News Highlights: Refugees from Ethiopia reach Sudan, Sudanese refugees arrested in Cairo, 1,600 refugees arrive in Canary Islands

In this week’s news highlights: Thousands of refugees escape Ethiopian conflict towards Sudan as international community calls for de-escalation; UN concerns for Eritrean asylum seekers in Tigray camps; Sudan and Eritrea discuss regional security; Report about pressure on Eritrean asylum seekers in Ethiopia; 1,600 refugees and migrants arrive at Canary Islands; Italy plans to deploy military ships and planes to monitor Tunisian coast; Stricter rules on migration assimilation presented in security-focused draft EU declaration; Nearly 100 refugees cross the English Channel in two days; Inquiry launched into EU complicity in violence against refugees in Croatia; 65 migrants intercepted by Greek coast guards trying to cross to Italy; Captain jailed 8 years for deadly migrant accident; Sudanese refugees arrested for protesting in Cairo.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia/Sudan: Refugees flee to Sudan as fear of civil war in Ethiopia grows and civilians are targeted
As the conflict between national and provincial forces in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region develops, thousands of refugees are fleeing into the neighbouring country of Sudan, report local and international media. The Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that it is working with the Sudanese authorities to aid more than 7,000 refugees who have fled Ethiopia, shares UN News. UNHCR Regional Bureau Director, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, is “urging Governments in the neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for people forced from their homes.” Sudanese authorities are bracing themselves for a possible large displacement of refugees from Ethiopia. According to Associated Press, the country is expecting over 200,000 from Ethiopia seeking safety. An investigation by Amnesty International showed that dozens or potentially hundreds of civilians were killed in the town of Mai Kadra in Ethiopia. For more information on the Tigray conflict, see the News Highlights Extra linked below. 

Eritrea/Ethiopia: UN raises alarm over Eritrean refugees located in Tigray
UN Officials are concerned about the situation of thousands of Eritrean refugees based in refugee camps in Tigray. Humanitarian workers were reportedly stopped from traveling through the Tigray region. The distribution of food as well as air traffic have been suspended due to the conflict. NGOs fear that humanitarian assistance may not reach those most in need, especially if tensions further escalate. 

Sudan/Eritrea: Sudan PM and Eritrean delegation meet amid Tigray conflict
The Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok met with the Eritrean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Othman Saleh and the envoy of the Eritrean President, Yamani Qubrad, to discuss regional security, reports Sudan News Agency. The meeting comes as the conflict in the neighbouring Tigray region develops. According to Sudan News, the meeting covered the implications for the security of the area and presented issues of common interest between the two countries.

Eritrea/Ethiopia: Eritrean refugees fear for their lives after peace agreement
According to the Danish Institute for International Studies, the current situations in Tigray could worsen the already precarious conditions of Eritrean refugees. Despite the peace agreement signed in 2018 between Eritrea and Ethiopia, it has not led to an improvement in the human rights situation of Eritreans. This led to overcrowding of the refugee camps and tensions with the local population. Shortages of water, food and essential sanitation provisions have been noted in different camps. In addition to limitations due to the COVID-19 emergency, several violations of human rights as well as lack of protection for children have increased the concern among Eritrean refugees. The authors of the report stated: “Facing all these challenges, many Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia look to migrate further abroad. Onward movement of refugees in general and Eritrean refugees in particular is high from Ethiopia.”


Spain: Over 1,600 migrants and refugees reach the Canary Islands
According to Spanish emergency services, at least 1,600 migrants and refugees have been saved or have reached Spain’s Canary Islands the past weekend, reports the BBC. At least one person has died during the journey and was retrieved by rescuers near the island of El Hierro, states The Telegraph. As reported by the Spanish Interior Ministry, more than 11,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in the Canary Islands in total this year. 

Italy/Tunisia: Italy considers to use vessels and planes for monitoring Tunisian coast
The Italian Home Affairs ministry is planning to engage naval and aerial support off the coast of Tunisia in order to monitor departures of ships carrying migrants and refugees. According to Aljazeera, the aim of the operations is to alert Tunisian authorities to departures in the Mediterranean Sea and contribute to closer cooperation between two countries in managing migration. The Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese stated that: “[w]e would give an alert to Tunisian authorities to make it easier to track down the [migrant] boats that leave from those territories to come to Italian shores, [s]uch plan supposes the full adherence by Tunisia.”

Europe/EU: Security-focused draft statement raises unease among EU members
France, Austria and Germany drafted a statement to be made by EU home affairs ministers on 13 November which includes stricter integration regulations, following terrorist attacks in France. The draft declaration includes that migrants and refugees from Muslim communities should receive religious education coming to Europe need to learn the language of the host country and to assist their children to integrate, reports The Guardian. The declaration was drafted by France, Austria, and Germany in light of the recent Islamist terror attacks. It will also cover that Brussels “should fund religious education within Muslim communities, and The draft also states that NGOs publishing content hostile to integration will be excluded from receiving state support. ” states The Guardian. The introduction of the draft has created unease among fellow EU governments, such as Sweden, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands who have “traditionally pushed back against” viewing migration and religion through the prism of security.

UK:  Around one hundred refugees cross from France to UK in two days
Between Thursday and Friday, at least 100 migrants and refugees crossed the Channel to reach the United Kingdom from the coast of France, as reported by The Independent. The crossings happened in a short period of time due to favorable weather. Three boats carried more than 96 asylum seekers, including a baby and a woman presumed to be his mother, according to UK Home Affairs officials. Coast guards supported the ships during the disembarkation, while border force and French vessels conducted several operations for managing the attempts of small boats to cross the Channel. These events come just a week after the death of an Iranian-Kurdish family in a shipwreck along the Dover Strait.

Europe: Inquiry launched into European Commission fund management amid violence against asylum seekers in Croatia
According to various media, The European Ombudsman’s Office launched an inquiry into possible negligence by the European Commission in protecting asylum seekers in Croatia against violence. Croatian border officers are accused of violence, rape, robbery, and abuse against asylum seekers. EU funds that were supposed to supervise the behaviour of the border officers have potentially been underspent and that the EU may have covered for the Croatian authorities. Eve Geddies, the director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, stated: “[…] Today’s announcement of an inquiry by the EU Ombudsman into how the European Commission allowed the funds to continue to be used without ensuring compliance with human rights is a significant first step towards addressing these flagrant abuses and providing accountability.”

Greece: Greek coast guards intercepted ship with 65 refugees heading to Italy
On Thursday 5 November, Greek authorities rescued 65 refugees on board a boat off western coast of Greece. The boat was  headed to Italy. The Migration and Asylum ministry stressed that 57 of the refugees had previously asked for asylum in Greece and they would be transferred to a reception centre, as reported by AP news. Two smugglers were arrested by local police. Another episode occurred on Wednesday when a ship with 25 refugees,  including (among them nine children,) was rescued by coast guards and brought back to the shore of Corfu. Authorities are investigating three missing people identified as smugglers.

North Africa

Morocco/Canary Islands: Captain sentenced after fatal migrant boat journey
Abdallah Wazri, a boat captain who smuggled migrants and refugees from Morocco to the Canary Islands, has been sentenced to eight years in jail, reports The Guardian. A court on the island of Gran Canaria found the smuggler “guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of crimes against foreign citizens” states tThe Guardian. As stated by the court, Wasri’s actions “whether brought about by clumsiness, tiredness and/or haste” have led to the death of a woman and a one-year-old girl. The conditions on the boat were described as atrocious. The smuggler will additionally have to pay more than €160,000 in compensation.

Egypt/Sudan: Dozens of Sudanese migrants and refugees arrested after protests in Cairo
The death of 12-year-old Mohamed Hassan provoked protests for justice and action to counter human rights violations of black African refugees in Cairo, which has led to the arrest of dozens of Sudanese refugees and migrants, reports tThe Guardian. Protesters had assembled peacefully in front of UNHCR’s offices and near the child’s home but were quickly scattered by security forces by using tear gas on protesters and “beating them with batons, before arresting several people at random, including children” shares Amnesty International.