Horn/News Highlights: Drought worsens in the Horn, Illegal treatment of refugees by Greek authorities, Trafficking of Ukrainian women on the rise

This week and next week, the Horn and News highlights are sent out in combined format on Wednesday. In this week’s Horn and News Highlights: US to provide $114 million to respond to drought in the Horn; US envoy to the Horn expected to quit; Foreign condemnation for human rights abuses in Western Tigray; Professor warns of further Ethiopian conflict; Fighting in Oromia worsens; Ethiopian Aksum University says 12 staff members were killed in war; 13 people drowned off Tunisia; Shipwreck off Libya kills at least 4; HRW denounces illegal treatment of refugees by Greece; Suspected Greek smugglers arrested; New measures to prevent migrants from entering Spain; Record numbers crossing the Channel; New bill against illegal immigration in Estonia; Unicef expects more refugees in Italy this year; Lampedusa struggling to cope with arrivals; Trafficking of young women fleeing Ukraine on the rise; 5 Sea-Watch Mediterranean rescue operations in 24 hours; UK Home office contractors accused of sex tourism while deporting migrants; ECHR judges North Macedonia’s mass refugee pushback legal; New migratory routes from Europe to the US.

The greater Horn of Africa

Horn: The US to provide $114 million to respond to drought in the Horn
USAID has announced $114 million in humanitarian assistance for the people affected by drought in the Horn of Africa. The funding will be put towards providing food assistance, access to water and medical supplies, says USAID. UN agencies said on Tuesday that millions of people and children are risking severe starvation across several countries and that it is the worst drought the region has faced in a decade. Thousands have already been displaced due to the drought, which has  affected the region for the past two years. The UN agencies estimate that two thirds of the population in South Sudan and 40% in Somalia, as well as populations in other Horn countries, will be affected. These numbers are twice as high as the drought they faced last year. 

Horn: US envoy to the Horn expected to quit
Officials have told Foreign Policy (FP) that the US envoy to the Horn is expected to quit his post soon. David Satterfield has only been envoy for a few months. The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment by FP. The reason for Satterfield’s departure is unclear, but could leave a gap in the American response to the region, states FP. 

Ethiopia: Foreign condemnation for the human rights abuses in Western Tigray
The US State Department and the European Union have raised concern about the reports of “ethnically-motivated atrocities committed by Amhara authorities in Western Tigray”. The statements come following a report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documenting the ongoing alleged crimes including ethinc cleansing in Tigray. The US has “noted” on Friday 8 April that ethnic Tigrayans continue to be arbitrarily detained. The EU External Action Service has said in a statement on 9 April that it condemned all atrocities committed since the start of the conflict and called on all sides to end human rights violations. The US has called for those detained to be released, and for international monitors to be let into the area to follow the situation while the EU called for an independent UN investigation. The British government has also condemned atrocities committed in Tigray. In response to a parliamentary question the British government said that it was “appalled at the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence and the destruction of medical facilities in northern Ethiopia” and that it working to provide aid to the region. 

Ethiopia: Professor warns of potential for further conflict
According to Prof. Kjetil Tronvoll, an expert on the Horn of Africa, preparations are being made for a continuation of the conflict in Tigray. He says that military deployments by the Ethiopian government and its allies are being made in preparation for this. Simultaneously he says that the Tigrayans are preparing for further combat as so far little additional aid has arrived in Tigray. According to Prof. Tronvoll, only 22 supply trucks have so far arrived in the region. Tronvoll argues that with the international community distracted by the war in Ukraine, an opportunity might be seized to continue the war. 

Ethiopia: Fighting in Oromia worsens
BBC’s world service Africa warns that the war in Ethiopia might worsen further amidst intensified fighting in Oromia, Ethiopia. Although news on the war in Oromia is very sparse, government forces continue to clash with Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) forces. BBC states that the conflict could further deepen the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Ethiopia: Aksum University says 12 staff members were killed
According to Tigray state-led media, 12 staff members of Aksum University have been killed by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers in the 15 months conflict in Tigray. The administrative and student affairs vice president of the University, Dr Zenebe Teka, told Tigrai Television that seven academic and five administrative staff were killed by the soldiers. “Some of them were killed inside the University camps, some on the streets and others in their home”, said Dr Zenebe.

North Africa

Tunisia: 13 people drowned trying to reach Italy
On 9 April 2022, 13 migrants and refugees, including 6 women and 6 children, died at sea this weekend trying to reach Italy, according to Tunisian authorities.12 others have been missing at sea since this weekend, according to the same Tunisian authorities. According to UNHCR, the Central Mediterranee is now the deadliest migration route in the world.

Libya: Shipwreck on Libyan coast leaves at least four dead, 14 missing
Four people died after a boat carrying migrants and refugees sank off the coast of Libya on Monday 11 April, according to InfoMigrants. Of the 20 people who were initially on board the wooden ship, only two were rescued, four were found dead, and the other 14 remain missing, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The IOM has not yet specified the identity of the people who rescued the two survivors. The Missing Migrants project of the IOM recorded 475 deaths of migrants and refugees while trying to cross the central Mediterranean, since the beginning of 2022. “These are the dead of Europe’s borders,” tweeted the Mediterranean monitoring organisation Alarm Phone


Greece: Human Rights Watch denounces the illegal treatment of migrants and refugees by the authorities
On 07 April 2022, Human Rights Watch published a report on illegal treatment of the authorities towards non-Ukrainian migrants and refugees. Greek authorities detained and robbed people before sending them back to Turkey by boat, according to Human Rights Watch. According to several sources, the Greek government is hiring migrants to serve as coast guard auxiliaries and push others back to sea. The pushbacks by the Greek government violate several human rights norms, according to Human Rights Watch. On 29 March, a report published by the Greek independent authority for transparency mandated by the government stated that it “found no basis for reports that Greek authorities have illegally turned back asylum-seekers entering the country from Turkey”.

Greece: Suspected smugglers of migrants and refugees arrested
Four suspected migrant smugglers were arrested on Monday 11 April by Greek police on the island of Rhodes in an operation targeting a suspected criminal organisation, according to InfoMigrants. Three others allegedly linked to the operation were also arrested in Athens. According to Greek authorities, the smugglers picked up migrants and refugees on beaches, transferring them to hotels and handing them forged or stolen documents, while working in collaboration with smugglers in Turkey. Since February 2022, the European police agency Europol has been working jointly with Greek and German authorities to dismantle a criminal network of migrant smugglers from Greece to Germany, according to InfoMigrants.

Spain/Morocco: New measures to prevent migrants from entering Spain
During March 2022, the number of migrants arriving to Spain from Morocco decreased by 66.9% compared to January 2022, according to the Spanish Ministry of Interior. According to multiple videos, non-Moroccan migrants and refugees in Tanger are indistinctly deported by bus to the South of Morocco by the authorities. On 30 April 2022, new collaboration agreements between the Moroccan and Spanish police to fight against illegal immigration will take effects, according to El Confidencial. This resumption of collaboration between Spain and Morocco is linked to the recent change of position of Spanish diplomacy on the question of Western Sahara, according to multiple sources.

UK/France: Record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats
In 2022, more than 4,500 migrants and refugees have already crossed the Channel by small boats, with 3,066 crossing in March alone, says Daily Mail. According to the Daily Mail, this is three times higher than the total number of 2020. On 11 April, 80 people crossed the channel by small boats, according to Daily Mail. “The planned numbers for this year were double that of the preceding year. We’re ahead of that now” said Lucy Moreton of the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs. Home Office Minister Tom Pursglove said legislation is in preparation to deal with the issue. As shown by FullFact.org, the majority of the people crossing the Channel by small boats have a genuine claim for refugee protection and are not economic migrants.

Estonia: New bill against illegal immigration
On 5 April, the Estonian government approved a bill in order to amend the State Border Act to respond to ‘mass illegal imigration’ in an emergency. In agreement with the amendment, the Estonian administration may return migrants who entered the country illegally in an emergency without issuing a precept to leave or a decision to refuse the entry, according to SchengenVisaInfo.com. The Estonian Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani said: The amendment of the State Borders Act is necessary so that the police can also do their work in situations where foreigners are used as a weapon in organising a hybrid attack, as we saw at the borders of Belarus and the European Union”. Estonia claims the new amendment would not prevent them from fulfilling international obligations of protection. 

Italy: More migrants and refugees this year than last
According to a report published on 11 April, Unicef predicts that there will be more migrants and refugees in Italy in 2022 than in 2021. In 2021, 78,000 migrants were registered by Italian authorities, including 12,200 unaccompanied minors. Unicef predicts higher numbers in 2022 because of the Ukrainian crisis. 88,000 Ukrainians, including 33,000 children, having already entered Italy.

Italy: Lampedusa struggling to cope with migrants and refugees
After weeks of bad weather conditions, the number of boats heading for the island of Lampedusa in Italy is now increasing, and more than 800 migrants and refugees disembarked in the space of 48 hours on 9 and 10 April, reports InfoMigrants. The refugees and migrants are said to come mainly from Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Niger and Eritrea, according to the Italian press. The reception centre people first enter after arriving has quickly become overcrowded, with a capacity of only 250 places, says InfoMigrants. More than 260 migrants were therefore moved to other reception centres in the country, such as Porto Empedocle in Sicily, or Cala Pisana, also in Lampedusa, InfoMigrants said. “[…] I would like to thank all those in Lampedusa who are involved in rescue and reception operations at sea and here on the island. I believe that Italy and Europe must do the same: when preparing measures of international solidarity and humanitarian reception, remember to look at what is happening in the south, in the heart of the Mediterranean,” said the mayor of Lampedusa, Totò Martello.

Ukraine: Trafficking of young women is on the rise
Young women fleeing the war in Ukraine are at great risk of forced prostitution, according to many sources. “The demand for women and children from Ukraine has increased enormously. On the Internet, men fantasise about setting up a small private brothel for themselves and their friends with two or three Ukrainian women. And where there is a market, it will also be served.” says the German Chairman of the NGO International Justice Mission .“The current price for a girl in her 20s is £145,000”, says a volunteer working at the Ukrainian Border. On 11 April, the German State Secretariat for Migration launched a national prevention campaign to fight human traffickers and to protect migrant women and children.

Mediterranean: 5 Sea-Watch rescue operations in 24 hours and 211 survivors
Between 8 and 10 April, the German humanitarian organisation Sea-Watch said it had rescued 211 people in distress in the Mediterranean. Sea-Watch conducted five rescue operations during a total of 24 hours, reports InfoMigrants, which the organisation described as “chaotic and out of control” on Twitter. InfoMigrants describes it as a traumatic 24 hours for the survivors, but also for the Sea-Watch crew. “Our crew also had to witness how for some of the people, any rescue came too late,” said Sea-Watch.

UK: Home office contractors accused of sex tourism while deporting migrants
An investigation has been launched into Home Office contractors after whistleblowers revealed accusations of predatory sex tourism while deporting migrants.The accusations rest in particular on the firm Mitie, which has been managing contracts for Home Office since 2018, according to The Guardian. A whistleblower contractor told the Guardian: “The money paid by these Home Office contractors using sex workers while abroad doing deportations goes further than it would in the UK. But it is taxpayers’ money being used to fly us to these places where sex is being paid for”. A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take all reports of sexual exploitation extremely seriously and if these disturbing allegations are proven, we expect Mitie to take swift and robust action”.

North Macedonia: ECHR judges North Macedonia’s mass refugee pushback legal
In April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judged against 8 refugees and migrants who were accusing North Macedonia of a mass illegal pushback in 2016. The legal advisers of the complainants’ group said they are considering appeals. On 16 March 2022, 1,500 refugees and migrants took part in a “March of Hope” from Greece to North Macedonia, but were violently rejected by the North Macedonian army, according to The National. The group said that this pushback “marked the beginning of the systematic expansion of pushback practices across Europe”.


Russia/Ukraine/US: New migratory routes from Europe to the US
New dangerous migratory routes from Ukraine and Russia to the United States are starting to appear, according to several sources. On 4 April, 15 undocumented migrants from Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Federation were arrested by US authorities in Key West Florida, according to a Homeland Security Investigations press release. This event raises concern on the dangerous new migratory routes to the US related to the war in Ukraine and the international economic sanctions on Russia, according to the Washington Post. Over the first weekend of April, more than 400 Ukrainian people arrived in Tijuana (Mexico), according to Daily Mail. Enrique Lucero, Tijuana’s migration affairs director said around 1,700 Ukrainians arrived in Tijuana recently and “they will continue to arrive”. On 24 March, President of the US Joe Biden announced that he will accept 100,000 refugees from Ukraine.

Disclaimer: All information in these highlights is presented as a fluid update report, as to the best knowledge and understanding of the authors at the moment of publication. EEPA does not claim that the information is correct but verifies to the best of ability within the circumstances. Publication is weighed on the basis of interest to understand potential impacts of events (or perceptions of these) on the situation. Check all information against updates and other media. EEPA does not take responsibility for the use of the information or impact thereof. All information reported originates from third parties and the content of all reported and linked information remains the sole responsibility of these third parties. Report to info@eepa.be any additional information and corrections.