Horn/News Highlights: Rain remains absent in the Horn, UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda criticised, Human trafficking in Cyprus on the rise

This week, the Horn and News highlights are sent out in a combined format on Wednesday. In this week’s Horn and News Highlights: Conflict renewed in Oromia special zone of the Amhara region; Horn of Africa faces fourth consecutive crop failure;$300 million grant approved by the WB to finance reconstruction in Ethiopia; MSF staff member killed in South Sudan; Boat sinking leaves 6 dead and 29 missing off Libyan coasts; Migrants and refugees in Tunisia ask for evacuation through sit-in outside UN Office; Cigarette plant using refugee forced labourers dismantled in Italy; New UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing widely criticised; Migrant and refugee collective takes control of office building in Paris; Large building of migrants and refugees evacuated in Brussels; Human trafficking on the rise in Cyprus; Number of entries in Europe highest since 2016, says Frontex; Seventy-third session of the Committee against Torture of the OHCHR.

The greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Conflict renewed in Oromia special zone of the Amhara region
According to a report by Addis Standard (AS), conflict and violence in the Oromo and North Shewa Zones of the Amhara regional state has claimed dozens of lives and displaced many. Multiple residents told the AS that an attack was launched on the residents of the special zone by Fano, a group of armed militia in Amhara region, on 18  April. “The armed group shot at residents, killing two farmers and wounding many,” said a witness. Another witness stated: “The armed group were expecting support from the Amhara regional special forces. When the special forces refused to take sides, clashes broke out between the two.” He also added that residents of Showa Robit fled to the towns of Debre Sina and Debre Birhan for fear that conflict might spread. A local government official corroborated the statements of the witnesses, saying the Fano clashed with the special forces during the attempts by special forces to intervene. The official also accused the armed group of inciting violence, They reported 10 people were killed and 34 injured in the conflict.

Horn: Region faces fourth consecutive crop failure
The World Food Programme (WFP) is warning that the delayed arrival of the rainy season is making the drought in the Horn worse. Although the rain season was expected to start a month ago, rain has yet to show up. It would be the fourth consecutive season in which the harvest has failed. The WFP insists that rapid action has proven to be important in avoiding a catastrophe, and they say they need $473 million to provide assistance to those that need it. The WFP adds that the region is also feeling the impact of the war in Ukraine, with fuel and imported food prices rising. According to the WFP Ethiopia and Somalia are especially hard hit. Ethiopia is facing the worst drought since 1981, affecting 7.2 million people, while in Somalia, 40% of the population is facing food insecurity. 

Ethiopia: $300 million grant approved by the WB to finance reconstruction  
According to a statement of the World Bank (WB), an international development recovery response grant of $300 million has been approved to support conflict-affected communities in Ethiopia. The statement added that the project will help to address immediate needs of communities, rehabilitate destroyed infrastructures and scale up community resilience to the effects of conflict related impacts. “The project will help to improve access to basic services, as well as rebuild climate-resilient infrastructure, prioritised by communities. The project will also provide GBV [Gender-Based Violence] survivors with improved access to the services and comprehensive care needed to recover from the impacts of the violence they experienced,” said the World Bank. However, a spokesperson for the European Commission (EU) told the Devex that the move by the WB to finance reconstruction is “premature” and could be “counterproductive” in the context of the current political stalemate.

South Sudan: MSF staff member killed in South Sudan
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that one of its staff members was among the 12 victims of a shooting in Leer County, South Sudan, on 10 April.  The staff member, Peter Mathor Tap, was working with MSF in South Sudan since 2007. He is the second MSF staff member in South Sudan killed since December. The MSF mission head said that “We strongly condemn the indiscriminate violence being carried out by armed groups who have killed and injured many innocent people in Leer […]”. The UN has condemned the attack. 

North Africa

Libya: Boat sinking leaves 6 dead and 29 missing
The sinking of a boat off the coast of the Libyan city of Sabratha has left six migrants and refugees dead and 29 others missing, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said. The causes of the sinking have not yet been specified, but it took place at a major departure point for migrants and refugees making the Mediterranean crossing, the IOM said. “Dedicated search and rescue capacity and a safe disembarkation mechanism are urgently needed to prevent further deaths and suffering,” the IOM said. Earlier, on 9 April, 18 Sudanese people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya on their way to Europe, according to Dabanga. Their boat was initially carrying 20 people, but only 2 people were rescued and 4 of the 18 bodies found. In recent years, political instability in Libya has led to the smuggling and trafficking of migrants and refugees in precarious, unstable dinghies, Dabanga reports. Since 2022, at least 476 migrants and refugees are believed to have drowned on the Central Mediterranean route, according to the IOM.

Tunisia: Migrants and refugees ask for evacuation through sit-in outside UN Office
Dozens of migrants and refugees in Tunisia are asking for evacuation through a sit-in in front of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, Africanews reports. The majority of them are survivors of attempts to cross by sea to Europe. They state they regularly become victims of verbal and physical abuse in Tunisia. “The real problem is, the UN commission has abandoned its main role, which is our protection. Instead of doing that, it has left us on the street. We were living in Zarzis, and the UN commission demanded our evacuation from there, cut off all funds and stopped protecting us,” Saleh Saeed, a Sudanese person from Darfur who was denied refugee status, told the Agence France Presse (AFP). 


Italy: Cigarette plant using refugee forced labourers dismantled
On 14 April, a raid by the Italian police led to the dismantling of a counterfeit cigarette plant exploiting refugees and migrants next to Rome. Forced labourers were from Ukrainian, Moldavian and Russian origins and were “subjected to backbreaking work shifts and forced to work in an unhealthy environment, with windows walled over and without vents for the processing fumes,” according to Italian authorities. According to several sources, the rise of human trafficking is a direct consequence of the war in Ukraine. Gillian Triggs, UN Refugee Agency UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said: “[W]e are on high alert and warning refugees about the risks of predators and criminal networks who may attempt to exploit their vulnerability or lure them with promises of free transport, accommodation, employment or other forms of assistance”.

UK: New UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda widely criticised 
International institutions, politicians, aid groups, church leaders, migrants and refugees are strongly criticising the new United Kingdom (UK) plan to send people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda as a third country offshore processing solution, according to several sources. This new plan was announced by the British officials on 14 April, and is supposed to reduce human trafficking and the crossing of the Channel, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. According to CEO of the Refugee Council Enver Salomon, the scheme will “do little to deter them [migrants and refugees] from coming to this country, but only lead to more human suffering and chaos — at a huge expense of an estimated £1.4 billion a year”. Hami, an Afghan asylum seeker interviewed by ABC News, said: “I would take this path again and again regardless of the Rwanda deportation threat”. Gillian Triggs, the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said “UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards”. UNHCR called on both sides to rethink the plan, stressing that the agreement would have the opposite effect from the one expected, pushing migrants and refugees to seek alternative routes.

France: A migrant and refugee collective takes control of office building in Paris
Since 18 April 2022, migrants, refugees and activists are occupying an empty office building close to the centre of Paris. According to Franceinfo, the occupants want to turn the place into an “immigrants embassy”. One of the members of the collective La Chapelle Debout, who organised the action, explained that the welcoming of Ukrainian refugees in Europe is proof that it is possible to take quick measures to help migrants and refugees, especially Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians. French police observed the takeover of the building, but did not intervene, according to Le Figaro.

Belgium: Large building of migrants and refugees evacuated
On 17 April, around 70 migrants and refugees were evicted from the former buildings of a bank in Brussels, where they were squatting. Earlier in April, around 150 people living in the buildings were ordered by the Belgian authorities to leave the place. Since August 2021, several hundreds have occupied the building, named the “Neutral Zone” by its occupants. Helped by volunteers, the occupants ask for residence rights in Belgium.

Cyprus: Human trafficking on the rise
In Cyprus, human trafficking is on the rise with close to no action from the authorities from both parts of the island, according to Euractiv. In 2021, the US State department said that Northern Cyprus was seen as a region of the worst tier possible regarding human trafficking, like North Korea or Afganistan. Nasia Hadjigeorgiou, assistant professor in transitional justice and human rights at the University of Central Lancashire Cyprus, said that the problem of human trafficking in both parts of the island is “literally not being dealt with”. In North Cyprus, the abuse of student visas by human traffickers is very frequent, according to Fezile Osum, program coordinator for Human Rights Platform. Young women from Africa are coming with those visas then “are locked in private apartments and forced into (commercial) sex” said Fezile Osum. According to several sources, the the problem of human trafficking is linked to the division of the country and the lack of international authorities attention for the northern part of the island.

Europe: Number of entries highest since 2016, says Frontex
On 14 April, the EU border agency Frontex said the first quarter of 2022 has seen the highest numbers of arrivals in Europe since the start of 2016, excluding Ukrainian refugees.  Excluding Ukrainian refugees from the figures, Frontex estimates that 40,000 migrants and refugees entered the EU outside of the borders crossing points, which represents an increase of 57% since last year. In 2022, the busiest migratory route in Europe is the one crossing Turkey to arrive in the Western Balkan EU-member states.


OHCHR: Seventy-third session of the Committee against Torture
The seventy-third session of the Committee against Torture opened on 19 April in Geneva, Switzerland, and will run until 13 May. Its objective will be to examine the efforts made by Cuba, Iceland, Iraq, Kenya, Montenegro and Uruguay to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, reports the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (OHCHR). The Chair, Claude Heller, explained that the Committee is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention by States Parties, and indicated that during the session it would consider reports from various Member States.

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