News Highlights: Eritrean embassy office reprimanded by Netherlands, Deportation of Sudanese man ruled unlawful, Frontex implicated in pushbacks

In this week’s news highlights: Dutch Minister takes action against Eritrean embassy amid coerced fund collection; Frontex implicated in illegal “push-backs”; Four asylum seekers, including two children, die trying to cross the English Channel; OXFAM Italia reports on increased human rights violations due to migration deals; Italian ex-minister to go to trial for alleged kidnapping in rescue boat case; Home Office reduces minimum required salary for migrants to settle; Blog posts to be written by experts on new migration pact; Forced repatriation of a Sudanese refugee from Belgium has been considered unlawful by ECHR; Updated list of missing Eritrean political prisoners published by Eritrea Hub; German government provides funding to Ethiopia for border and migration management; Eritrean asylum seekers face increased difficulty in Ethiopia amidst COVID-19 and reception restrictions; Hunger strike by two Eritrean refugees in Egypt jail; ILO and IOM sign agreement to improve collaboration on migration; and India ships food aid to countries in the Horn of Africa.


The Netherlands/Eritrea: Dutch minister takes action against Eritrean embassy office after funds collected through coercion
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok has taken steps against the Eritrean embassy office in the Netherlands over the coerced collection of COVID-19 funding. Members of the Eritrean diaspora, including asylum seekers, were told to contribute a minimum of €100 to the Eritrean government. The funds were collected door to door amid a COVID-19 lockdown. The radio program Argos noted that documentation shows at least €155.000 was collected. It is unclear what the funds are used for. Following the revelation by Argos, Blok summoned the Brussels-based ambassador to Eritrea and called the collection “unacceptable”. An employee, reported to be Solomon Mehari, was banned from working at the Embassy office. In 2018, head of the embassy office in the Netherlands Tekeste Ghebremedhin Zemuy was declared ‘persona non grata’ for similar coerced collection of finances by the Eritrean embassy.

Greece: Europe’s border security agency implicated in illegal “push-backs”
Der Spiegel reports that Europe’s border security agency Frontex has been implicated in various illegal “push-backs” of migrants and refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece. An investigation by Der Spiegel and its partners has shown that  senior Frontex officials were aware of the push-back practices by the Greek border guard and “[t]hat some of them are themselves implicated in push-backs”. According to Aljazeera, journalists have uncovered 6 cases since April where Frontex units observed and did not stop refugee boats in Greek waters brought back to Turkish waters. The European Commission has called for a meeting with Frontex over the allegations.

United Kingdom: Four asylum seekers, among them two children, die in English Channel
On Tuesday 28 October, four asylum seekers, including a woman and two children of five and eight years old, lost their lives trying to reach the English coast from the French city of Dunkirk, as reported by various media. The small boat carrying 20 persons capsized due to dangerous waters and one person drowned. The three other victims were reportedly rescued but later died due to hypothermia. Fifteen more were taken to the hospital. The rescue operation involved six ships of the guard coast and aerial control. French authorities suspect that there is at least one person, who could be an infant, still missing.

Italy: OXFAM Italia reports increasing human rights violations due to migration deals
On Monday 26, OXFAM Italia released the rapport “Un reale interesse comune [An effective common interest]”, in which the organisation warns about increasing violations of human rights due to the migration deals between EU and North African countries. In particular, the rapport explains the impact of migration management in Tunisia and Morocco, where pushbacks and discrimination against migrants occur daily. Thousands of people fleeing countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Ivory Coast and Libya are particularly targeted in these kinds of violations and since January more than 700 people have lost their life at sea, states OXFAM Italia.

Italy: Ex-interior minister goes on trial for kidnapping in Open Arms rescue boat case
Matteo Salvini, ex-minister of home affairs in Italy, will go to trial in Palermo on 12 December over alleged kidnapping after not allowing migrants and refugees to disembark in 2019. In August 2019, Matteo Salvini denied disembarkation to 163 people on board the rescue boat of Open Arms. After an urgent appeal to the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, the rescue boat managed to put 28 unaccompanied minors on land. After a few days, the rescue boat was allowed to land in Sicily after which it was seized, allegedly due to the sanitary conditions on board.

United Kingdom: Minimum salary required for migrants to settle in the UK decreases
The British Government has decreased the minimum salary of £35,800 required for migrants to live in the UK by almost 30%, reports The Guardian. The new rules for Boris Johnson’s point-based immigration system were announced by the Home Office on October 22. They will come into force on 1 December. Migrants with enough ‘points’ and who qualify for jobs where a shortage of workers exists can now also become citizens after 6 years. Amnesty International stated that they were troubled by how immigration rules “[h]ave long exaggerated the privilege of people already advantaged by their relative wealth, gender and race.”

EU: Special collection on the “New migration and asylum pact”
The Odysseus Network announced a collaboration of experts from across Europe to analyse the new EU migration and asylum pact. The experts will write a series of blog posts that will provide a review of the diverse aspects of the new migration pact proposed by the European Commission. The blog posts will be published on a  separate website to “bring together the individual contributions in an overarching format.”

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan/Belgium: ECHR rules that deportation to Sudan in 2017 violated human rights
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Belgian authorities have violated international law in the forced deportation of a Sudanese man to Khartoum in 2017.The judgment underlines that violations of human rights against the man have occurred through the imprisonment, forced signature of a document indicating that the return to the country of origin was voluntary, and the lack of guarantee of humanitarian protection by Belgium after the man’s return to Sudan. Matteo De Bellis, migration researcher at Amnesty International, stressed that “[t]oday’s ruling exposes a distressing catalogue of failures by Belgian authorities. These failures resulted in the return of a person to his country of origin in violation of international law. By cutting corners to ensure M.A’s prompt deportation to Sudan and by failing to assess the risks he would be exposed to upon return, the Belgian authorities failed their human rights obligations.”

Eritrea: Updated catalogue of missing political prisoners
Eritrea Hub published an updated list of prisoners who disappeared in Eritrea between 1991 and 2018. The list was first released in August and has been updated to include more names. The catalogue includes the names of detainees who have been imprisoned for political, conscientious, religious, or other reasons. An opinion article by Makeda Saba published by The Elephant provides an analysis of the conditions to which the Eritrean population is subjected by the authorities. These include the obligation to perform national service from the last year of high school and restrictions placed on education, freedom of movement, and work. Ms. Daniela Kravetz, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, stressed in her last report that she has noted: “[n]o tangible evidence of a meaningful and substantive improvement in the situation of human rights in Eritrea”.

Ethiopia: German Government funds Ethiopian border management
Immigration and border management controls in Ethiopia are being  reinforced through German funding, states the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The enhancements are being funded by the German government with an amount of  €1.98 million. As part of the agreement between IOM, Ethiopia and the Government of Ethiopia’s Immigration, Nationality, and Vital Events Agency, the funding will increase capacity to invest in “[e]xisting border crossings, support the establishment of new border crossings, and prioritize the protection of migrants.” Through this programme, IOM will work with the Ethiopian government on migration management and governance, including countering human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

Ethiopia: Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia between new incoming rules and COVID-19
A report by the International Detention Coalition highlights the increased difficulties for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia due the COVID-19 emergency and the new reception rules. In April, 423 refugees from Eritrea were quarantined in a reception station at the border city of Endabaguna. There is no public data on the current number of asylum seekers quarantined along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In addition, the report highlights that as of 24 March 2020, the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees & Returnee Affairs (ARRA) has suspended “reception, registration, and screening activities” of Eritrean asylum seekers in the Tigray region in order to mitigate spread of COVID-19. The article states that this suspension of protection and services could lead to increased risk of human trafficking and detention. The verbal proposal by the Federal government to close the Hitsats refugee camp in March 2020 brought forth protests both in the camp and by Human Rights Watch, The United Nations Refugee Agency, and NGOs. The closure was delayed amidst COVID-19.

North Africa

Egypt/Eritrea: Two Eritrean asylum seekers go on hunger strike in Cairo prison
According to Human Rights Concern Eritrea, two Eritreans imprisoned since 2012 in Al-Qanater Prison in Cairo started a hunger strike on 27 October. They report long-term detention without charge. On 23 July, the Eritrean Government asked for an explanation as to the reasons why the two are detained in a criminal jail and not in a refugee centre. UNHCR also asked for more details about the conditions of imprisonment and the respect of human rights.


World: Agreement signed by ILO and IOM to enhance collaboration on migration
The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed an agreement to establish a framework for “cooperation and collaboration to enhance the benefits of migration for all” reports IOM. The agreement was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, and Antonio Vitorino, the IOM Director-General, to build on the agencies’ comparative strenghts, expertise, and respective constituencies. The two parties aim to “improve migration governance, capacity building and policy coherence at national, regional and global levels.”

World/India: Food aid to be shipped from India to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea
On October 26, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced that India will be providing 270 metric tonnes of food aid to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea reports Hindustan Times. According to the MEA, food aid comprised of wheat flour, rice and sugar is being transported on the Indian Naval Ship AIRAVAT. The Ministry has been working closely with the Governments in these countries in order to “[a]lleviate the suffering of the people affected by natural calamities and the COVID-19 pandemic.”