News Highlights: Mass detentions in Amhara, UK Asylum seekers detained ahead of Rwanda, 100 million displaced worldwide

The News Highlights are sent out on Wednesday due to the Ascension Day holiday. In this week’s News Highlights: Concern over mass detentions in Amhara, Ethiopia; Repression of protests leads to another death in Sudan; Aid to Tigray increasing, but shortages remain; Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights speaks on the situation in South Sudan; 85 migrants and refugees lost at sea, 4 found dead between Libya and Tunisia; 148 “vulnerable” Gambians returned from Libya by IOM; Sub-Saharan migrants living in fear of pushbacks in Morocco; Asylum seekers detained in UK before being sent to Rwanda; Two migrants and refugees wounded by gunshot near Dunkirk; A third of migrant workers on fishing boats in the UK facing abuse; Eritrean refugees acquitted by the Italian supreme cassation court in illegal migration trial; Greek shelter for unaccompanied minor migrants and refugees attacked; 100 million forcibly displaced people, a concerning record for UNHCR; Polish president Andrzej Duda warns about a global migration wave following hunger caused by war in Ukraine.

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The greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Concern over mass detentions in Amhara
On Tuesday 24 May, the President of the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC), Mesfin Tegenu, issued a statement expressing concern about mass detentions in Ethiopia. On 20 May, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration invoked the need to “protect citizens and ensure the survival of the nation”, reports Africa News, leading to a ‘law enforcement operation’ and the subsequent mass arrest of over 4,500 people in the Amhara region. “These actions could tarnish the progress made by the Ethiopian government in leading the country towards peace, democracy and the rule of law,” stated Mesfin Tegenu. Chief Commissioner of Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, said that the commission was aware of the steps that the government is taking to enforce law and order in various parts of the country, but “such arrests are not in line with the principles of human rights and are not appropriate”. Some Amhara residents reported that the crackdown is related to attempts to disarm the FANO militia in Amhara, which reportedly hold relations with Eritrea. In his statement, Mesfin Tegenu condemns the Ethiopian government, but also the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he describes as a “terrorist group”. 

Sudan: Repression continues after the coup, with another victim
This Saturday 21 May, Sudanese security forces killed a protester in a new demonstration against the military takeover, VOA reports. Since the military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on 25 October 2021, 96 people have been killed in the crackdown on anti-coup protests. Six months after the coup, the protests continue, and the security forces are responding with a fierce crackdown to crush them, reports The Guardian. Police are using tear gas and shotguns, and have made over 1,500 arrests since October. Volker Perthes, head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and Special Envoy, expressed concern during the 24 May UN Security Council meeting, warning that if the crisis is not urgently addressed, the consequences would be international. “If the authorities want to build trust, it is essential that those responsible for violence against protesters be held to account”, he added.

Ethiopia: Aid to Tigray increasing, but shortages remain
The World Food Programme reports that last week, a record number of trucks made it to the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Crucial shortages, especially for seeds and fertilisers, remain ahead of the planting season, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Ayder hospital in Mekelle reports that fuel shortages are severely impacting its performance, as well as continued shortages of medicine and other critical supplies. 

South Sudan/Ethiopia/UN: Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights speaks on the situation in South Sudan
Ilze Brands Kehris, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, concluded a two-day working mission to Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, after spending a few days in South Sudan from May 17 to 19. During the visit, she met with senior political representatives, such as ministers, as well as representatives of civil society and others, Relief Web reports. Her visit was an opportunity to reiterate the UN’s support for the people and government of South Sudan in particular. She expressed concern about the human rights situation. “I came to South Sudan to hear about the human rights situation first-hand from interlocutors on the ground […] Throughout my visit, I could see that impunity for human rights violations remains one of the main obstacles to peace in South Sudan,” she said. Continuing her mission to Ethiopia, she met with interlocutors to also discuss human rights, peace and security, especially in the context of the joint AU, EU and UN project to strengthen the role of the AU in enforcing international human rights and humanitarian law, Relief Web writes.

North Africa

Libya/Tunisia: 85 migrants and refugees lost at sea, 4 found dead
Since 25 May, 75 persons are missing at sea after the sinking of a boat near Sfax, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The boat, which departed from the beaches of Zuwara in Libya, was probably trying to reach Italy, according to Reuters. 24 people were rescued and 1 was found dead by coastguards, according to Reuters. On 20 May, three migrants and refugees died and 10 others are missing following a shipwreck off the coast of east-central Tunisia, according to Tunisian National Guard. The boat left the city of Sfax with 50 Tunisians on board. According to Africanews, the boat was most probably aiming to reach Italy. In 2021, Nearly 2,000 refugees and migrants went missing or drowned in the Mediterranean, according to  the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Libya: 148 “vulnerable” Gambians returned by IOM
On 19 May, 193 Gambians stationed in Niger and in Libya were voluntarily flown back to Banjul, Gambia, by plane as part of an action by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), according to RFI. The 148 returnees from Libya have been recognized as “vulnerable” by the IOM because of the violence and exploitation they have suffered. Since 2017, this voluntary return programme, organised by the IOM and the European Union, has repatriated 6,600 people to Gambia, including 3,300 from Libya, according to RFI.

Morocco: Sub-Saharan migrants living in fear of pushbacks
1,000 sub-Saharan migrants and refugees have been pushed back by the Moroccan police in one month, according to TV5Monde. According to multiple sources, migrants and refugees are forcibly taken away by the police, who release them in the south of the country or at the Algerian border, sometimes at night or on the highways. According to multiple testimonies gathered by TV5Monde in Tanger, migrants and refugees are afraid to go out and be randomly pushed back by the police. In February, the death of Jean Bihina, a Cameroonian migrant crushed by a car after being dropped on a highway by the police after a pushback, has deeply marked the community of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees in Tangier.


UK: Asylum seekers detained before being sent to Rwanda 
All asylum seekers that the UK government wants to send to Rwanda are currently in detention centres, according to the UK Home Office. Enver Solomon, chief executive of Refugee Council, said: “The government is now so determined to treat any person fleeing war or oppression, including those escaping Ukraine and Afghanistan, as a commodity to be shipped to Rwanda that it is choosing to detain them immediately. This is appallingly cruel and will cause great human suffering”. Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “It seems that Priti Patel’s Rwanda expulsion policy is being used as justification to detain increasing numbers of traumatised people indefinitely in prison-like facilities. We’ve heard reports of people confused about why they are detained and wholly unable to access legal advice”. On 24 May,  armed forces minister James Heappey announced that “‘HM Treasury agreed that £50m in additional funding would be made available to the Ministry of Defense to deliver military primacy of small boat operations in the English Channel”. The government scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been widely criticised by NGOs, politicians and other public figures, according to multiple sources.

France: Two migrants and refugees wounded by gunshot near Dunkirk
On 22 May, two migrants and refugees were wounded during a gunfight that took place in a refugee camp near Dunkirk, according to Le Figaro. According to NGO Utopia 56, “there has been gunfire since Thursday [19 May] at least”, which sent “at least three people” to the hospital. According to secretary general of the NGO Salam, these repeated gunshots may be linked to confrontation between smugglers in the context of high migratory activity towards the UK. On 23 May, a migrant was wounded by gunshot again and another died, according to Le Figaro. On 25 May the French police started to dismantle the 500 people migrant and refugee camp where these events took place.

UK: A third of migrant workers on fishing boats are facing abuse
A third of migrant workers employed on UK fishing boats are working 20-hour shifts, and 35% are facing regular physical violence, according to a recent survey study. Associate director of the University of Nottingham Rights Lab Dr Jessica Sparks said: “There were very traumatic reports of [workers] being physically beaten by captains. Most of the migrants reported being discriminated against, especially Ghanaians, [and] racial slurs while being beaten by captains. The amount of physical violence was surprising to me”. According to multiple sources, those abuses are linked to loopholes in the legislation on transit visas, which tie the workers to a single employer without the possibility to change jobs. On 16 May, The International Transport Workers’ Federation issued a press release and a report showing how transit visa loopholes are leading to forms of human trafficking in the UK.

Italy: Eritrean refugees acquitted by the supreme cassation court
On 20 May, four Eritreans refugees were cleared out of accusations of aiding and abetting illegal immigration of other Eritrean refugees by the supreme cassation court in Rome, according to InfoMigrants. The four refugees were accused of trafficking other refugees, but the court judged that helping other refugees was not a charge, according to InfoMigrants. “It is an important sentence that I hope will be useful to other cases based on unjust charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration” said lawyer Raffaella Flore. 

Greece: Shelter for unaccompanied minor migrants and refugees attacked
On 20 May, a shelter for unaccompanied minor migrants and refugees in Thessalonica, Greece, was attacked by dozens of young people and a resident of the shelter was wounded, according to NGO Arsis. Arsis called on the community and local authorities to combat these “racist behaviours and actions”. According to Ouest France, the agressions against migrants and refugees in Greece multiplied the last few months as the appeal trial of the leaders of the Neo-Nazi formation Golden Dawn, of whom 57 members had been convicted of belonging to a criminal organisation in 2020, is approaching.


UNHCR: 100 million forcibly displaced people, a concerning record for UNHCR
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has said that the number of forcibly displaced people in the world has reached 100 million. “One hundred million is a stark figure — sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set,” he said. The figure includes all refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people, amounting to 53.2 million people, UN News reports. This record represents 1% of the world’s population and is equal to the 14th most populous country in the world. It has been reached in particular by the recent war in Ukraine, as well as all the other conflicts that drive people to flee violence and human rights violations, UN News explains. “This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes,” said Filippo Grandi.

WEF: Polish president Andrzej Duda warns about a global migration wave
On 24 May, the Polish president Andrzej Duda made a speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos about the global consequences in terms of world hunger and migration of the war in Ukraine. Andrzej Duda focused on the ‘migration wave’ that could impact Europe, coming from North African countries dependent on Ukrainian wheat. During his speech, Andrzej Duda said: “If it turns out that there is hunger in North Africa … both Spain and the whole of southern Europe will have a huge migration problem. […] Today we should focus on Ukraine being able to export its grain”.

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 its 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 any additional information and corrections.