News Highlights: EP Resolution demands immediate release of Dawit Isaak, 15-year old boy dies on Italian ship, UNSC extends resolution for checking and seizing Libya boats

In this week’s news highlights: European Parliament demands the release of Eritrean-Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak and condemns ongoing human rights abuses; Migrants drown and go missing off the coast of Djibouti; Detention centres for Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia remain “hellish”; 5 migrants jailed after riot in detention centre in Morocco; Security Council grants extension of resolution on inspection and seizure of migrant boats from Libya; Teenage boy who shows signs of torture dies on Italian quarantine ship; British Home Secretary introduces new laws on asylum that differentiate people using traffickers; Italy alleviates migration rules and Salvini goes on trial; Immigrant groups in Norway unprotected from pressure and control of governments from which they fled; Refugees on Lesbos in Greece continue to live in appalling sanitary conditions; And The DRC Report highlights the consequences of Covid-19 on the Global Compact of Refugees.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea/EU: EP adopts resolution on the release of Eritrean-Swedish journalist
On 8 October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the release of journalist Dawit Isaak and improvement of the human rights situation in Eritrea. It has been nineteen years since the imprisonment without trial of the Eritrean-Swedish journalist, playwright and author, Dawit Isaak in Eritrea. In the resolution, the Parliament urges that “all prisoners of conscience in Eritrea”, including journalists, political opposition and religious prisoners be immediately and unconditionally released. In addition, the Parliament strongly condemns the ongoing EU aid in Eritrea, stating that it “deplores, in this regard, the fact that the Commission continues to finance the ‘Roads Project’, and calls on it to strictly respond to the needs of the Eritrean people […]”. It furthermore calls on the Eritrean authorities to give information on the whereabouts and well-being of Dawit Isaak, and to allow him access to representatives of the EU and its member states. Members of the Parliament urge the Eritrean government to stop using forced labour through indefinite national service. The resolution was adopted in full by 663 votes in favour, 19 against and 13 abstentions.

Djibouti: 8 migrants drown and 12 still missing off the coast of Djibouti
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 8 migrants have drowned and 12 persons are missing after smugglers forced them off a boat near the coast of Djibouti reports The Associated Press. Witnesses have observed how three smugglers forced the young men and women off the boat and into the water states IOM. Due to COVID-19 and the war in Yemen, the journey to Gulf nations has become more dangerous, which has led some migrants and refugees to turn back to Djibouti. Yvonne Ndege, IOM spokesperson named the event a tragedy and a wake-up call as now “hundreds of migrants are leaving Yemen every day on the precarious voyage by boat across the Bab al-Mandeb strait.”

Ethiopia: Ethiopian migrants detained in Saudi Arabia call it “hellish”
New information is surfacing on the conditions that thousands of migrants from Ethiopia face within detention centers in Saudi Arabia, reports The Associated Press. An Ethiopian person currently in detention shared with the Associated Press that about 300 countrymen are held together with him and that it is unclear when the Ethiopian government would bring them home. He describes the “[v]ery inhuman condition”  from a detention center outside Riyadh and states how they are “[s]leeping on waste overflowing from a nearby toilet.” A report issued by Amnesty International details the “widespread abuses in Saudi detention facilities, including beatings and electrocutions.” According to Marie Forrester, a research and consultant at Amnesty “[t]housands of Ethiopian migrants who left their homes in search of a better life have faced unimaginable cruelty everywhere.” Middle East Monitor states that at least three people have died in detention centres in Saudi Arabia.

North Africa

Morocco: 5 refugees and migrants are put in jail for 30 months over riot in detention centre
Five refugees and migrants from Eritrea and Sudan allegedly involved in a riot at the Safi detention centre on 18 September have been condemned to 30 months in jail, reports The Independent. They were accused of taking part in an illegal assembly and, among others, disobeying police orders, putting a mattress on fire, and causing damages.  The first sentence found them not guilty, but on Friday 2 October the judgment was overturned by a higher court after hearing several witnesses.

Libya: UN Security Council extends inspection of boats for migrants from Libya
On October 2, the UN Security Council agreed to extend the authorisation for UN  member states to inspect boats from Libya that are suspected of carrying refugees and migrants, report various media. The resolution has been extended by a year. The resolution also permits UN member countries to seize ships that are proven linked to migrant and refugee smuggling. Actions taken by the EU to inspect and seize vessels, such as Operation Sophia and Operation Irini, are taken note of and encouraged in the resolution. The resolution came as the UN Human Rights Office warned about the violence in Libya, including use of shooting and excessive force by the Libyan coast guard against migrant boats. 


Italy: Teenage boy showing signs of torture dies on Italian “quarantine ship”
The death of a 15-year old boy on the “quarantine ship” off Sicily is being investigated by the Italian prosecutors, reports The Guardian. Witnesses have stated that the boy was “very ill, dehydrated, malnourished and had evident signs of torture on his body” but stayed on the ship until September 30, states The Guardian. The use of “quarantine ships” was started in April by the Italian government during the height of the first COVID-19 wave, and there are currently three ships active in Italy with each carrying hundreds of migrants and refugees. The teenage boy traveled from Cote d’Ivoire, was rescued by the Spanish NGO ship “Proactiva Open Arms” on September 18, and was moved to the quarantine ship with 200 other migrants and refugees. The ships have been denounced as damaging to the physical and mental health of people rescued at sea and are in dire need of proper facilities and medical attention reports The Maritime Executive.

United Kingdom: New laws on asylum seekers disclosed by the Home Secretary
The UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has unveiled new laws that will deny asylum to migrants and refugees who board boats to cross the Channel or arrive in Britain through other illegal routes, reports EU Today. The British government will organize a two-tier system where migrants and refugees who paid traffickers to help them come to Britain will be treated differently. Patel states that it is “morally indefensible that people paying traffickers elbow aside genuine asylum seekers.” Britain is wrestling with how to handle an increase in irregular migration across the Channel, with some proposals proving controversial, reports Euractiv. They include “[h]olding asylum-seekers on a British overseas territory […], or mooring a 40-year old ferry to house up to 1,400 people” states Euractiv. However, Patel announces that the new laws aim to welcome migrants and refugees through safe and legal routes. However, Patel’s speech also criticized lawyers who defend migrants, associating them directly with traffickers who aid asylum seekers to cross borders, reports The Guardian. Immigration lawyers have stated to The Guardian that the hostile rhetoric from the Home Secretary is putting them at risk. 

Italy: Italy loosens strict migration rules for a softer decree and Salvini goes on trial
On 5 October, the Italian Council of Ministers approved a new security decree, which modifies the previous framework of rules put in place by Salvini in 2018 and 2019. The new migration package reintroduces humanitarian protection for asylum seekers and Italian citizenship will be available within 3 years (instead of 4). In addition, penalties are reduced for NGOs involved in rescue, but they will be subject to judicial control; and the policy of non-expulsion is implemented in most cases.  Meanwhile, Matteo Salvini goes on trial due to preventing the Gregoretti rescue boat from disembarking 131 refugees (including 15 unaccompanied minors) for five days in July 2019. The ex-interior minister is accused of “abuse of power” by closing ports. The prosecutor asked for 15 years in jail for “aggravated kidnap”.

Norway: Immigrant groups unprotected from pressure and control from authorities in the countries of origin
Research in Norway shows that exposure of immigrant groups to pressure and control from the authorities in the countries of origin can “have major personal consequences” for themselves and their families in the country of origin, shares Proba. The research presents that the methods of pressure include, but are not limited to, “exclusion from religious, cultural and social contexts, being denied consular services at the country of origin, […] sanction against family members.” The report is the first to be conducted in Norway and covers “five selected immigrant groups – Eritreans, Ethiopians, Chechens, Uighurs and Turks.” The main findings are that individuals exposed to pressure and control can have a great psychological burden. The report calls for the need to expand the knowledge on this topic and to introduce measures to prevent and protect the immigrant groups against pressure and control.

Greece: Refugees from Moria camp now live in worse conditions
Sanitary conditions are getting worse in Lesbos, after the Moria camp burnt last month. As reported by The Guardian on October 7, today more than 7,500 people are living in tents in an informal settlement located next to the sea. People from the camp wash their clothes and themselves in the sea because there is no running water. Toilets and services are minimal according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Over 1,600 people have been moved to other camps and hotels on the mainland, where they have said conditions are better, but for those who are currently remaining at the “Moria 2.0” camp, the situation is getting worse day-by-day. The closure of two other overcrowded camps (Kara Tepe and Pikpa) worries NGOs and asylum seekers. In addition, the camp of Kara Tepe holds old fragments of bullet casings and ammunition that could lead to poisoning in about 8,630 refugees living there.


World: New Report analyses the impact of COVID-19 on the Global Compact on Refugees
The Danish Refugee Council Report (DRC) examines how COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). It highlights practical and logistical challenges for refugee assistance and the collateral effect of COVID-19. It analyses different elements such as higher levels of xenophobia, different country approaches to refoulement, and ongoing border restrictions. According to the DRC Report, the pandemic has increased the necessity of improved management of refugee policies, and highlighted the state of emergency in which refugees and asylum seekers live day-by-day. The report calls for stronger  international cooperation and responsibility-sharing between countries and urges for enhancing mechanisms to bolster GCR implementation.