticism due to the fact that forced labour recruited from the national service conscripts in Eritrea is used. A front-page article from the New York Times critically assesses the announcement of the large increase in funding for the road building projects, despite the EU’s own admission that it “is not monitoring the implementation of the project,” and is leaving the monitoring up to the Eritrean government itself.

Spain: Authorities in Spain accused of violating human rights
Human rights organisations accuse the Spanish authorities of illegally sending back 42 migrants and refugees that arrived on the Chafarinas Islands on January 3, several news agencies report. The NGO Caminando Fronteras states that the Spanish Civil Guard returned the asylum seekers to Morocco a few hours after they arrived on the island. According to the NGO, this violated “the protections afforded by the European Court of Human Rights”, which includes that asylum seekers on European soil have to be provided with information and care, and need to have access to asylum procedures.

Important events that shaped migration in Europe over the last ten years
Infomigrants reports on the events in the 2010s that had an impact on migrants and refugees in the EU. It includes the pro-democracy movement during the Arab-Spring which led to the civil war in Syria; The Islamic State (IS) gaining control in parts of Iraq and Syria, contributing to more displacement. In addition, in 2011, the Libyan regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi was overpowered which led to a power vacuum. This contributed to the current inhumane situation for migrants and refugees in Libya. Furthermore, the article names events in the EU in relation to search and rescue at sea, and the EU deals with Turkey and the Libyan coast guard to lower the number of people coming into Europe.

Malta: Captain of a rescue ships wins court case
Claus-Peter Reisch, captain of a rescue ship, saved 200 migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, but was initially convicted by the court of Matla for “not having the correct ship registration to enter Maltese waters”, Deutsche Welle reports. On January 7, the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that “the captain did not have the specific intent to break the law” and withdrew the original ruling as well as the €10,000 fine.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Role of the EU in abusing migrants and refugees in Sudan
In the Sudanese capital, roundups are taking place in which refugees and migrants are being arrested for no clear reason. According to Aljazeera, the abuse of foreigners is enhanced by the Khartoum Process. The regime of the former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir received EU funding to “manage” migrants and refugees that were trying to reach Europe. Aljazeera states that the Khartoum Process “marked the beginning of a militarised campaign to apprehend and punish migrants”. The new prime minister Abdalla Hamdok seems to continue along the same path. On November 11, 2019 a new decree was put in place “prohibiting foreigners from engaging in business activities in Sudan”. Aljazeera argues that migrants and refugees are under attack in Sudan as a result of these developments.

Horn of Africa: Collaboration emerges among the Red Sea countries
Al Arabiya English reports that “a regional council of Arab and African countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden” was established. The announcement came after the king of Saudi Arabia met with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Eritrea, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti to discuss the stability in the region. The foreign ministers of these countries signed the Charter of the Council.

Ethiopia: Ethiopian ambassador to Eritrea becomes State Minister
Ambassador to Eritrea, Redwan Hussien, is appointed as State Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Borkena reports. Redwan started this new position on December 27, the same day as Eritrean President Isaias’s latest visit to Ethiopia. According to Borkana there are rumours that former minister Markos Tekle’s removal is related to an interview with DW Amharic, in which “Markos confirmed that [a] Chinese delegation was prohibited from traveling to Tigray and that it happened without the knowledge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia”. It remains unclear why Redwan is replacing Markos.

North of Africa 

Libya: Militia network profits from EU funding
Since 2015, the EU has funded millions of euros to Libya “to slow the tide of migrants crossing the mediterranean sea”, APnews reports. An investigation of Associated Press (AP) shows that a large share of that funding, meant to improve the conditions in the Libyan detention centers, falls in the hands of the Libyan militias, human traffickers and coast guards. According to the research, EU budget documents of 2017 already “warned of a medium-to-high risk that Europe’s support would lead to more human rights violations against migrants, and that the Libyan government would deny access to detention centers”.

Libya: bombing near Refugee Facility in Tripoli
Three mortar bombs almost hit UN Refugee Agency’s Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli. “Fortunately there were no casualties,” Chief of Mission for Libya Jean-Paul Cavalier said in a statement. However, Cavalier states that the UN Refugee Agency is worried for the safety of the people in the GDF and asks all groups involved in the Libyan conflict to safeguard civilians.

Libya: 32 Libyan migrants and refugees rescued on the Mediterranean Sea
On December 27, workers on the rescue vessel Alan Kurdi saved 32 people from Libya that were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The boat was in relatively good condition, it was made of fibreglass and had two engines, Sally Hayden writes in the Irish Times. According to Hayden, this indicates that “people on it either paid more money or were better respected by smugglers, in comparison to sub-Saharan Africans, who are usually crammed into rubber boats”. Libyans are now increasingly fleeing their country that is torn by war.

Libya: Drawings of refugee in Libya show brutal conditions in detention center
APnews published three drawings of Aser (pseudonym), an Eritrean man that fled his country and was placed in a Libyan detention center. The sketches highlight the terrible conditions in the detention center, which is daily reality for thousands of people. Asar drew a guard who is keeping water from a person, it is 43 degrees and another person is starving in the background. He also shows how migrants and refugees are stuck in the war and have to hide from the bullets flying around. Aser said to APnews that there is not enough drinking water in the center, many people are sick and do not see sunlight for weeks at a time. La Repubblica published an article on the testimony of the UNHCR head of mission in Libya about the increase in humanitarian needs on the ground.

Niger: Protest of asylum seekers escalates to the destruction of a refugee camp
Approximately 335 Sudanese migrants and refugees are accused of setting fire in a refugee camp in Agadez, Niger. Since December 2019, the people living on the refugee site in Agadez camped in front of the UNHCR office to ask for more food, water, education and medical care. The sit-in escalated when people were forced by the local authorities to go back to the refugee camp in the desert. There the situation escalated; violence and tear gas were used to “disperse crowds”, Aljazeera reports. UN Refugee Agency officials argue that the asylum seekers set the camp on fire. The fire destroyed 290 out of 331 tents.

Algeria: 300 people intercepted in 24 hours
Data from the Algerian Ministry of National Defence shows that more than 300 refugees and migrants have been intercepted at the Algerian coast within 24 hours. On January 3, the Algarian coast guard stopped the “attempts to smuggle 151 people to Oran, El Tarf, Chlef and Tipaza while 21 illegal immigrants of different nationalities were intercepted in Tindouf and Djanet”. On January 4, 150 people that tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea in small boats were arrested, TSA Algerie reports.