News Highlights: Aid blocked in Tigray, Amnesty criticises Libya for refugee “horror”, EU aims to resettle 30,000 refugees until 2022

In this week’s highlights: Ethnic Tigrayans rounded up across Ethiopia; Tigray access to aid under “siege”; UN operations accused of mismanagement in Tigray; UN calls for ‘verifiable’ withdrawal of Eritrean forces in Tigray; EEPA hosts webinar about Tigray’s hunger for peace and justice; Amnesty criticises Libya for the “harrowing violations” of refugees; Libyan port city threatens to expel refugees; Lithuania to curb migration with new legislation; 100 refugees attempt to break into Spain; 12 dead 26 injured as bus carrying refugees crashes in Turkey; European states accused of pushbacks; EU aims to resettle 30,000 refugees until 2022

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

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Ethnic Tigrayans discriminated, abducted and detained
It is reported that thousands of Tigrayans are being arrested, rounded up and detained in cities across Ethiopia as a government response to the Tigray conflict. Tesfalem Berhe, a lawyer interviewed by AP, compiled a list of over a 100 Tigrayans who have been arrested and detained in the last few weeks for revealing their ethnicity or speaking Tigrinya. Tesfalem estimated that tens of thousands of Tigrayans have been abducted in a country-wide sweep.  Tesfalem stated that Tigrayan detainees “are not given access to their families and lawyers. … There is no allegation of crime. It is purely ethnic profiling.” One lawyer who requested to keep their identity hidden said that the discrimination of Tigrayans will continue “until there is a real ceasefire in the Tigray war and the international community puts real pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop its repression of Tigrayan civilians living outside of Tigray”.

Ethiopia: Aid blocked and restricted in Tigray
According to aid workers interviewed by The New Humanitarian, all across the Tigray region access to aid and humanitarian resources are under “siege” and at a level like “how things were in November” when the conflict started with 5 million people in need of assistance. Humanitarian access is reportedly only just starting to increase in volume since the ceasefire was declared. On 10 July, 52 World Food Programme (WFP) lorries carrying food and fuel were finally allowed to cross into Tigray, two weeks after the ceasefire. Twenty-nine lorries arrived in Mekelle on 12 July with enough food supplies to feed 60,000 people for a month. However not all aid managed to arrive in Mekelle. Nine other lorries carrying food provisions by WFP were stopped mid-route to Mekelle and forced to return to the North Wollo Zone in Amhara, according to the Ethiopian Insider. Berihun Terefe, North Wollo Zone administrator, said the WFP vehicles were stopped “because the locals wanted to block the vehicles” and redistribute the aid to internally displaced persons in their city. “[The vehicles] couldn’t pass; the local community will not let them pass by; they will be in danger”, Berihun stated. Claire Neville, spokesperson for WFP, stated that WFP “will really need to move more food in as soon as possible because obviously we’re looking to scale up to reach 2.1 million [WFP’s target]”. However, Neville cautioned that WFP “will certainly run out [of food] in the coming weeks” and “with fuel, perhaps sooner, which will really bring the humanitarian response to a standstill.”

Ethiopia: UNHCR operations in Tigray criticised by aid workers and donors
Last week, The New Humanitarian published an article about a letter signed by a group of anonymous ambassadors, embassies and donors criticising the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) response and operations during the Tigray Crisis. The letter was reportedly the second of its kind, as a previous letter had been sent in January, and was described by aid workers as the result of massive months-long frustrations with the UNHCR. The letter specifically accused the organisation of lacking in leadership and failing to act swiftly to prior warnings about low resources and delays in aid at the refugee camps. Unnamed aid officials interviewed by The New Humanitarian called the general response of humanitarian organisations, including the UNHCR, “chaotic”, “a bit of a circus” and “really, really, really dire”. Organisational and administrative problems reportedly led to refugee camps with insufficient health services, sanitation facilities and food provisions. The lack of assistance and resources caused camp residents to be at a higher risk for trafficking, armed recruitment, and sexual violence. According to the anonymous signatories “the safety, security and dignity of refugees is at severe risk, and lives may be lost”. The letter urges UNHCR to be more proactive and make immediate improvements ahead of the upcoming rainy season which has reached the “critical stage”. 

Ethiopia: UNHRC calls for ‘verifiable’ withdrawal of Eritrean forces in Tigray 
Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling for “the swift and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region”. The resolution also called for “an immediate halt to all human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law” perpetrated by Eritrean forces towards Tigrayans. On 13 July, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi described the humanitarian situation for refugees in Tigray as “extremely concern[ing]”. Grandi was “disturbed” by the widespread violence, illegal arrests and abductions being made against refugees in Tigray. Grandi stated that the UNHCR is calling for all parties and actors “to stop using and manipulating refugees to score political points” and to focus on ensuring the protection of civilians and increasing humanitarian assistance. Grandi pledged that UNHCR would be “scaling up its response both in the delivery of relief materials and in the deployment of more senior personnel” but also stressed that the “greater efforts to facilitate the humanitarian relief effort are urgently needed by all parties.” 

Ethiopia: EEPA webinar discusses Tigray hunger for justice.
On 13 July, EEPA hosted a webinar titled “Hunger For Peace, Hunger For Justice” as the final part of the “Voices from Tigray” series. The purpose of this webinar was to chronicle the reported presence and actions of the Eritrean and Ethiopian military in Tigray since the outbreak of war. The core of the webinar were videos from Tigray that showed deliberate destroying of healthcare facilities and humanitarian assistance, systematic destruction of livelihoods and attacks with chemical weapons. The EEPA-hosted webinar concluded with the chair, Dr. Reginald Nalugala, calling upon the international community to place pressure on Eritrea and Ethiopia to stop the human rights violations occurring in Tigray. Ad-hoc expert panel members, researcher Dan Connell, Mike Slotznick of the America Team for Displaced Eritreans, and Khataza Gondwe from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, reflected on the videos and the questions from the audience. The videos shown in the Webinar are available on EEPA’s YouTube page.  

North Africa

Libya: Amnesty criticises the “harrowing violations” of refugees
Amnesty International has published a report revealing the harrowing conditions of detained migrants and refugees that are returned to Libya and the complicity of European states. Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, stated that the “horrifying report sheds new light on the suffering of people intercepted at sea and returned to Libya, where they are immediately funnelled into arbitrary detention and systematically subjected to torture, sexual violence, forced labour and other exploitation with total impunity.” “The report also highlights the ongoing complicity of European states that have shamefully continued to enable and assist Libyan coastguards in capturing people at sea and forcibly returning them to the hellscape of detention in Libya, despite knowing full well the horrors they will endure”, Eltahawy added. Eltahawy concluded that “[t]he entire network of Libyan migration detention centres is rotten to its core and must be dismantled. Libyan authorities must close all migration detention facilities immediately and stop detaining refugees and migrants.” According to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 13,000 people have been forcibly returned to Libya between January and June this year.

Libya: Zouara officials threatens to expel refugees 
The Libyan port city of Zouara has issued a warning for migrants and refugees to officially correct their legal status or be at risk of expulsion from the city. On 1 July the municipality of Zouara put up posters announcing that refugees should leave the city by the 10 July if they had failed to regularise their situation as after that a “vast security plan” would be put in place by the city’s council to enforce the measure. The Zouara officials did not respond to questions put by InfoMigrants asking to clarify their wording. Those who have attempted to settle in Zouara have found the regularisation process difficult, as people for example were unable to secure appointments. Ibrahima, a 17-year-old Guinean refugee living in Zouara, stated that when he saw the posters he and his friends paid 100 dinars to get an appointment “but they never got it”. Ibrahima and his friends believe that “they [Libyans] are doing all this just to take more of our money.” The new policy has made all refugees in the city fearful; “[w]e are very afraid, everyone here is panicking”, says Ibrahima.


Europe: EU aims to resettle 30,000 refugees until 2022
At the European Commission’s High Level Resettlement Forum, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson announced that she is aiming to secure €300 million for the resettlement of 30,000 refugees until the end of 2022. Johansson called on member states to “find additional funds” and make “pledges” to offer a “safe new home” to those fleeing war and persecution. “That’s my goal for today and for the months ahead: to find the political will for pledges. Ambitious pledges,” Johansson said. At the forum, other ministers and ambassadors stressed the “urgent need to act”. According to Forbes, resettlement is at an all-time low with only 9,119 refugees managing to resettle in Europe in 2020 when the target was 30,000, and only 34,400 refugees resettling globally with 1.44 million registered as refugees in need of relocation. Imogen Sudbery, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Europe at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), stated that “now that EU countries are recovering from COVID-19, it is perfectly possible for them to welcome more of the world’s most vulnerable refugees”. The IRC recommends that European states make up the 20,881 loss in 2020 by the end of 2021 and then increase targets every year.

Lithuania/Belarus: Lithuania to curb migration with new legislation
On 13 July, Lithuania passed a new set of strict migration laws that allow for the mass detention of refugees and migrants while restricting their right to appeal as a response to the influx of arrivals emerging from Belarus. These laws are a continuation and expansion of Lithuania’s decision to erect a physical barrier on the Belarus border last week. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that the organised mass immigration is “an attempt of revenge by (Lukashenko’s) regime to Lithuania and the whole European Union for their support of the civil society in Belarus”. Simonyte stated that “[i]mmigrants are being used not only by criminals but also by regimes” as Lukashenko’s administration does “not care about people from Iraq or African countries. They just want to use them as a tool to increase pressure on the EU and potentially inspire unhealthy political debates”. Human rights groups have criticised the new legislation as too overly strict and prone to abuse. Lithuanian Red Cross director Egle Samuchovaite said that the new laws were a “potential human rights violation”.

Turkey: 12 dead 26 injured as bus carrying refugees crashes in Turkey 
12 refugees have died and 26 others have been injured after a bus crashed in eastern Turkey. The incident occurred on 11 July when a minibus overturned and caught on fire after falling into a ditch. The owner of the bus has reportedly been arrested. The president of the Ankara Center for Asylum and Migration Studies, Metin Corabatir, says that the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan has pushed more refugees to try the mountainous route which has increased the risk of roadtime accidents.  

Europe: New allegations of illegal pushbacks emerge
European member states have been accused of illegally preventing refugees and migrants from reaching Europe. This week Greek coast guards were inoculated in a new set of pushback allegations after a boat of 30 refugees was stopped by Greek authorities, who were then threatened with violence and told to “go home”, according to Tchinda, a refugee who was on the boat and who was interviewed by AFP. Last week the European Court of Human Rights adjudged Poland guilty of pushing back three Syrian nationals to Belarus in 2017. On 9 July the plaintiffs were each awarded €10,000 in compensation. An article published in the Financial times claims that pushbacks are becoming the norm for European member states in southern and eastern Europe. Tony Barber, Europe Editor of the Financial Times, writes that pushbacks show the “hopelessly divided” stance of European governments on issues of migration.

Spain: 100 refugees launch attempt to reach Spanish soil
On 14 July over 100 refugees and migrants used grapples, poles, sticks and stones in a concentrated effort to enter Spanish soil. The large group intended to scale a high fence and reach Melilla, a tiny Spanish territory in North Africa. During the commotion two Spanish police officers were injured in what Spanish authorities are recording as the second incident in three days. On 12 July roughly 200 people tried to scale the fence with 119 crossing into Melilla. Moroccan security units were witnessed “actively” helping Spanish guards fend off the attempt, according to an anonymous Melilla official. Twenty individuals reportedly arrived in Melilla during the incident where they are currently being tested and quarantined for COVID-19 at a local migrant processing center.