News Highlights: Situation in Ethiopia remains tense amidst ‘peace effort’, Thousands held in illegal detention in Libya, EU humanitarian bill adopted

This week news highlights: UNOCHA report indicates new clashes and dire humanitarian needs in Tigray; UN Secretary-General is hopeful progress towards peace is being made in Ethiopia; Debretsion states Eritrea needs to be addressed before peace negotiations can start in Ernest; ICRC prevented from aiding those in need due to lack of medical supplies in Tigray; Church reports the dire humanitarian situation in Tigray; Farmers in the Horn affected by drought need support, states FAO; UN human rights office urges Sudan authorities to stop the use of force against protestors; 12,000 migrants and refugees estimated by UN to be held in Libya, some in secret prisons; Unaccompanied minor refugees forced to share rooms with adults in the UK; Risk of discrimination and violation of human rights by UK border bill, say UN experts; Campaigners warn Greek biometric policing plan violates privacy rights, and Migrant boats to be stopped by UK military from crossing; EU adopts an annual humanitarian bill of € 1.5 billion 

Great Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Hostilities endangering civilians and humanitarian access, says OCHA
The latest report on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia by the UN Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates that ongoing clashes and drone strikes remain a danger to civilians and humanitarian access in Tigray. OCHA registered reports of clashes along the Tigray border on all sides. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Tigray is dire: “All-time lowest food distribution in Tigray as stock and fuel almost entirely exhausted reaching only about 10,000 people between 6-12 January,” states OCHA. 

Ethiopia: Progress towards peace in Ethiopia, end to hostilities necessary, says Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is hopeful progress towards peace is being made by both Ethiopia´s government and Tigray forces. His comments come after the African Union’s High Representative to the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo expressed optimism after a visit to Mekelle in Tigray and Addis Ababa. The UN would support “an all-inclusive and nationally owned dialogue, peace, security, and reconciliation process in Ethiopia” said Guterres. Guterres warns that ongoing military operations continue to form a serious threat to peace and called for an end to hostilities. Meanwhile, several reports indicate renewed mobilization by the Eritrean army at the Tigray border and ongoing clashes in other areas.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Debretsion points to Eritrea’s spoiler role
Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael posted a statement on 20 January indicating that Eritrea’s spoiler role in the region is hampering progress towards peace in Ethiopia. Debretsion argues that even if PM Abiy Ahmed comes to the negotiating table, “any possibility of ending the war through a negotiated settlement goes directly through Asmara.” Therefore, he argues, any attempt that does not address the role of Eritrea would be doomed to fail.

Ethiopia: Health workers prevented from aiding those in need due to lack of medical supplies
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is pleading that humanitarian assistance must be provided to those who need it most by the parties involved in the conflict in northern Ethiopia. The ICRC’s capacity to respond is limited due to the reduction of medical supplies with the delivery of humanitarian assistance seriously hampered by a combination of fighting, insecurity, and access constraints. The health coordinator at the ICRC delegation in Ethiopia, Apollo Barasa, said, “In Tigray, single-use items such as gloves, surgical materials, and even chest drains are being washed and reused, increasing the risk of infections. In some places, doctors have replaced disinfectants with salt to clean wounds. Patients are receiving expired medications, oxygen plants are not working anymore, and some health facilities cannot provide routine vaccines.”

Ethiopia: Every day hundreds of people lose their lives in Tigray
The Diocesan Catholic Secretariat of Adigrat (ADCS) states that every day in Tigray, the situation worsens; people are starving, including internally displaced persons, and millions of children, are suffering from malnutrition. Agenzia fides mentions that especially children and the elderly are at high risk due to hunger, COVID-19, and chronic diseases. The Diocesan Catholic Secretariat of Adigrat and the religious congregations are unable to help due to security restrictions on movement and access as well the cash withdrawal limit, and the lack of basic supplies in the market. For Humanitarian aid they were able to offer is limited to the towns and areas around the main road. The ADCS says: “the entire population has been deprived of all the fundamental rights of every human being: the right to live with dignity, the right to security, education, food, water, to receive humanitarian assistance, etc. The daily reality of the country is suffering, death, lack of medicines for preventable diseases. Any further delay will end in irreparable disaster for human lives and the social fabric of an entire generation”.  

Horn of Africa: Farmers affected by drought need support with $138 million in funding
$138 million is needed to be able to support farmers affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing a severe drought. According to FAO, if no action is taken in the next six months, a total of 1.5 million people will be affected in this part of Africa. Other factors like the conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia, the health crisis caused by COVID-19, and most importantly the locust invasion of 2020 and 2021, worsen the drought situation. According to FAO´s projections, by mid- 2022, 25.3 million people will be highly food insecure in the Horn. In order to emerge from the crisis, FAO plans to improve farmers’ resilience to drought, distribute seeds of drought-tolerant and early-maturing varieties of maize, cowpeas, sorghum, and mug beans as well as nutrient-rich vegetables. The plan entails organizing planting preparations and tilling services, improving access to irrigation, and training in good agricultural practices.

Sudan: UN human rights office urges Sudan authorities to stop the use of force against protestors
In Sudan, on a near-daily basis, peaceful protestors are killed or injured, according to Human Rights Office Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. She cited that credible numbers show at least 71 people have been killed, and more than 2,200 injured by security forces during protests in the wake of the 25 October military coup – 17 deaths occurred since the start of this year. On Monday, seven people were killed and dozen injured when security forces¨ brutally dispersed¨ demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum.

North Africa

Libya: 12,000 migrants and refugees plus secret detainees held in detention in Libya
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in a new UN report that more than 12,000 migrants, including refugees, are being held in 27 official prisons and detention centers across Libya at the moment. Thousands more do not appear in the official statistics of the Libyan government, effectively held in secret prisons. The detainees cannot legally fight their detention. Detainees face severe human rights abuses. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “female and male migrants and refugees continue to face heightened risks of rape, sexual harassment, and trafficking by armed groups, transnational smugglers and traffickers, as well as officials from the Directorate for combating illegal migration, which operates under the Ministry of Interior.”


UK: Unaccompanied minor refugees forced to share rooms with adults
In the United Kingdom, child refugees, after being wrongly deemed over 18, are being forced to share rooms and even beds with adults they do not know after being placed in hotels intended for adults states The Independent. Hundreds of unaccompanied male and female that say they are minor refugees were discovered in these hotels; many were scared to leave their rooms some to suicidal thoughts and others ran away. Often the minors stay in this situation until they receive help from a charity, after which many of them are proven minors informal age assessments. Maddie Harris, the founder of Humans for Rights Network (HRN), said: ¨The Home Office is placing children in adult hotels all over the country, completely washing their hands of them. They´re waiting for them to self-refer to an organization like ours, and then the local authority has to do something about it.¨

UK: Risk of discrimination and violation of human rights under UK border bill
Five independent UN human rights experts made a statement criticizing the UK Nationality and Border bill.  According to Siobhan Mullaly, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, if adopted, the Nationality and Borders bill could “seriously undermine the protection of the human rights of trafficked persons, including children: increase risks of exploitation faced by all migrants and asylum seekers and lead to serious human right violations […] The bill fails to acknowledge the Government’s obligation to ensure protection for migrant and asylum-seeking children and greatly increases risks of statelessness in violation of international law.” If the bill is passed it could lead to discrimination between categories of asylum seekers while penalizing asylum seekers and refugees who are violating the principle of non-punishment in international law, warn the UN experts.

Greece: Campaigners warn biometric policing plan violates privacy rights
Human Rights Watch and internet privacy campaigners Homo Digitalis state that Greece’s new EU-funded “biometric policing plan” violates refugees’ and asylum seekers’ privacy while increasing discrimination. Greek police will receive smart devices with software that enables them to scan vehicle license plates, collect fingerprints, and scan faces. Belkis Wille, a Human Rights Watch senior crisis and conflict researcher said: “The European Commission is funding a program that will help Greek police to target and harass refugees, asylum-seekers, and minority groups.” Human Rights Watch and Homo Digital say that “this will likely facilitate and increase the unlawful practice of racial profiling, Greek police in recent years are known to have carried out abusive, and often discriminatory, stops and searches of migrants and other marginalized populations.”

UK: Migrant boats to be stopped by UK military from crossing
Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed off on plans to have boats carrying migrants and refugees be stopped by the United Kingdom Royal Navy from reaching the country’s shores via the English Channel. This means the Ministry of Defence will take charge of operations. A Ministry of Defence Spokesperson said to Al Jazeera that the number of people crossing was unacceptable, and used past tragedies to support this latest decision. Last year in November, while attempting to cross, at least 27 people died when their boat deflated and sank; this was marked as the worst disaster on record involving migrants and refugees crossing the channel to the UK from France. Critics have called the new measure a front to repel migrants and refugees, calling it cruel and inhumane. 


EU: EU adopts an annual humanitarian bill of € 1.5 billion 
Due to natural hazards, humanitarian needs continue to increase and worsen around the world, states the European Commission in its announcement of a newly adopted annual € 1.5 billion humanitarian bill. Conflict and violence are named as the major causes of humanitarian needs. Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: “Humanitarian needs are at an all-time high and continue to grow. This is mostly due to conflicts but increasingly due to global challenges like climate change and COVID-19. Our humanitarian funding will allow the EU to do its part and continue to save lives and cover the basic needs of affected populations. 
EU at forefront of global humanitarian response: €1.5 billion for 2022