News Highlights: Eritrean government arresting families, 11 women and children die off Tunisian coast; UK considers nets to stop crossing boats

In this week’s news highlights: Financial assistance provided by IOM for returning Ethiopian migrants; Eritrean Poet receives Writer of Courage award; Families arrested by Eritrean authorities in Afar Red Sea region; Crossings from Libya and Chad to Sudan seen as most risky by people attempting to reach Khartoum; New Special Rapporteur for Eritrea selected; Migrants deported from Algeria to Niger; Boat sinks off Tunisia coast leaving 8 women and 3 children dead; Heavy rains flood Moria camp; “Alan Kurdi” ship detained again at Italian port; Sudanese asylum seeker tells his story; Italian Lampedusa hotspot full after disembarkation of 11 refugees boats; Home Office considers nets to stop migrant boats; and Over 1000 migrants and refugees land at Spanish Canary Islands.

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Eritrean Government arresting families in the Galalo District
Journalist Martin Plaut shares on his website that he is receiving credible information that “[t]he Eritrean Government is conducting raids and arresting entire families” in the Galalo District, in the Afar Red Sea region of Eritrea. The army’s security forces reportedly made arrests of the families in the Endeli district; 6 families with 3 children under the age of twelve were taken. The report mentions the names of the people who have been arrested.

Eritrea: Eritrean Poet Amanuel Asrat named as International Writer of Courage
Amanuel Asrat has been co-awarded with the International Writers of Courage prize of the PEN Pinter Prize 2020. This award is given each year to persons that have distinguished themselves for defending the freedom of belief. Daniel Mebrahtu, brother of the Eritrean poet who is credited for a revival of Eritrean poetry in the early 2000s, accepted the reward on behalf of Amanuel. The family hopes that this prize will give more attention to the situation of the ex-editor of Zemena newspaper, arrested on 23 September 2001. Currently, there are no formal charges against Amanuel, who is detained in the prison of Eiraeiro. His health conditions are unknown but there is the belief that he is still alive; although it is suspected that he has faced torture and ill-treatment.

Sudan: MMC reports on travel risk to Sudan
The Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) shows with an infograph the risks that migrants face travelling on the various routes to Sudan. The analysis is supported by a survey conducted with 65 refugees and migrants, in the period of May 30 – July 27 2020 and located in Khartoum. Participants represent 18 different nationalities, of which 5 are Eritreans. The elements that impact the vulnerability of refugees and migrants are: age, gender, nationality, length of time within Sudan, and migration route. The report underlines how refugees consider the journey through Libya and Chad to Sudan as particularly dangerous. The border crossings were particularly noted as dangerous. Physical violence, detention and death are the main risk that refugees deal with during their trips, specifically in Libya and Sudan. The survey indicates the current COVID-19 situation as an additional risk factor for migrants and refugees, exposed to an increase of theft in Khartoum.

Eritrea: New Special Rapporteur for Eritrea selected
On October 7, the United Nations Human Rights Council filled 8 vacancies for Special Rapporteurs (Special Procedure mandate holders). The Sudanese Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker has been selected as Special Rapporteur for Eritrea, succeeding previous Rapporteur Daniela Kravetz. Mr. Babiker will report on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea.

Ethiopia/IOM: Assistance provided to thousands of Ethiopian migrants returning due to COVID-19
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ethiopian Government in order to strengthen return and reintegration assistance to thousands of Ethiopian refugees and migrants returning home due to COVID-19, reports the IOM. As the pandemic continues to challenge the economic and social situation of returnees, the 1 million USD project “[w]ill provide cash grants and other forms of support to over 8,000” returning refugees and migrants states the IOM. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, nearly 34,000 refugees and migrants returned to Ethiopia and are in need of medical attention and psychosocial support. The grants will be provided first and foremost to vulnerable refugees and migrants including victims of trafficking, people with medical conditions, and single-headed households. The Minister of the Labour and Social Affairs, Dr. Ergogie Tesfaye states that “[a]ddressing their needs requires a multisectoral approach, well-designed policies, and better resource mobilization.”

North Africa

Algeria: Migrants and refugees deported at the border with Niger
According to a Human Rights Watch report, Algeria expelled more than 3,400 migrants and refugees to Niger without a process between 5 September and 8 October this year. This included a majority of Nigeriens, as well as West and Central Africans, 23 Sudanese, 2 Somali, 2 Eritrean and 1 Libyan persons. The number comes on top of the total expulsions from Algeria to third countries, which this year has reached 16,000 people. “[A]lgeria is entitled to protect its borders, but not to arbitrarily detain and collectively expel migrants, including children and asylum seekers, without a trace of due process,” said Lauren Seibert, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. The deported persons are reported to be abandoned at the border with Niger without any logistical support and are sometimes deprived of their personal belongings.

Tunisia: Boat sinks off Sfax city coast, 11 migrants die
At least 11 migrants and refugees died in a ship sinking off the Tunisian Sfax city coast on Sunday, reports Aljazeera. 8 women and 3 children lost their lives. 7 other people were rescued by the Tunisian coastguard. The boat was leaving from Sfax port in the direction to Italy and it was carrying 27 people. The remaining persons are still missing.


Greece: Moria camp flooded after heavy rain, UNHCR calls for action
A month after the Moria fires, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has called for “urgent action” after the tents of the new facility have been flooded due to heavy rains, reports Ekathimerini. In a statement on October 9, UNHCR says that “urgent action and improvements are needed to avoid further deterioration of living conditions for some 7,800 refugees and asylum-seekers” after the heavy rains on October 8. The refugees have found temporary solutions in order to limit flooding; however, UNHCR warned that “colder weather and the onset of winter will only bring more hardship for the people there.” The area is exposed to more flooding and the current camp is not equipped to ensure the proper protection against the coming weather conditions, which has led UNHCR and other humanitarian partners to alert the Greek authorities and call on them to take immediate action.

Italy: German rescue ship “Alan Kurdi” held again by Italian coast guard
For the second time this year, the Italian coast guard has impounded the private German rescue ship “Alan Kurdi” reports Deutsche Welle. The coast guard disclosed that due to safety deficiencies, the ship is not allowed to leave the port of Olbia in Sardinia. Rather it is seen by NGOs as being a “[p]urely politically motivated decision that endangers human life“ states Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye. Italy has reportedly denied German and Spanish authorities the chance to verify any safety issues on the Alan Kurdi.

United Kingdom: Sudanese asylum seeker tells his story
A Sudanese asylum seeker, Ahmed Fadol Adam, has reached the UK safely after travelling along the same route as Abdulfatah Hamdallah, who drowned in the Channel in August, reports The Guardian. Ahmed Fadol Adam states in The Guardian that he spent five years enslaved in Libya. He made the journey to the UK on September 29 with 11 other Sudanese migrants and one Chadian on a rubber boat. After the death of his friend Abdulfatah, the young asylum seeker attempted to reach the UK four times by different means and shared with The Guardian that “[t]he dream of reaching the UK just held me.”

Italy: 11 boats disembark in Lampedusa during the night between 10 and 11 October
11 boats carrying 219 migrants and refugees disembarked during the night of 10 and 11 October on the Italian island of Lampedusa, as reported by La Repubblica. The number of people staying at the Lampedusa hotspot has now reached 665. After a total of 26 landings in previous days, the emergency reception structure is overcrowded again. The Minister of Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, says that the situation is not worrying and that all migrants have been subjected to health checks. In the reception facilities in Italy, there are now 56,000 people of which 2.17% have tested positive for COVID-19.

United Kingdom: Home Office considers using nets to stop dinghies carrying migrants
The government of the United Kingdom is planning to use nets to regularly “disable” dinghies carrying migrants and refugees crossing the Channel reports The Telegraph. In an interview with The Telegraph, Dan O’Mahoney, the “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander” disclosed that UK authorities were “very close to being able to deploy a new safe return tactic” which involves using nets to hinder propellers, bring boats to a halt and allow British vessels to carry migrants back to France. However, the tactic has been delayed as France refuses to accept the asylum seekers coming back to the country. O’Mahoney lays out his four-stage plan to address the problem of illegal migration across the Channel; to use social media to attempt to stop the flow of migrants, to reduce the number of asylum seekers leaving the region for the UK, physically prevent entry to the UK, and reform Britain’s asylum system states The Guardian.

Spain: More than a thousand migrants arrived at Canary Islands
Canary Islands has seen the disembarkation of 1,015 migrants in 485 small ships between Thursday and Saturday, as reported by Deutsche Welle. The record number of arrivals is comparable only to the 2006 numbers, when the highest number of migrants and refugees landed. The latest data confirms the increasing number of disembarkation at the Canary Islands, which corresponds to an increase of 523.7% compared to the numbers between January and September. The Red Cross affirms that migrants and refugees are coming mainly from North Africa or sub-Saharan African countries, they are in relatively good health and they have been submitted to COVID-19 tests.