News Highlights: AU suspends Sudan amidst coup, Sanctions against Libyan detention chief, Greek camps detain migrants illegally

In this week news highlights: African Union suspends Sudan’s Membership; Guterres appeals to the UNSC for effective deterrence against coups; Millions called to protest the Coup; US Senators call on Ethiopia to take action to avert revocation of AGOA benefits; Government airstrike kills 6; British-Canadian researcher sentenced to 5 year for espionage in Somalia; International Crisis Group suggest a roadmap out of the Tigray conflict; Millions of Somalis will rely on humanitarian aid by 2022; LGBTQ refugees facing violence and discrimination in Kenya; Humanitarian flights from Libya restarted; UN and US impose sanctions against Libyan detention centre manager Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim; Eritrean human trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam target of international investigation; The EU will not fund a wall to prevent migration at the Belarus border; Migrants and refugees held in dire conditions in Greek camps; Polish border guards use tear gas against migrants; Italy’s former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on trial for kidnapping; Facebook platforms exploited by human traffickers; and Millions newly displaced by climate change.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: African Union suspends Sudan’s Membership
The African Union (AU) has suspended Sudan’s membership after a military coup on Monday. The AU condemned the seizure of power by the military and called it “unconstitutional”.  The suspension entails that Sudan will not be able to participate in any AU activities. The AU further added that the suspension would continue until “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led transitional authority.” They also warned that if the military failed to hand over power, the African Union Peace and Security Council would impose “punitive measures on individuals and entities obstructing the establishment of the civilian-led Transitional Authority.” The Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok, who was arrested during the coup, has since been released and allowed to return to his home, but remains under guard. Other civilian officials arrested on the day of the coup remain in detention. On Wednesday, AU President Moussa Faki also spoke about the situation in Sudan with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Sudan: Guterres appeals to the UNSC for effective deterrence against coups 
The UN Secretary General Guterres appealed to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday to “make sure that there is effective deterrence in relation to this epidemic of coup d’états” adding that there was currently no effective deterrence in place. The comments came on the same day that the UNSC met to discuss the situation in Sudan. The meeting took place behind closed doors. A statement was agreed to two days later, after Russia and China voiced disagreement about the proposed language of the text. The Russian ambassador to the UN said that “I don’t think it’s our task to label such situations coup or not coup”. On Thursday a statement by all 15 members of the Council, expressing serious concern about the Coup. The Council also called on a restoration of the civilian led-transitional government. The Council called for a dialogue to enable the full implementation of Sudan’s democratic transition. In a separate joint Statement on Wednesday, the EU, US, and UK, among others, called for the release of all political detainees arrested during the coup. “We continue to recognize the Prime Minister and his cabinet as the constitutional leaders of the transitional government”, the statement read.

Sudan: Millions called to protest the Coup
Protests on the street against the coup in Sudan continued throughout the week. Thousands of people across the country have come out to protest the return of military rule. Witnesses told Reuters that the military has been using live and rubber bullets to suppress the protests. Eight people have been killed as a result. Nevertheless, protesters have kept coming out to protest. Protesters have been handing out flyers calling for a “march of millions” on Saturday. A general strike has also been called, with hospitals and unions declaring they would participate. The Sudanese diaspora is holding several protests in solidarity abroad. Ministries and agencies in Khartoum have also declared that they would not step aside. This comes as Al Burhan has been trying to replace several diplomats. 

Ethiopia: US Senators call on Ethiopia to take action to avert revocation of AGOA benefits
Two US republican Senators called on Ethiopia to “correct course and avert a revocation of AGOA benefits”. Jim Risch of Idaho and Michael McCaul of Texas, both members of the Senate committee on Foreign relations, said in a statement that despite calls for an end to the conflict, the fighting and human rights violations have continued. The continued “reckless actions” by the Ethiopian government are endangering their AGOA benefits, state the Senators. They added that it is solely Prime Minister’s Abiy’s responsibility, and that Ethiopia needs to “take immediate, concrete action to avoid further gross violations of human rights and to bring Ethiopia into compliance with its obligations” to AGOA eligibility requirements. Experts warn that losing access to AGOA would severely hurt the Ethiopian economy, especially its textile industry. It would also affect the welfare of millions of people. 

Ethiopia: Government airstrike kills 6
The Ethiopian National Defence Forces carried out an airstrike on Mekelle on Thursday, killing 6 people. The government claims it was targeting an industrial facility. However, AFP was told by hospital staff in Mekelle that a residential area was hit, killing 6 people and wounding 21. Footage taken on site suggests that a drone might be behind the attack.

Somalia: British-Canadian researcher sentenced to 5 year for espionage
A court in Mogadishu sentenced Sahan strategic research advisor Matt Bryden to 5 years in prison for “leaking state secrets’. Matt Bryden, a former UN monitoring coordinator, lives in Kenya and was charged in absentia. Bryden and five others were all charged in April, for espionage and leaking military documents through Sahan, the think tank organization he founded. The court also banned Sahan from operating in Somalia. Sahan is a research organisation that publishes papers aimed at promoting peace, security and development. The organization categorically rejects the sentence, saying that the prosecution never offered discovery of evidence, and that the organisation did not get the opportunity to rebut the allegations. Sahan insists that they have not broken any laws in the process of their research. 

Ethiopia: International Crisis Group suggest a roadmap out of the conflict
The International Crisis Group (ICG) says that it is urgent for Ethiopia to find a way out of the crisis, indicating that Ethiopia’s state integrity and stability is at stake. They argue that there is a narrow path of compromise and negotiation out. This could be brought about by a combination of internal and external pressures. According to ICG, actors like the US and EU, as well as Ethiopia’s neighbours, should throw their full weight behind the African Union’s envoy Obasanjo. This will help empower a credible regional figure when an opportunity presents itself, the paper argues. This opportunity is especially likely to come if a military stalemate ensues between Tigray and the Ethiopian government. For negotiations to be successful, ICG says that an important first step is that both parties recognize “one another’s legitimacy”. A Tigrayan withdrawal out of Amhara and Afar, and an Amahara withdrawal from Western Tigray, could pave the way to bring back stability to the region and allow space for negotiations, proposes ICG. The ICG also proposes several solutions to the Western Tigray problem, such as joint administration or the creation of an autonomous area. The ICG also suggests that one solution could be “an international presence endorsed by all the parties.”

Somalia: Over 8 million Somalis forced to rely on humanitarian assistance by 2022
The United Nations (UN) warned that over 8 million Somalis may be forced to rely on humanitarian aid to survive by 2022. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for Somalia added that perpetual armed conflicts and climate change have displaced more than 400,000 people in the country since January. UNOCHA noted that “[c]onflict and insecurity have escalated in southern and central Somalia, driving cycles of displacement, disruptions in livelihood activities and limitations in access to trade and humanitarian assistance”. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 2.9 million people are internally displaced in Somalia and most of them are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. 

Kenya: LGBTQ refugees subjected to violence and discrimination
LGBTQ refugees in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya are experiencing high  levels of anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination, a new study issued by the advocacy group Rainbow Railroad and the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM)  finds. According to the findings, the respondents questioned from the Kakuma Refugee Camp and the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement experienced verbal insults, have been denied assistance from the authorities, and were denied services at a store and participation in religious ceremonies because of their LGBTQ identity, Gay City News reports. The Executive Director of ORAM Steve Roth called for immediate action to ensure security to the LGBTQ+ community. According to Kimahli Powell, executive director of Rainbow Railroad, the report reveals that it is time to build long-term assistance for LGBTQ people who have fled their countries and added that “[w]e cannot allow refugee camps to become permanent solutions to crises of forced displacement”.

North Africa

Libya: Humanitarian flights from Libya restart after several months of suspension
On Thursday 21, 127 Gambian migrants who had been stranded in Libya were repatriated under a voluntary return program. The trip marked the restart of humanitarian flights from Libya after several months of suspension, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced. Tripoli has been criticized for the ill-treatment of migrants after an anti-migrant operation was launched by Libyan authorities in early October, which resulted in the detention of 5,000 people, one death, and at least 15 injuries, Le Figaro reports. Hundreds of migrants and refugees protested in front of the local office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demanding evacuation. The UNHCR welcomed the authorization to resume humanitarian evacuations. However, resettlement and evacuation flights will benefit only a limited number of people, the UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Vincent Cochetel said. 

Libya: UN and the US to impose sanctions against Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim
On Tuesday, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the freezing of Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim’s properties and criminalization of any transactions with him. Blinken stated that Al Kuni, manager of the Al-Nasr Libyan detention center, conducted “horrific abuses” against migrants including killings and sexual violence, France24 reports. The Secretary of State also called Libyan authorities to collaborate to hold Al Kuni accountable, AFP notes. The move comes after a similar decision by the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee, urging governments of member states to prohibit passage to Al Kuni and to freeze his possessions in their territory, France24 indicates. 


Europe: European task force launched to locate human trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam
More news is published on the tracking of Kidane – Europol and the Netherlands established a task force to find the Eritrean human trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam. Kidane targeted migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean, kidnapping and keeping them in warehouses in Bani Walid in Libya, Middle East Eye indicates. In February 2020, Kidane was arrested in Addis Ababa, but he managed to escape, Middle East Eye reports. The police officers in charge of his custody are currently under arrest and investigated for facilitating Kidane’s escape in exchange for bribes, Le Point notes. Nonetheless, Middle East Eye reports that Ethiopian authorities will continue to participate in the search for Kidane. In June 2021, the Ethiopian court sentenced Kidane in absentia to life imprisonment for locking up, starving and torturing African migrants and refugees in warehouses in Libya, Le Point indicates. Survivors talk about widespread rape, torture and starvation in the warehouse, Middle East Eye notes. In an interviwee conducted by Le Point, a victim of human trafficking said that the traffickers forced them to call their families asking for money and that they were beaten, hanged from the ceiling and left there until unconscious. Head of the Rome-based Habeshia organisation Father Mussie Zerai said that “Kidane or other smugglers wouldn’t have been there in the first place, had Europe not closed all legal access [for migration], creating the conditions for the proliferation of human trafficking” and added that “Europe presses on the Libyan government and pays it to stop refugees trying to reach its shores, but doesn’t care about the consequences”. 

Europe: The EU will not fund a wall at the border with Belarus to prevent migration
The head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated that the European Union (EU) will not support the construction of “barbed wire or walls” to prevent migrants from entering European borders. The statement follows the statements made by some EU governments against Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko, accusing him of plotting an EU crisis by forcing migrants through the country’s border in reaction to sanctions, The Guardian notes. During a leaders summit in Brussels, Austria’s chancellor Alexander Schallenbergre stated that “building a wall” on the Lithuanian border may be one approach of protecting the EU against Lukashenko’s “cynical policy”, The Guardian reports. Poland already built a razor wire barrier along its border with Belarus, but now intends to build a 350 million euro anti-migrant wall, InfoMigrants reports. Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel said he would be embarrassed to see a wall with a sign stating “Financed by the EU” and added that “[t]hese people are not being treated adequately, also by various European countries. An orderly migration must remain possible. We need to find the right balance”.

Greece: Migrants and refugees held for lengthy periods and in unsanitary conditions
According to an investigation by Al Jazeera, asylum applicants are detained for unlawfully long periods and in dire conditions in Greek camps. Major violations of European and Greek laws are reported by the investigators, including imprisonment of asylum seekers upon arrival and arbitrary detention procedures for refugees. A refugee interviewed by Al Jazeera spent 18 months in Kos camp unaware of the reasons for her detainment. She said that camp authorities allowed her to keep her phone as long as the camera was removed, Al Jazeera reports. The interviewee added that “[t]hey didn’t explain to us why they were taking the camera, but I know they took it because they don’t want people to take videos of the bad stuff that was happening”. Another interviewee said that the food in the camp is mostly inedible and described the state of people inside the camp as “despair”, Al Jazeera notes. The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee expressed alarm over Greek refugee detentions in March 2020, stating that the circumstances in which migrants were kept at facilities in the Evros area and on the island of Samos “could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Italy: Former Minister of Interior tried for preventing the landing of a migrant boat
Italy’s former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is on trial, charged with kidnapping. The ex-Minister is accused of impeding a migrant boat from landing back in August 2019. The 147 migrants rescued by the Spanish NGO Open Arms were stranded on the boat for three weeks in difficult conditions, BBC reports. During the standoff, some of the migrants threw themselves overboard in hopelessness while others were taken to land for health reasons, The Independent notes. The head of the Spanish NGO Open Arms Oscar Camps said “[w]e expect justice for the unnecessary suffering that all the people had in those 20 days.”

Poland: Migrants and refugees repelled with tear gas at the Polish border
Video footage shows border guards using tear gas to stop migrants and refugees. The video published on Wednesday 20 October on the Polish border guards Twitter account also shows migrants hurling stones at border authorities. Because Poland has declared a state of emergency in the border region and journalists are prohibited access, the information supplied by the Polish Border Guard cannot be independently confirmed, InfoMigrants notes. About 15,000 migrants are believed to have reached the Polish-Belarusian border in the past months attempting to enter the European Union, according to news agency DPA. On Wednesday, the Lithuanian government said that around 6,000 to 7,000 people might be waiting at the EU’s external border with Belarus.


World: Facebook fails to eradicate human trafficking content from its platforms
According to internal Facebook documents reviewed by CNN, human traffickers have been exploiting the company’s platforms since at least 2018. In a Facebook internal document analysed by CNN, it is stated that “our platform enables all three stages of the human exploitation lifecycle (recruitment, facilitation, exploitation) via complex real-world networks”. According to the document, traffickers from labor “recruitment agencies” use “FB profiles, IG Profiles, Pages, Messenger and WhatsApp to exchange victims’ documentation (..) promote the victims for sale, and arrange buying, selling and other fees”, CNN reports. Last week, CNN identified different Instagram accounts offering domestic workers for sale and featuring photos and descriptions of women, including their age, height, weight, length of available contract, and other personal information. After CNN inquired about the posts, Facebook acknowledged that they were in violation of company regulations and removed them, CNN reports. 

World: 30 million people recently displaced by climate change-related risks 
More than 98 percent of 30,7 million newly displaced persons in 2021 alone were triggered by hazards associated with weather events, the Mediterranean Coordination Office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. According to the World Bank, if no action is taken, climate change would force around 48 to 216 million individuals to relocate inside their countries by 2050. Laurence Hart, director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, stated that the IOM developed a strategy on migration and climate change that covers three main points, namely advocating for safer migration policies, supporting and safeguarding climate change displaced persons and tackling the negative consequences of climate change through community resilience.