News Highlights: EU’s ‘no more roads’ approach in Eritrea, Amnesty publishes report on cycle of abuse in Libya, New European migration pact introduced

In this week’s news highlights: Human rights organization revokes lawsuit against EU for road-building in Eritrea, after EU announces ‘no more roads’ approach; 5 Sudanese artists convicted; Missing prisoners in Eritrea memorialized digitally; Review of book series on mobility and human trafficking by Dan Connell; EU imposes sanctions for human rights violations in Libya; Amnesty calls for the EU to reconsider collaboration with Libya; Rescue ship rescues 133 migrants and refugees, 128 others returned to Libya; New EU migration pact introduced; Italian authorities restrains Sea-Watch 4 ship; Italy makes deal with Tunisia to return 500-600 people monthly; UK Home Office lifts ban on evicting asylum seekers that have been denied status; Protests in Germany to receive more migrants; Intolerance of migrants increases.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Human rights organization retracts lawsuit against EU after ‘no more roads’ approach
The Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans has decided to withdraw the lawsuit filed against the European Union for providing funds for a road construction project in Eritrea which makes use of forced labour, states law firm Kennedy Van der Laan. This follows an announcement by the European Union to follow a ‘no more roads’ approach in its future development funding to Eritrea. Further funds that were set aside for road construction projects will be relocated to Sudan and other projects in Eritrea, although current funding continues to be implemented. The EU will also evaluate its diplomatic approach towards Eritrea. The Foundation indicates it will remain vigilant, monitor, and investigate the situation further to ensure that forced labour is not used within aid projects. It also remains concerned about the legal vacuum in the EU’s development aid, particularly the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which makes it difficult to hold the EU to account. Consultant Benoit Lannoo comments in Knack that the ongoing concern for human rights in Eritrea highlights the need to protect and provide asylum to Eritrean refugees.

Sudan: 5 artists sentenced due to songs for Democracy
On 18 September, a court in Khartoum sentenced five Sudanese artists to two months imprisonment, and six others risk the same conviction, as reported by Human Rights Watch. They are accused of “disturbing the peace” for singing pro-democracy songs in front of the police station during a theatrical performance. The artists are part of the civic collective “Civil Lab”. The five artists have appealed the sentence from the prison where they are being held, in Omdurman. Within six weeks the court is expected to rule on the appeal request.

Eritrea: Online memorial for missing prisoners
The main reformists in Eritrea were arrested 19 years ago after condemning the “dictatorial drift” of President Issayas Afewerki. In the following days after the condemnation, a wave of arrests began, especially among journalists. To this date, none of the prisoners have been released, and their whereabouts and state of health remain unknown. In order to ensure that the political prisoners are not forgotten, Eritreans in the diaspora have composed a document listing the missing prisoners through pictures, background information, jobs, and names. The memorial is diverse, it is not only famous politicians or opponents but also “young and old, women and men, intellectuals, farmers or teachers” states former Eritrean journalist Ahmed Raji.

Research: Review of Book Series by Dan Connell
Researcher and Eritrea expert Dan Connell has reviewed the book series, Connected and Mobile: Migration and Human Trafficking in Africa. “The four-book series, Connected and Mobile: Migration and Human Trafficking in Africa, is the most comprehensive collection of reports and assessments on these issues—particularly as they apply to Eritrea and the Horn of Africa—that has been published to date, so far as I am aware,” states Connell. Connell notes that the research is particularly valuable to highlight the impact of new digital technologies on the movement of peoples from Eritrea and the Horn of Africa and the ways in which organized criminal organizations prey on people on the move. The level of depth and detail is another strength noted by the review. The full series is available to read via the link below.

North Africa

Libya: EU enforced additional sanctions for human rights and arms embargo violations
On September 21, the Council of the European Union announced that it has imposed additional “restrictive measures on persons and entities whose actions threaten the peace and security of Libya”. The sanctions, which involve a travel ban and an asset freeze for entities and “natural persons” are imposed on two individuals who are responsible for human rights abuses and three entities who are implicated in violating the UN arms embargo in Libya. One of the individuals, Moussa Diab, is accused of abusing and killing migrants and refugees in an unofficial detention camp near Bani Walid.

Libya: Amnesty appeals to the EU to reassess support to Libya over migrant abuse
Amnesty International calls on the European Union to reevaluate its cooperation with Libya over “[h]orrific abuses being committed against refugees and migrants” reports Aljazeera. The rights group published a report on September 24 that describes the distressing narratives of refugees and migrants who have witnessed or suffered a repetition of abuses in Libya, detailing the evidence of the cycle of abuse. Within this report, Amnesty has criticised the EU for their collaboration with the Libyan authorities and supporting the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and its coastguard, which seizes refugees and migrants at sea and brings them back to Libya. Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa states that “anyone rescued […] should not be returned to Libya, but instead be allowed to disembark in a place of safety.”

Mediterranean: German ship “Alan Kurdi” rescues 133 migrants off the Libyan coast
The German rescue ship “Alan Kurdi” retrieved 133 people from three boats in the Mediterranean on September 19 and 20, reports Sputnik. According to the aid organization Sea-Eye, among the 133 rescued there are 10 women, 62 minors including a five-month-old baby, as well as families. Allegedly, at the same time, the Libyan Coast Guard intercepted 128 migrants and refugees and brought them back to the Libyan coast, Tweetedshared Safa Msehli, the spokesperson of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), on Twitter.


European Union: Introduction of the new European migration pact
The European Commission has revealed the new pact on Migration and Asylum, which aims to establish coordination of the asylum processes among the member states and to fix what the European Commission currently considers an ineffective system, reports Euronews. The new pact offers a “fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity between member states while providing certainty for individual applicants” shares the BBC. Among others, this involves faster processing procedures, and a choice for member states to either relocate asylum seekers or take charge of returns. The International Organization for Migration (IOM)  and the UN Refugee Agency are hopeful that the new pact will be a fresh start but still call upon the European Union to provide a “truly joint and principled approach that addresses all aspects of migration and asylum governance.” According to the IOM, the new pact would allow moving from an ad hoc crisis-driven approach to a well-managed and predictable approach to asylum and migration in Europe.

Italy: Italian authorities have confined the rescue ship Sea-Watch 4
On 20 September, the Sea Watch 4 ship, normally engaged in the rescue of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea, is under administrative detention in Palermo, as reported by Deutsche Welle. This is the fifth humanitarian ship to be stopped in 5 months, according to Sea Watch Italy. The Italian port authorities seized the ship after an 11-hour inspection. The inspection was justified by the verification of the boat’s license to rescue people at sea. The number of life jackets on board was contested and the sewerage system was considered unsuitable for transporting people. The rescue boat was thus detained in the port of Palermo.

Italy: Repatriation of Tunisians and 26 landings in 24 hours
Italy will send back between 500 to 600 Tunisians per month by increasing the quotas on returns noted in the bilateral agreement with Tunisia, reports La Repubblica. The return quotas, negotiated by Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, follow an increase in the numbers of Tunisians to Italy, reaching over 2000 people in 2020 with autonomous landings. The agreement foresees the possibility of forcefully repatriating 80 people per week in two flights of 40. Meanwhile, the hotspot of Lampedusa reached another state of emergency, after having emptied two weeks ago. More than 1000 migrants and refugees are located in the hotspot, with a maximum capacity of 192. 26 landings were recorded in the last 24 hours. The record figure was reached after the arrival, in the evening, of eleven new boats, with about 300 migrants and refugees on board.

United Kingdom: Home Office will start evicting asylum seekers with status denied.
Asylum seekers who have had their asylum application denied and do not have the right to settle in the UK will be evicted from their homes in the United Kingdom, reports The Independent. The letter from the Home Office seen by the independent announces an end to a ban on evictions due to COVID-19. Critics call the move reckless, especially amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the UK. Charities also note an increase in migrants in detention centers. “There has been no warning to ensure the system – including the voluntary sector – is prepared to cope with vulnerable people being turfed out onto the streets.” States Mariam Kemple-Hardy, head of campaigns at Refugee Action.

Germany: Thousands of people demonstrate in Germany urging for relocation of migrants
Thousands of individuals have marched on September 20 in various cities in Germany to call on the European Union member states, in particular Germany, to take in migrants and refugees that have been left without shelter after the fires on Moria, reports France 24. According to Sonya Bobrik of the activist group Seebrücke, there is enough space for Germany to take in more migrants than the current agreed on 1,553 migrants. As thousands of people are left without shelter on the island of Lesbos, protesters have demanded that the German federal government should allow individual states or municipalities to take in migrants and refugees on their own reports Deutsche Welle. 

World: The world is becoming more intolerant of migrants
According to the 2020 Gallup Migrant Acceptance Index Report Europeans are becoming increasingly intolerant of migrants. Seven European countries top the list; first of all, North Macedonia (with 1.49/9 points), and furthermore Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia, are at the top of the Gallup index of the world’s least tolerant countries. Between EU Member states, only Sweden and Ireland have gained one of the top-ten positions as “most accepting countries”.