News Highlights: Floods in Sudan and Ethiopia, Libyan Prime Minister Al-Sarraj to resign, Greece denies relocation to refugees from Moria

In this week’s news highlights: 27 religious prisoners released on bail in Eritrea; Heavy floods in Sudan and Ethiopia; Six killed after bomb attack in Somalia; Ethiopian refugees repatriated from Saudi detention camps; Boat capsizes in front of Libyan coast; Prime Minister of Libya Al-Sarraj to resign; Greece pledges to build a new refugee centre on Lesbos; Germany takes in 1,500 refugees, but Greece says it will not let any leave; Migrants and refugees allowed to disembark from Maersk Etienne; Health care declined for migrants on Open Arms; and Report explores the implementation of the Global Compact on Migration amidst COVID-19.


Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Christian prisoners conditionally released
The government of Eritrea released on bail 27 religious prisoners from the evangelical and Pentecostal Christian denominations detained for years because of their faith, report BBC and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Prisoners, some of whom have been in prison for around 16 years, were released under certain conditions “ensuring their guarantors are held liable for their future actions”, said CSW. The official reason for the release is unknown, however,  it is suspected to be linked to COVID-19 and overcrowding of Eritrea’s prisons. CSW’s founder noted that “[f]ar more prisoners of conscience remain arbitrarily detained than have been released, and the fact that these releases were preceded by further arrests is indicative of an ongoing repression of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Sudan/Ethiopia: Flooding causes deaths and displacement
One of the worst flooding events of the Blue Nile has occurred in Sudan, reports Aljazeera. A month of unprecedented rains has caused more than a hundred deaths and displacement of thousands of Sudanese people. Farms, firms, and infrastructures are completely isolated or have been destroyed. Diseases and other dangers caused by stagnant water could cause further complications to the current health crisis. Egypt, Bahrain, and Oman  have been providing food aid and supplies for the population affected by the disaster. In addition, five Ethiopian regions have been deeply affected by high floods and more than 200.000 people have been left homeless.

Somalia: Bomb attack in mosque kills 6 and injures 20
On Friday 11 September, at least 6 people were killed in a suicide bombing in front of the Qaadim mosque in the Somalian port city of Kismayo, reports Aljazeera. The assault comes just two days after a kamikaze attack in the restaurant “Blue River” of Mogadishu, which had killed three civilians. Among those praying in the mosque, there was a local politician, who is suspected  target of the aggressors. The terrorist organization Al-Shabab has claimed the responsibility of the attack through a message on Radio Andalus, a radio station controlled by the militant group.

Ethiopia: Ethiopian migrants are repatriated from Saudi Arabia migrant detention camps
Ethiopian authorities began the process of repatriation for almost 2000 Ethiopian migrants and refugees trapped in migrant detention centres in Saudi Arabia, reports Reuters. Due to the growing concerns over unsanitary and inhumane conditions in detention facilities, a group of Ethiopians, which includes mostly women and children, will be transported by mid-October. Tsion Teklu, a state minister for foreign affairs, said that alongside the repatriation from Saudi Arabia, it is equally important to focus resources on the reintegration process of Ethiopian returnees.

North Africa

Libya/Mediterrean: Boat with dozens of migrants capsizes
Three migrant and refugee boats have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, but one of the boats has capsized on 15 September, reports Arab News. Two bodies were found, while the coast guard continues to search for 22 others who are missing. From the other two ships, approximately 45 migrants and refugees have been recovered and brought back to the Libyan shore.

Libya: Prime Minister Sarraj resigns before the end of October
According to several media sources, the Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), has announced that he will resign from his post by the end of October. He will remain in office for the conclusion of the negotiations for the formation of a new government. In recent weeks, the GNA in Tripoli has come under pressure due to increasing protests in the capital. With his resignation, Sarraj may  be able to relieve some of the pressure and prepare for his exit after the Geneva talks, scheduled for October.


Greece: Government promises new permanent refugee centre on Lesbos
Greece pledged to build a new permanent reception centre for refugees after the fires destroyed the Moria camp last week, reports BBC.  Migrants and refugees refused to move to the temporary tent camp, Kara Tepe, seeking instead to be transferred to other European countries or better living conditions, reports Deutsche Welle. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that the fire incident can be seen as an opportunity which allows to “[r]eactivate Europe in the direction of solidarity to Greece” and to build a new centre that will not bear “[t]he negative aspects and problems of Moria”.

Greece: Germany and other countries offer relocation, but Greece refuses departures
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer will welcome around 1,500 migrants and refugees, primarily families with children, from the Greek island Lesbos, reports France 24. The European Union has to decide how to tackle the situation of the thousands of migrants and refugees left without shelter after the fires in the Moria camp of September 8. On Twitter, European Council chief Charles Michel implores the 27 EU countries to hold more responsibility to support Greece and support frontline countries. Though EU countries have offered relocation positions, the Greek government is not seeking to let a single refugee depart the island of Moria reports ARD. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has stated that the camp “[w]as burned to death by some hyperactive refugees and migrants who tried to blackmail the government by burning Moria” and that they will not be blackmailed into immediate relocation. Presently, six people have been arrested in connection with the fires that burned down the migrant camp reports InfoMigrants.

Italy/Mediterranean: Migrants and refugees on Maersk Etienne ship are allowed to disembark in Sicily
On Saturday 12 September, the Italian NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans which was in charge of transferring migrants and refugees from the Danish tanker Maersk Etienne, was allowed to land in Pozzallo, Sicily. As reported by various media, after 40 days at Mediterranean Sea the health conditions were unacceptable for the people on board and the Italian authorities allowed the ship to dock. Before the ship was allowed to dock, the doctor aboard issued the warning that “the health conditions of the 25 people still on board of the Ionian Sea are aggravating above all from the psychological point of view.”

Italy/Malta/Mediterranean: Authorities deny health care for 9 people on Open Arms rescue ship
Open Arms claims that Malta and Italy have denied medical help to  nine out of the 278 migrants and refugees rescued at sea between 8 and 10 September, reports La Repubblica. Despite the health conditions of migrants and refugees, only two pregnant women and a man have been transferred to the hospital on 16 September. The Captain has repeatedly asked permission for landing from Maltese and Italian authorities. Open Arms’s ship is currently near Palermo, although it has not yet officially received the green light to dock.

World: Global Compact on Migration response is tested during COVID-19 crisis
A new report by Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) explores how the 2018 UN-endorsed Global Compact on Migration (GCN) is being reflected and implemented during current COVID-19 global crises. The report introduces three “COVID-related crises” that unraveled since December 2019 – the global health crisis, the global economic crisis, and the global protection crisis. The report seeks to present if the GCN is making a change for people on the ground.