News Highlights: Aid in Tigray critically low, Deaths of more aid workers discovered, EU to further outsource refugee hosting

In this week’s highlights: No humanitarian aid entered Tigray since 20 August; Deaths of 11 more aid workers discovered in Tigray; United Nations Security Council closed session on situation in Tigray; Joint UN/EHRC investigation has finalised, report to be published soon;  USAID accuses TPLF and all warring parties of looting aid warehouses; Economic sanctions not enough to stop human rights abuses, says WP; Oromo Liberation Army accused by EHRC of killing 150 people; Over 380,000 people displaced in South Sudan due to heavy flooding; Sudan government launches plan to stop human trafficking; EU relying on third parties to host Afghan refugees; Poland in state of emergency due to refugee crossings; Survivors in boat rescue from Libya appear to have been tortured; Refugee assaults continue in Germany; Teen refugee electrocuted near Italy/France border; IOM develops tools for child returnees.

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: UNOCHA unable to get trucks into Tigray since 20 August
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that over 1.7 million people are facing food insecurity in the Amhara and Afar regions whilst people in the Tigray region are receiving little to no humanitarian aid. The resources in Tigray are either running low or are completely depleted. OCHA further said that no trucks have arrived in Tigray since 20 August while food supplies are running critically low. Grant Leaity, the UN coordinator for Ethiopia, has said that “[s]tocks of relief aid, cash and fuel are running very low or are completely depleted. Food stocks already ran out on 20 August”. He added that the region was under a “de facto humanitarian aid blockade”. The UN organization said that of the 100 trucks of aid needed daily, only 9% have arrived since the 15 July. This is a reiteration of what USAID said last week. Shortages in food and other supplies have delayed the distribution to the 5.2 million people that need aid in Tigray. OCHA also said that due to fuel shortages, mobile health and nutrition teams have had to reduce the number of consultations done in the region. 

Ethiopia: Number of aid workers killed grows to 23
The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) has announced the murder of 11 of their aid workers in Tigray. This raises the currently known death toll among aid workers in the region from 12 to 23. The 11 REST workers were killed at various locations between the 22 January 2021 and 8 July 2021. The UN interim administrator for Ethiopia, Grant Leaity, has condemned “in the strongest terms the killings, violence, attacks, abductions, and threats against aid workers in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in recent months.” Additionally, the UN has said that 10 REST trucks were commandeered by an armed force on 22 June. Three of the drivers are still missing, while 5 were released. 2 drivers were among those killed. Leaty said “[a]s humanitarians respond to the conflict-affected areas in neighbouring regions, authorities must ensure that aid workers can move safely and deliver humanitarian protection and assistance to the most vulnerable people – in Tigray, Afar, Amhara and across the whole country.”

Ethiopia: United Nations Security Council meeting results
Last week, the United Nations Security Council had an open meeting on Tigray, followed by a closed session. The closed session was attended by both Under-Secretary General Mark Grifts and the Secretary General António Guterres. Guterres briefed the Council observing that both sides believe that victory can be achieved. However, the TPLF seems most open to negotiations, based on a letter the UNSC members received from the TPLF.  Some members appeared more balanced in the closed discussion, showing more interest in the humanitarian situation in particular. The SG and some members focused heavily on the role of Eritrea in the conflict. The meeting ended without a statement. 

Ethiopia: Joint EHRC/UN investigation to be published soon
It is reported that the joint investigation into accountability for human rights violations in Tigray by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been finalised. The date for publication of the report of the investigation is to be decided in two weeks, after the UNHRC has been briefed.

Ethiopia: USAID accuses TPLF and all warring parties of looting aid
According to The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the lack of food and supplies has resulted in members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) looting aid warehouses in the Amhara region belonging to the government agency. USAID director, Sean Jones, claims that the agency has “proof that several of our warehouses have been looted and completely emptied in the areas, particularly in Amhara, where TPLF soldiers have gone into”. USAID added that the looting was hindering humanitarian operations for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Amhara. The Addis Standard later added that Jones had accused all parties of hindering aid, stating “to be honest throughout nine months of conflict all of the warring parties have been stealing aid.” A US trade representative office also said that the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia could affect the country’s benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In a statement, it said that “the ongoing violations of internationally recognised human rights amid the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, which could affect Ethiopia’s future African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility if unaddressed”. AGOA provides African countries with duty free access to the US market for 1800 products. In 2020 Ethiopia exported $525 million to the US.

Eritrea/Ethiopia: Economic sanctions insufficient to stop human rights abuses
The Washington Post has published an opinion piece stating that the United States’ (US) economic sanctions against Eritrea are not sufficient as an incentive to stop the war in Tigray. The Washington Post argues that the US must inflict harsher restrictions on Eritrea and that those restrictions must also include Ethiopia’s troops who “have committed many of the crimes for which the United States is sanctioning Eritrea”. The article outlines the documented human rights violations of Ethiopian soldiers, such as the weaponised rape against Tigray women, the indiscriminate looting of Tigray cultural sites as well as the murder of civillians. The piece concludes that US economic sanctions “will not force Eritrean troops out of the conflict” so the country should instead “use whatever leverage it has not only to end human rights abuses but also to force both sides to the bargaining table”.

Ethiopia: EHRC says 150 killed in Oromiya, blames OLA
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said that at least 150 people were killed by an armed group last week. The attack took place in Gida Kiremu district in the Oromiya region of Eastern Wollega and residents said that the attackers were part of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The EHRC statement says that the OLA attacked the residents “based on their ethnicity”. The OLA has denied the accusation, saying that it was instead a clash between OLA fighters and Amhara militias. 

Sudan: National plans to eliminate human trafficking
On 30 August, Sudan unveilled a new national plan to reduce human trafficking. The three year plan aims to combat human trafficking by reducing poverty, ensure better protection and shelter for refugees, establish a specialised prosecutor in the courts, increase cross-border cooperation and improve refugee access to legal aid. Sudanese Justice Minister Nasreldine Abdel Bari stressed that the “human dignity” of migrants and refugees would be “respect[ed]” and “preserve[d]” under this plan of action. 

South Sudan: Heavy floods displace over 380,000 people
Over 380,000 people have been displaced due to heavy flooding in the Unity and Jonglei regions. Early seasonal rainfall caused rivers to overflow which submerged farmland, killed livestock and destroyed many makeshift living spaces. Nearly 100,000 people have yet to return home from last year’s record floods that affected at least 700,000 persons. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the agency has only received 54% of its 1.4 billion EUR budget required to support all those in need of humanitarian aid in South Sudan. According to 2018 World Bank figures, more than 60% of South Sudan’s 11 million population suffers from severe hunger due to the consequences of conflict, drought and floods.

North Africa

Libya/Lampedusa: Over 1,000 people rescued off of Lampedusa
On 29 August, the Italian coastguard rescued 539 people off the coast of Lampedusa in what the Lampedusa Mayor Toto Martello described as “one of the biggest landings” of refugees  in a single day. At least twenty refugees rescued from the boat reportedly showed signs of having been tortured after initial examination. Alida Serrachieri, a medical worker from Doctors Without Borders, stated that a number of the rescued appeared to have been physically tortured in Libya while waiting to cross the Mediterranean. Italian prosecutors have opened an inquiry into the possibility that the refugees may have been “falsely imprisoned” whilst in Libya. The 539 rescued refugees come in addition to a previous 500 people who arrived earlier this week.  


Europe: EU relying on third parties to deal with new wave of refugees
The European Union (EU) has formally agreed to rely on countries outside of Europe to manage and host the potential new Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban rule. Ministers from all 27 EU member states, in conjunction with representatives from the European Commission, arrived at the decision “[b]ased on lessons learned” from the “uncontrolled” 2015 migration crisis, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters. The decision to rely on third party countries has evoked for many critics the highly divisive 2016 EU-Turkey migration deal that aimed to stop refugees from crossing from Turkey into Europe. Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for home affairs, was reported as saying that it was “not a good idea to copy-paste EU-Turkey deal” and that the EU will focus on “tailor-made” solutions. This response comes after news of the Turkish government stating that it was not equipped to handle the additional refugees. Human rights organisations are concerned over recent developments The International Rescue Committee reiterated this week that the EU “must uphold the right to seek asylum for people fleeing Afghanistan” while Caritas Europa, a relief organisation, called on the EU not to abandon recent refugees.

Poland/Belarus: Poland to declare a state of emergency over refugee crossings
The Polish government plans to impose a 30-day state of emergency along its border with Belarus after 3,000 refugees attempted to enter the country last month. European Union ministers have previously accused the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, of encouraging asylum seekers to cross other European state borders in what some have been calling a new form of “hybrid warfare”. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that “Lukashenko’s regime decided to push these people onto Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian territory in an effort to destabilise them”. As a response Poland has started the construction of a 2.5-meter-tall fence along its 418-kilometer border. Meanwhile, aid organisations warn that some migrants and refugees stuck at the border are in poor condition and some are seriously ill, whereas one woman is on the verge of death.

Germany: At least one attack is made against refugee centres every week
On 31 August, German newspaper the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ) reported that there is at least one attack made against a refugee reception centre in Germany per week. According to NOZ, German authorities have registered 34 incidents so far this year. The number of attacks, however, have reduced since the 2015 refugee crisis, which saw over 1000 cases of assault against refugee homes that year. Infomigrants argues that this reduction may be partly to do with the decrease in refugees entering Germany in recent years and less asylum seekers living in refugee centres, causing there to be less opportunities to conduct attacks. This, however, does not signify a reduction in overall violence, as according to recent German government figures, refugees and migrants are now more likely to be assaulted outside of their places of accomodation. Approximately 461 assaults against refugees outside of refugee homes have been reported this year.

Italy/France: 17-year-old electrocuted whilst attempting to cross into France
A 17-year-old refugee died from electrocution after climbing the roof of a train in an attempt to cross into France from the Italian Peglia border. The incident occurred on 29 August in the early afternoon inside a tunnel near the border city of Ventimiglia. The adolescent reportedly climbed onto a rail car as soon as the train left the station of the border city but was quickly electrocuted by the power line on the roof of the rail car. At least 20 migrants and refugees have died in recent years whilst trying to cross the Italian border into France. Each year thousands of refugees attempt to cross the border through ‘Col de Mort’ also known as the ‘death pass’ by climbing onto rail cars or walking along railway tracks or by the highway. According to InfoMigrants, asylum seekers and refugees usually rely on traffickers to pass through the crossing but many are abandoned due to the hazardous conditions and are left penniless after paying large sums of money


World: IOM develops tools to help child returnees
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has developed a toolkit which aims to improve the monitoring practices of child returnees. Most monitoring systems for the sustainable reintegration of returnees are typically centered around the adult or household level. IOM in conjunction with the European Union and Save the Children have created a set of practical tools, which include quantitative surveys, case studies, focus group discussions and key informant interviews, that encompass the unique experiences faced by child returnees during the reintegration process. According to IOM, last year 15% of the 42,181 migrants and refugees returned by IOM were children, many of whom were unaccompanied or had been separated.