News Highlights: “Very critical” humanitarian situation in the Horn, Evacuation of refugees from Libya to Rwanda, EU Parliament resolution on Ethiopia

In this week’s news highlights: UN alerts of critical situation for refugees and IDPs in Tigray and Sudan; Regional conflict in the Horn develops; TPLF spokesperson calls for talks; EU and others pledge humanitarian support to refugees in Sudan; MP in New Zealand tells story of his escape from Eritrea; UNHCR restarts evacuation of refugees from Libya to Rwanda; EU Parliament plenary adopts resolution on Ethiopia; Belgian officer goes on trial after the death of Kurdish child; Council of Europe asks for a reform of immigration detention system in Greece; ECJ recognises refugee status of Syrian conscientious objectors in Germany; HRW calls for modification of Italian immigration law; And boats sinking off Greece and Spain cause at least 9 deaths.

For frequent updates about the situation in the Horn, please see the EEPA Horn situation reports.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan/Ethiopia: UN alerts of “very critical” shortages in Tigray region
The United Nations (UN) announced that the shortages of food, water and other basic supplies have become very alarming in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and that food for more than 96,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). More than 40,000 refugees from Ethiopia have left the conflict into eastern Sudan, states the UNHCR. Refugees from Eritrea are also among them. The Umm Rabouka camp, which has a capacity for 5,000 refugees, has almost doubled in number of people, Mohammed Rafikc Nasri, field coordinator for emergency response at the UNHCR. Health and university officials in eastern Sudan are expanding efforts to contain epidemics and diseases, reports Sudan Tribune. Meanwhile, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for refugees, arrived in Sudan to observe the situation of refugees arriving from Ethiopia. Grandi aims to review the response plan as well as meet refugees in person.

Horn of Africa: Regional conflict develops as 72-hour ultimatum expires
This week, international parties such as the European Parliament, the United Arab Emirates and US actors joined the call for de-escalation of the violence in the Horn of Africa region. On Thursday 26 November, Prime Minister Abiy announced that the final phase of the operation by the Ethiopian forces was to start. Reports are coming in that Eritrean national conscripts are involved in the fighting and being put on the frontlines. The African Union has appointed three senior envoys to assist in mediating the conflict. Humanitarian organisations warn that free humanitarian access is urgently needed to aid civilians, internally displaced persons and refugees.

Ethiopia: TPLF spokesperson calls for talks
Spokesperson of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Getachew Reda, issued a statement communicating “to the African Union and to the international community that the [Government of Tigray] has appointed a representative who is empowered to discuss and decide with members of the AU, the international community, and authorities in the government of Ethiopia”. The spokesperson indicates that TPLF seeks a cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, unimpeded humanitarian access, and independent investigation of violence.

Sudan/European Commission: Humanitarian support to Ethiopian refugees arriving in Sudan
The European Commission is preparing an initial EUR 4 million in emergency assistance to aid the refugees from Ethiopia reaching Sudan, reports the European Commission. It was declared that the funding will aid non-governmental organisations and United Nations agencies in Kassala and Gedarif, both states that have been affected by the influx of refugee arrivals. According to the Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič “there is a real humanitarian crisis being created by the unfolding conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. […] Civilians are paying the price for this conflict.” Lenarčič stated that he would visit Sudan and speak to refugees. Other actors, including Canada and the United Arab Emirates, also pledged support to refugees in Sudan.

Eritrea/New Zealand: MP in New Zealand speaks about his escape from Eritrea
Ibrahim Omer is the first African Member of Parliament in New Zealand. He escaped from Eritrea and arrived in New Zealand as a refugee, reports The Guardian. In his speech to the New Zealand’s Parliament, Omer recalled his childhood and adolescence under the Eritrean regime and his escape from the national service, forced to abandon his family.  He stressed: “I would rather take the risk dying, than die a slow death in Eritrea”. Omer recalled how he was granted refugee status in Sudan and how he was resettled in New Zealand, where he became a member of the Labour Party.

North Africa

Libya:  Evacuations from Libya to Rwanda restart
On November 20, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that 79 evacuations of asylum seekers from Libya to Rwanda were carried out, reports UNHCR. These flights have been on hold for almost a year due to COVID-19 related border closures and movement restrictions. According to Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesperson, “with the latest evacuation, 581 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers have been taken out of Libya this year, including 211 via resettlement.” The refugees are brought to Rwanda from where they are to be relocated.


EU Parliament/Horn: Resolution adopted on the situation in Ethiopia
On 26 November, the plenary session of the European Parliament discussed and approved the Joint Motion for a Resolution on the situation in Ethiopia. Members of the European Parliament expressed their concern about the violence, the human rights violations, the dire refugee situation in Sudan and Tigray and the lack of electricity and water in the Tigray region. European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič concluded the session by calling for peaceful dialogue with the support of the African Union and the three senior African Envoys sent to Addis Ababa. The resolution was adopted with 643 votes in favour out of 694 total votes.

Belgium: Belgian police  officer on trial over death of 2-year-old Kurdish girl
A Belgian police officer is on trial over the fatal shooting of a Kurdish toddler during a high-speed police chase in 2018, reports Euronews. The 2-year-old girl, Mawda Shawri, died in an ambulance after being shot in the head in a van, which was involved in a high-speed chase between authorities and suspected migrant smugglers. The officer in question is accused of involuntary manslaughter and the trial questions Belgium’s general approach to policing migrants suspected to be undocumented, reports France 24. The young girl has become a “symbol of injustice toward migrants and refugees fleeing their homelands to seek a better life in Europe” shares Euronews.

Council of Europe: Anti-torture committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention system
The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) appeals to the Greek authorities to adjust their approach towards immigration detention and to guarantee that migrants and refugees “deprived of their liberty are treated both with dignity and humanity”. CPT has published a report on its ad hoc visit to Greece and acknowledges the challenges faced by the Greek authorities in addressing the high influx of migrants and refugees. Nonetheless, the CPT emphasizes that this “cannot absolve the Greek State from their human rights obligations”.

ECJ: Recognition of refugee status in favor of Syrian conscientious objectors
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Syrians who refused national military service are entitled to refugee status and protection under German jurisdiction, reports Pro Asyl. The judgement states that it is to be presumed that fleeing military service may amount to political persecution in Syria. The decision highlights that the German Federal Office for Migration and Asylum has wrongfully denied refugee status, and instead granted subsidiary protection, to Syrians who had declined military service.

Italy/HRW: Parliament should support key amendments in immigration law
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Italian Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee should approve immigration law amendments for better protection of migrants and refugees.  The new legislation should consider abolishing the concept of “safe country of origin”, eliminate sanctions and fines on rescue boats and ensure humanitarian protection to asylum seekers. As Judith Sunderland, the Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, stated: “[i]n this next chapter, Italy should not only restore rights and protections shredded by the previous government, but it should set an example of principled and fair migration policy.” A new pact on migration would improve the ones adopted in October 2020 that already modified the 2018 and 2019 “security-decrees” held by the previous interior minister Matteo Salvini.

Spain/Greece: 2 boats sink  causing at least 9 deaths 8 deaths in Greek and Spanish waters
According to AP News, a boat carrying more than 30 refugees and migrants on board ran aground near the port of Lanzarote, Canary Islands. The rescue ship that intercepted the boat confirmed the deaths of 8 people, while 28 were rescued. This was one of  17 ships carrying around 450 people to Canary Islands that were intercepted on 24 November by the Spanish coast guard. In Greece, Euronews reports that a speedboat with 14 refugees and migrants aboard partially sank off the coast of Rhodes. The Greek coast guards intercepted the sinking ship on Monday, 23 November and rescued 13 people that were found on the shore. The body of a refugee was recovered in the sea near the coast.