News highlights: Ceasefire in Libya, Arms companies allegedly influence migration policies, European Parliament threatens to withhold budget over Eritrea project

In this week’s news highlights: World leaders back ceasefire in Libya; EU to change Operation Sophia; Refugees and migrants drafted to fight in Libya; Young Eritrean boy dies in Libyan detention center; Lack of asylum law in Tunisia puts asylum seekers in vulnerable position; UN ruling states that climate refugees should not be sent back; European Commission asked about the Road rehabilitation project; EU criticised for its asylum policy; EU Arms industries influence migration policies; Demonstration of Eritrean refugees in Slovenia; New EU migration policy might be on its way; Unrest at the Sudan-Eritrea-Ethiopia border; Books show new perspective on migration and human trafficking; Sexual abuse worsened for Eritrean women in conscription after the independence war; And large share of the population has left Eritrea.

North Africa

Libya: Ceasefire in Libya
On Sunday 19 at a conference in Berlin, the leaders of 11 countries   supported a ceasefire in Libya peace talks, temporarily ending the military conflict in the country. The two main fighting forces, the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) have agreed to the ceasefire and are each “to nominate five members to an UN ceasefire monitoring committee”, reports The Guardian. As an important part of the political process, foreign countries involved in the conflict  have agreed to stop the export of military artillery to the forces and, according to The Guardian, agreed “to impose sanctions on those breaking an arms embargo”.

Libya/EU: The EU to change the scope of Operation Sophia in Libya
The European Union announced that it aims to change its focus on Operation Sophia in Libya. Euractiv highlights that the EU wants “to revive a maritime surveillance mission in the Mediterranean to enforce a potential cease-fire in Libya and a UN arms embargo against the country’s warring parties.” This ceasefire has since been realised. Currently, the official scope of the maritime operation is to combat human trafficking and smuggling of people  out  of Libya. The lack of actions by the EU in Libya has been highly criticised by The New York Times who accentuates that war in Libya is “producing thousands of refugees and migrants seeking safety in Europe”. Claudia Gazzini, analyst at the International Crisis Group, says to The New York Times that “the E.U. [has] viewed Libya mainly through the prism of the migration problem.”

Libya: Refugees and migrants recruited as soldiers in Libya
Refugees and migrants suffer and are subjected to forced recruitment in the Libyan war. InfoMigrants reports on an article by the German news agency dpa and states that “[a]n unknown number of migrants are being recruited in Libya to fight on both sides of the civil war”. The UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, told dpa that the migrants and refugees in Libya are asked to either stay in the detention camps or fight for the military groups in the country. The United Nations  highlights that children are recruited as well.

Libya: Eritrean minor dies in detention center
The Guardian reports on Adal Debretsion, a 16 year old boy from Eritrea, who died in a detention center in Libya of “an unknown illness and a lack of medical care”. Friends of Adal told The Guardian that the boy fled Eritrea when he was 13 and was detained in various detention centers in Libya. In his last few weeks, Adal was only sleeping. He did not receive medical care, only painkillers. Karline Kleijer, head of emergencies at Médicin Sans Frontières, finds that: “What we see today in this single detention centre is symptomatic of an uncontrolled, unjustified and reckless system that puts the lives of refugees and migrants at risk.” The UN states that 22 people have died in the Zintan detention center between September 2018 and May 2019.

Tunisia: No asylum law for the large amount of refugees in Tunisia
More refugees and migrants who are trying to avoid the conflict in Libya end up in Tunisia. However, the current asylum system is confusing, applying for asylum is nearly impossible and has to be done within 60 days. The New Humanitarian says that “[w]hile people can try to apply for asylum in Tunisia, the government is yet to pass a law that guarantees them that right and has, in the past, forced people back”. This leaves refugees in a strange position: “They can’t be deported, but they also can’t become regularised residents or work,” said Paola Pace, an International Organization for Migration spokesperson to The New Humanitarian.

UN rules that climate refugees should not be send back
The Guardian reports on the ruling of the United Nations’s Human Rights Committee that: “[i]t is unlawful for governments to return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by the climate crisis”. This judgement relates to the case of a man from the Pacific nation of Kiribati, a country most affected by the rising sea level. In 2013, the man applied for asylum in New Zealand, but the claim was rejected. The ruling of the UN committee is not legally binding, but “it points to legal obligations that countries have under international law”. It is expected that millions of people will be displaced in the next ten years due to the climate crisis.


EU: European Commission is being questioned over Road rehabilitation project in Eritrea
On 21 January, the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) of the European Parliament discussed reports for discharge of the 2018 budgets of the EU. Michele Rivasi, rapporteur on European Development Funds, raised concerns about lack of transparency and information from the Commission in financing the road rehabilitation project in Eritrea. According to Rivasi, it is unacceptable that the Commission allocated €80 million to the project in which people from National Service in Eritrea are being employed and proper monitoring system is lacking. Several members of the CONT committee urged the Commission to provide accurate and comprehensive report on this matter otherwise they will not vote for the budget discharge.

Greece/EU: EU criticised for asylum rules, while conditions in the Moria camp continue to deteriorate
Human Rights Watch (HRW) assess in its recent World Report 2020 that the European Union is generally speaking acting in support of human rights, but falls behind when it comes to asylum and migration. HRW finds that “EU institutions and governments pursued migration policies that too often exposed people to violence and abuse and denied them access to asylum, especially by keeping them outside EU borders”. Especially the actions of Greece are criticised. This is further highlighted by The Guardian which states that the conditions at the Moria camp continue to deteriorate. People in the camp do not have access to electricity, education, tents and proper medical attention and many parents therefore fear for their childrens’ safety in the camps.

EU: Arms companies influence migration policies
The European Union is expected to use €34.9 billion on border security over the next couple of years. World Finance argues that “European arms companies profit handsomely” from the EU’s security policies. The newspaper finds that arms companies help to shape the security agenda in relation to the EU’s migration policies. Some of the companies “perpetuate the narrative that migration is a security threat first and foremost, and not a humanitarian crisis.” World Finance and BBC argue that EU’s security policies force migrants and refugees to take a more dangerous route to Europe.

Slovenia: Eritrean asylum seekers protest in Slovenia
Infomigrants reports on an article of ANSA, in which is stated that approximately 15 Eritrean asylum seekers protested in Ljubljana to draw attention to the asylum procedure. In the last months, Slovenia granted Eritrean refugees asylum “as part of an international relocation program”. However, the government changed direction and five Eritrean asylum seekers were rejected by the interior minister of Slovenia on December 31. The Eritreans urged the government to reverse these decisions and “create a policy concerning Eritrea in line with international human rights law”.

EU/Greece: New migration system possibly on its way
Ekathimerini writes that the vice president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, has proposed a possible new migration system to the Greek government which will “oblige all member-states to pull their weight”. The vice president also expressed disappointment in the current relocation system, as some European countries take in more refugees and migrants than others. The new system will “support programs for countries of origin and transit”, improve Frontex, and improve returns of rejected asylum seekers.

Greater Horn of Africa: 

Sudan: Unrest at the Sudan-Eritrea-Ethiopia border area leads to possible increase in movement
107 migrants and refugees stuck in the Sudanese desert near the Libyan border were found by the border control and handed over to the Sudanes immigration authorities, Dabanga reports. The migrants and refugees, probably from Eritrea and Ethiopia, were taken to Sudan and provided with water, food and medicine. Commander of the Sudanese-Libyan Joint Forces warns of the dangers of migrating to Libya through Sudan, and stresses the presence of human trafficking gangs. Dabanga highlights that in the last months, “there has been an increase in assaults, kidnappings and cattle rustling in the Sudan-Eritrea-Ethiopia border area”. Several Sudanese people died during these attacks.

Africa/EU: New books assesses migration and human trafficking from Africa to Europe
Two new book publications, ‘Mobile Africa: Human Trafficking and the Digital Divide’ and ‘Roaming Africa: Migration, Resilience and Social Protection’ by editiors Mirjam van Reisen, Munyaradzi Mawere, Mia Stokmans, and Kinfe Abraha Gebre-Egziabher presents a new perspective on migration and human trafficking. In Depth News finds that the Mobile Africa book “pays attention to human trafficking for ransom, where victims and their family members are extorted under (threat of) death and torture.” The books assesses how technology and digitisation can help to facilitate human trafficking and askes how migration should be scrutinised and who are responsible. The books offer a counter-narrative to conventional theories such as push and pull, providing a more diverse approach through research on the ground.

Eritrea: Abuse in national conscription worsened for women after independence war
The conditions for women in national service in Eritrea are nowadays, after the war for independence, “saturated with sexism, gender-based violence, sexual violence, [and] subjugation”, according to an analysis of Ethiopia insight. Women in national service that refuse to have sex with a military leader are heavily punished, tortured and/or imprisoned. This used to be different during the independence war, as women were needed in the fight and were treated more equally as a consequence. Ethiopia Insight concludes that when the war ended, men started to misuse their power. Military conscription is one of the main reasons for both men and women to flee Eritrea.

Eritrea: Close to 10 % of the population has left Eritrea since 1993
Human Rights Watch argues in their World Report 2020 on Eritrea Events of 2019 that “[b]y the end of 2018, 507,300 Eritreans had fled, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 10 percent of the population”, especially due to the indefinite national service. The report further finds that Eritrea still forces people into the national service “often under abusive conditions” and that the peace agreement with Ethiopia has not improved the human rights conditions in the country.