News Highlights: Arrests of Tigrayans increasing in Ethiopia, Libya evacuations resume, Another pushback allegation for Greece

In this week news highlights: Foreign citizens of Tigrayan descent detained in Ethiopia; 70 UN aid drivers detained in Ethiopia; Mass arrests of Tigrayans continues; Amnesty International reports rapes by Tigrayan fighters; Ethiopian government open for negotiations with preconditions; UNSC discussed Sudan on Thursday; Sudanese lawyer sketches three possible directions after Sudan coup; Conflict in Tigray compounds crises in neighbouring countries; Sudan to open two more refugee camps; 170 refugees relocated to Niger from Libya; Migrants and refugees stranded in Tunisia; Almost 900 individuals crossed the Channel; Greek authorities accused of illegal pushbacks; Thousands of migrants and refugees landed in Italy this week; Spanish police arrest 15 individuals for human smuggling; Hundreds of migrants and refugees stranded at Polish-Belarusian border, EU considers blacklisting airlines; and Organizations appealing to world leaders to tackle climate change impacts on migration. 

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Foreign citizens detained
The Associated Press is reporting that British and American nationals have been detained in Ethiopia during the recent State of Emergency roundups. One person told AP that her father, visiting Ethiopia for his PhD, was arrested purely because of his Tigrayan ethnic descent. According to AP, at least two American Nationals were among those detained, a 70-year-old hotelier and his son. They were accused of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The father was released after 3 days of detention, while his son remains in custody. The British government has said it has raised the issue with the Ethiopian government, while the American embassy has not yet commented on the issue. The Italian foreign ministry also disclosed that an Italian aid worker was also arrested on Saturday. Reuters is reporting that the European Union is evacuating its non-essential personnel from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: 70 UN aid drivers detained
Associated Press reports that 70 aid delivery drivers, contracted by the United Nations, have been detained in the past week in Ethiopia. According to the UN, the drivers are of different ethnicities but do include Tigrayans. The detention of drivers is in addition to the 16 UN staffers that were detained on Tuesday. AP reports that all of those staffers were ethnic Tigrayans, and Ethiopia has said that it detained the staffers for “participation in terror”. The government accuses the staffers of working with the TPLF. Seven have since been released, but eleven remain in custody, reported Reuters. A UN spokesperson said that they had not received any “official explanation” as to why the drivers were detained. On Thursday the Ethiopian government said that staff working for the UN and the African Union will face penalties if they break the law.

Ethiopia: Mass arrests of Tigrayans continues
Mass arrests of Tigrayans in Ethiopia have continued during the week. Thousands of Tigrayans have been detained over the last weeks. The Guardian reports several high-profile detentions, including the CEO of Lion bank. Seventeen Tigrayan Salesian missionaries were also arrested on Friday. Their location remains unknown. Another civil servant told the Guardian that two of his friends were arrested after two police officers overheard them speaking Tigrinya. The government has also given all house owners a week to register their tenants.

Ethiopia: Amnesty International reports rapes by Tigrayan fighters
Amnesty International has released a report that says that sixteen women were raped by Tigrayan fighters in mid-august. Amnesty International interviewed fourteen of the victims and visited the town that was occupied by Tigrayan fighters for nine days. Victims told amnesty that they were raped at gunpoint. One said that “three of them raped me while my children were crying,” and that “[t]hey were cocking their guns as if they are going to shoot me.” According to journalist Martin Plaut, Amnesty did not reach out to the Tigray authorities for a response. In a statement released by its spokesperson, the Tigrayan government has said that it takes the allegations very seriously, however it raises questions about the Amnesty research procedure. They also called for an “independent investigation from an impartial body”. 

Ethiopia: Government open for negotiations with preconditions
The spokesperson for the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs has said that “[f]or the federal government to sit for negotiation, there are certain preconditions that need to be met. The government will disclose if it is ready to sit for negotiation.” The comments come after the US Secretary of State spoke with the Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs and the AU envoy to the Horn. He has reiterated his call for a ceasefire and calls on the Ethiopian government to “urgently and seriously engage in negotiations on a cessation of hostilities without preconditions.” The Tigrayan government also maintains that it will only enter negotiations after some pre-conditions have been met. They include the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Western Tigray and ending of the humanitarian aid blockade against Tigray.

Sudan: UNSC discussed Sudan on Thursday
The United Nations Security Council convened on Thursday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the coup in Sudan. The meeting was requested by the UK, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, and the US. A Security Council Report reflection expect that the Council members “will likely seek further details on the mediation efforts underway and on the role played by UNITAMS [UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan] in this regard.”

Sudan: Lawyer sketches three possible directions
Abdelkhalig Shaib, a Sudanese Lawyer, wrote a piece in Al Jazeera about the three different directions the situation in Sudan could take. The first option is a continuation of military rule. Shaib however says that it is unlikely the youth and other organisations and associations will accept this. The second option is a return to the status quo before the coup of 25 October. However, Shaib does not believe this is likely either as both the military and the protesters would not accept it. The last option presented is a compromise. This would mean give and take on both ends, a return of a power sharing agreement, and of civilian government. He also argues that political guarantees would have to be given to the army.

Ethiopia/Kenya/South Sudan: Tigray conflict compounds crises in neighbouring countries
Kenya authorities fear that an increased flux of refugees as a consequence of the perpetuating conflict in Tigray could affect national stability. The director of the Nairobi-based Institute for Strategic Studies Hassan Khannenje stated that this would “impose heavy costs on Kenya” and exacerbate the humanitarian needs in the country. In the northern region of Kenya, already two million people are food insecure, Deutsche Welle indicates. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s war appears to have hampered the enforcement of a peace agreement in neighbouring South Sudan, Deutsche Welle notes. According to political analyst James Boboya, while the international community had formerly focused on urging the government of South Sudan to implement the peace accord, it now appears to be focused on solving the Ethiopian crisis, Deutsche Welle reports. 

Sudan: Opening of two camps extra for refugees fleeing the Tigray conflict approved
Sudanese officials approved the creation of two more camps in Qadarif state to shelter refugees fleeing the fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray area. Sudanese officials expect to receive at least 500,000 Ethiopian refugees as per UN predictions, Middle East Monitor reports. According to the head of the refugee housing emergency service in Qadarif Al-Fateh al-Muqaddam, the Qadarif state today houses almost 52,000 Ethiopian refugees.

North Africa

Libya: Over 170 refugees evacuated to Niger 
Over 170 refugees have been relocated to Niger from Libya. Among the group are families, unaccompanied minors, and a newborn baby. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted that many of them were victims of trafficking and suffered violence in Libya. As of today, 3,361 refugees have been evacuated to Niger, AFP reports. However, UNHCR’s Libyan representative Jean-Paul Cavalieri highlighted that evacuation flights are a solution only for extremely vulnerable individuals in urgent need of security and protection. This is because of the restricted number of seats on evacuation planes, UNHCR representative Cavalieri explained. The figures released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in September report that approximately 600,000 migrants and refugees remain stranded in Libya, with just around 1 in 15 of them registered as refugees or asylum seekers.

Tunisia: Thousands of migrants and refugees stranded
Thousands of migrants and refugees are stuck in Tunisia after trying to reach Europe from Libya. Many are unable to pay smugglers due to the lack of income opportunities and remain stranded in the country, InfoMigrants interviews find. Two persons interviewed by InfoMigrants said that they have difficulties in paying the rent as job opportunities are scarce. Another interviewee explained that “[t]he grocer on the corner sometimes gives me yoghurt for my child, but it is very difficult. Some days we have nothing to eat”, InfoMigrants reports. According to the regional president of the humanitarian organization Tunisian Red Crescent Mongi Slim, the number of migrants in the Tunisian city of Zarzis is close to 3,000. A third interviewee said to InfoMigrants that “[w]e came to Tunisia because we thought it was a safe country, but if I had known it was like this I would have stayed in Libya”. 


UK: 853 individuals crossed the Channel 
According to the UK Home Office, 853 persons crossed the Channel on Wednesday 3, reaching a record number of crossings in a single day. French police reported the death of two individuals this week while attempting to cross while dozens more are lost at sea, The Guardian reports. The arrivals follow a week of fatalities among individuals attempting to flee France for the United Kingdom: a train hit and killed an Eritrean person near Calais and at least two bodies were retrieved from the sea and from a beach, The Guardian notes. Meanwhile, UK Border Force is refusing to carry out Home Secretary Priti Patel’s proposal to turn back migrant boats because of the risk of murdering individuals, The Times reports. Border Force representative Lucy Moreton from the Immigration Services Union said the measures are unlikely to be utilized as pushbacks cannot be employed against a fragile boat without the risk of it sinking. 

Greece: Greece accused of illegal pushback 
Greece is again accused of illegal pushbacks as a boat carrying 382 refugees was left for an unnecessarily long time at sea. On the 28th of October, the Turkish-flagged Murat 729 experienced engine issues off the coast of Crete and sent a mayday call, The Guardian indicates. The director of the Norwegian NGO Aegean Boat Report Tommy Olsen said to The Guardian that it was possible to see the crowded boat floating off the island and a Hellenic coast guard patrol navigating alongside it. The stranded ship was pulled to Turkey and carried through the high seas by the Greek coastguard for the following three days, according to Tommy Olsen. The Murat 729 was initially recognized by Greek officials on Friday, October 29th, when they said it was in international waters and asked Turkey to return it, The Guardian notes. Meanwhile, Spiegel International stated that Greece resorts to brutality against asylum seekers as a policy, as video footages document special forces of the Greek Coast Guard carry out pushbacks on a regular basis. The recordings obtained by Spiegel International also reveal border officers intercepting immigrant boats with force and then abandoning them at sea. Moreover, during a press conference with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Dutch colleague Mark Rutte on Tuesday, a Dutch journalist accused Mitsotakis of “illegal deportations” and Rutte of refusing to accept asylum applicants, Ekathimerini reports. Prime Minister Mitsotakis responded stating that Greece has been coping with an unparalleled migration crisis, saving thousands of people at sea, unlike “those who have been instrumentalizing migration systematically pushing people in(to a) desperate situation from a safe country,” referring to Turkey. 

Italy: Thousands of migrants and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean Sea
The German rescue vessel Sea-Eye 4 requested safe port in Italy to disembark 800 migrants and refugees rescued from sinking boats in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday. The group includes 200 kids and five pregnant women and landed in Trapani on Sunday, Deutsche Welle reports. Gorden Isler from the Sea-Eye said that the rescue vessel made several requests to the Italian authorities to enable it to dock before being allowed to land in Trapani, Sicily. Isler underlined that Malta did not reply to emergency calls from the NGO during the course of the week, failing to give assistance, Deutsche Welle reports. Meanwhile, on Wednesday 10 November, the Italian authorities rescued almost 400 migrants and refugees from the sea. Another 306 were rescued by SOS Mediterranée on Thursday 11 November. The humanitarian organization said that some among the survivors had “chronic health conditions which had deteriorated due to the lack of medical care [during their journeys] and acute health conditions as a consequence of travel across the Mediterranean sea”.

Spain: 15 persons arrested for human smuggling 
Spanish authorities apprehended 15 individuals involved in the smuggling of hundreds of migrants and refugees from the Balkans to the European Union. According to the authorities, 77 individuals, including four children, were squeezed into a dirty cargo compartment of a truck seized at the Bosnian-Croat border, Reuters reports. Europol representative Marius Cristian Roman said that [t]”hese vehicles transported adults and children in life threatening situations…in overcrowded trucks at high speed on European motorways”.

Poland/Belarus: Hundreds of migrants camping at Belarusian-Polish border in near-freezing conditions
Hundreds of migrants and refugees are camping out in Belarus in temperatures close to the freezing point after Polish security forces halted individuals attempting to cross the border. An estimated 4,000 migrants and refugees are present in the area as well as neighbouring woodlands, AlJazeera notes. The human rights lawyer Marta Gorczynska said that “[t]he conditions in the forests between Poland and Belarus are very harsh, it’s an environment where there is very little access to food and water and no access to warm shelter” and added that “Belarus is responsible for providing these people assistance, and for first of all not using them as political tools to exert pressure on the EU, but also on the other side, Poland … is also obliged to provide these people assistance”. On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda accused Lukashenko’s regime of attacking the border and of “fully” controlling migrant groups seeking to enter Polish territory, Deutsche Welle reports. Warsaw officials warn of a possible “armed” escalation in the coming days, Al Jazeera reports. Following a phone contact between Belarusian President Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Minsk expressed worry over the deployment of Polish troops in the region and discussed Poland’s “harsh actions … towards peaceful people” with Putin, AlJazeera reports. Meanwhile, the EU is taking into consideration blacklisting airlines that are transporting migrants and refugees, in light of the escalated tension at the Polish-Belarusian border. The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated that “[t]he instrumentalisation of migrants for political purposes by Belarus is unacceptable” and added that [t]he EU will in particular explore how to sanction, including through blacklisting, third country airlines that are active in human trafficking”. 


World: Organizations call for decisive action to mitigate climate change impact on migration
On the occasion of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Global Health Organization (WHO) called on world leaders to take decisive action to mitigate the effects of climate change on migration and people’s health worldwide. Rising heat and droughts in Afghanistan have compounded the impacts of 40 years of conflict, exacerbating food shortages in a country with more than 3.5 million internally displaced people, while climate-related consequences are boosting competition for resources in the Sahel region, where temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the rest of the globe, InfoMigrants reports. The organizations stated that the prevention, readiness, and response capability of health systems are all important factors in reducing the potential health hazards of climate change-induced displacement and global public health. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi added that “[f]orced displacement is among the most devastating human consequences of climate change and shows the deep inequalities in our world”.