News Highlights: Ethiopia establishes negotiation committee, First Rwanda flight from UK cancelled, Digital human rights concerns

In this week’s News Highlights: Ethiopian government established a negotiation committee; WFP forced to cut humanitarian aid in South Sudan for financial reasons; Drought weakens health system in Somalia and Somaliland; Special Rapporteur on Eritrea observe deterioration of human rights, 80 people rescued off the coasts of Tunisia and Libya; Thousands of people deported from Algeria and Libya to the Nigerian border; First flight to Rwanda from UK cancelled; Urgent attention needed on trafficking in human beings in Portugal, say experts; EU resolution calls for a ban on the import of forced labour products; Tightening of residence permit conditions in Turkey, especially for Syrians; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concerned by “forcibly deported” Ukrainian children; Human rights rapporteurs’ concern grows over rising digital authoritarianism. 

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The greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Establishment of a negotiation committee by the federal government
On Tuesday 14 June, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the federal government had set up a committee to negotiate with Tigrayan forces. This is the first public announcement of its kind confirming peace efforts to try to resolve the ongoing conflict between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), explains Reuters. “Regarding the peace … a committee has been established and it will study how we will conduct talks,” he told the parliament. The committee will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, who has 10 to 15 days to work out and announce the details of the negotiations, Reuters says. Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael has expressed his readiness to negotiate in Kenya, but also put down some red lines, which includes a return to the territorial situation before the conflict, a referendum in Tigray on any decisions, the army of Tigray remaining intact and accountability for genocide.

South Sudan: WFP forced to suspend humanitarian aid for financial reasons
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Tuesday 14 June that it would have to suspend part of its food aid to South Sudan, citing a significant funding shortfall. “We are extremely concerned about the impact of funding cuts on children, women and men who will not have enough to eat during the lean season. These families have completely exhausted their coping strategies. They need immediate humanitarian assistance to put food on the table in the short term and to rebuild their livelihoods and resilience to cope with future shocks,” said Adeyinka Badejo, acting country director of the World Food Programme in South Sudan. According to the WFP, this would be an extremely unfortunate time to suspend such assistance, given the existing food insecurity situation for 60% of the population, and which would increase the risk of famine for 1.7 million people.

Somalia/Somaliland: Drought weakens health system
The severe drought is worsening the health crises in Somalia and Somaliland, according to Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). Rural populations forced to move to the urban centres are facing malnutrition and precarious situations, which make them more vulnerable to negative health consequences, as Somalia is currently facing a significant measles outbreak, according to MSF. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is currently assisting over 350,000 people facing the drought in Somalia as 1,25 millions are in need of assistance, according to IOM. The drought is compounded by decades of local conflict, growing poverty and climate and health crises.

UN/Eritrea: Special Rapporteur on Eritrea observe deterioration of human rights
On 13 June, the Special Rapporteur (SR) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea Dr. Mohamed Babiker presented his report at the 50th session of the Human Right Council (HRC50). In his speech, Dr. Babiker said: “Since I started my mandate in Nov. 2020, I have not received any evidence of progress in the human rights situation in #Eritrea. In fact, I have observed a deterioration”. In his report, the SR highlights multiple abuses committed on Eritrean citizens inside the country, but also on Eritrean refugees in Africa and Europe by the governments of Sudan, Libya, and Eritrea. Human Rights Watch welcomed the report and asked the UN to extend the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.

North Africa

Tunisia/Libya: Complicated rescue in the Mediterranean
Between 14 and 15 June, The Sea Eye 4 and the Aita Mari, two private rescue ships, rescued 80 people off the coasts of Tunisia and Libya, according to InfoMigrants. The Aita Mari rescued 17 people as their ship was intercepted by Libyan coastguards in order to be returned, which made it a “complicated rescue”, according to NGO Maydayterraneo.

Algeria/Libya: Thousands of migrants deported to the Nigerian border
Each month at least since January 2022, two thousand migrants and refugees in Algeria and in Libya are deported to the Nigerian border, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. The migrants and refugees are left there in the Sahel Desert at a location called “Point Zero”, according to La Repubblica. Children, injured people and people with psychological traumas are also left at “Point Zero”, according to La Repubblica. 38 bodies have been found between 2020 and 2021 on the way from “Point Zero” and the closest Nigerian village of Assamaka, according to La Repubblica. 70% of persons who received medical assistance from MSF in this area said they had experienced violence and degrading treatment from Algerian and Libyan guards. According to MSF head of mission in Niger Jamal Mrrouch “From their physical and mental conditions it is clear that they have gone through hell”. Between January and May 2022, 14,000 migrants and refugees have been left at the Nigerian border by Algerian and Libyan authorities.


UK: First flight to Rwanda cancelled
On 14 June, the first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda was cancelled after a last minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), according to The Guardian. A favourable ruling of the ECHR towards one of the seven people planned to be sent to Rwanda allowed the other six to make a successful application to the ECHR an hour and a half before their expected take-off, according to The Guardian. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to take the UK out of the ECHR. The legality of the Rwanda scheme will be tested in a full court hearing in July, according to The Guardian.

Portugal: Urgent attention needed on trafficking in human beings, say experts
On 13 June, the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Human Trafficking (GRETA) published its third report on the situation in Portugal, stating that the government needs to pay more attention to the exploitation of migrant and refugee workers as Portugal has become a popular country for cheap labour. While this labour represents an opportunity for many migrants and refugees, it also increases the risk of exploitation and human trafficking, reports InfoMigrants. During the summer seasons, the demand for products such as fruit and vegetables continues to grow, providing opportunities for traffickers to recruit vulnerable migrants and refugees. GRETA’s report states that from 2016 to 2020, more than 1,150 victims of exploitation and human trafficking were identified. “GRETA urges the Portuguese authorities to set up effective procedures for the identification of victims of trafficking among applicants for international protection”, recommends the report.

EU: A resolution that calls for a ban on the import of forced labour products
On Thursday 9 June, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the respect of human rights, which calls for a ban on the import of forced labour products into the European market, “the most common form of modern slavery”, writes European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ). Forced labour often occurs in the supply factories of international companies that import into the European market. The resolution also calls for a ban on all products from a particular region if forced labour is state-supported, as is allegedly the case in the Xinjiang region of China, where the government appears to be holding up to 1.8 million people from the Uighur community and using forced labour, reports ECCJ. In addition, the Parliament said it also adopted three other resolutions related to human rights, calling on the Chinese government to end its repression of Uighurs, the Nicaraguan government to release political prisoners and the Georgian government to respect press freedom.

Turkey: Tightening of residence permit conditions especially for Syrians
Following the Turkish population’s anger towards refugees and migrants living in Turkey, the government announced on 13 June its intention to tighten the conditions of access to residence permits, especially for Syrian refugees and others from certain neighbourhoods, says InfoMigrants. The measures, first announced in February, stipulate that foreigners, including Syrian nationals, “will no longer be allowed to reside in areas where a quarter of the population is already made up of foreign nationals”, writes InfoMigrants. This represents about 1,200 neighbourhoods in the country, where the quota has been lowered to 20%, says Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. At the same time, the government formally prohibits Syrian nationals from visiting their families in Syria, on penalty of losing their protection status “if they travel back to the country in which they say they suffer persecution”, writes InfoMigrants. Syrian nationals registered in Turkey are given temporary protection status by the United Nations, which prohibits the government from forcing them to leave as long as they do not break a law or violate the conditions of their status. 

Ukraine/Russia: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concerned by “forcibly deported” Ukrainian children
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is investigating allegations that children have been “deported” from orphanages located in Donbass to Russia. Michelle Bachelet said “We are concerned about the alleged plans of the Russian authorities to allow the movement of children from Ukraine to families in the Russian Federation, which do not appear to include steps for family reunification or respect the best interests of the child”. In a statement, UNICEF said that it was aware of reports on the fact that Russia “may be modifying existing legislation to facilitate the fast-tracking of adoption” of orphans from Donbass.


UN: Human rights rapporteurs’ concern grows over rising digital authoritarianism
Five UN special rapporteurs highlighted during the annual RightsCon (a summit on human rights in the digital age) that digital rights violations are intensifying violence and discrimination both online and offline towards vulnerable communities, reports UNHCR. While platforms are sometimes crucial for displaced communities, for example to connect to humanitarian agencies or simply to stay connected to the world, the experts are particularly concerned about the emergence of digital authoritarianism through targeted surveillance, internet shutdowns, cyber-attacks, etc., writes UNHCR. “They [the experts] implored humanitarian actors to account for human rights impacts to ensure that digital solutions do not cause further harm to those most vulnerable,” the statement said.

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.