News Highlights: Escalation between Sudan and Ethiopia, Deadly panic in Melilla, Asylum seekers forcibly involved in Greek pushbacks

In this week’s News Highlights: AU concerned about escalating tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia; Eight dead in 30 June anti-coup protests in Sudan; Drought increasingly impacting socio-economic situations in the Horn; Human Rights Commission “alarmed” by the violations in Ethiopia; At least 1 dead and 30 missing at sea after a shipwreck off the coast of Libya; Rise of access constraints for humanitarians in Libya; Panic at the Melilla border kills 37 migrants and refugees; Greek authorities allegedly use asylum seekers to carry out pushbacks for them; Torture and human rights violations in Lithuanian detention centres; Tougher prison sentence for smugglers and illegal entries in the UK; Migrant shot near Dunkirk; New UNICEF report launched on the situation of children in conflicts zone.

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The greater Horn of Africa

Sudan/Ethiopia: AU concerned about escalating tensions
The African Union (AU), as well as regional leaders, have expressed concern about the “escalating military tension” between Ethiopia and Sudan since Khartoum accused the Ethiopian army of violence. A clash took place in the disputed border territory of Al-Fashaga, during which Sudan accused the Ethiopian army of killing seven Sudanese soldiers and one civilian, France 24 reported. The Ethiopian government denied this. Sudan announced on 27 June that it would recall its ambassador in Addis Ababa. The head of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, issued a statement, in which he wrote that “[t]he chairperson appeals for complete refrain from any military action whatever its origin and calls for dialogue between the two brotherly countries to solve any dispute.”

Sudan: Eight dead in 30 June anti-coup protests
At least eight persons died in large anti-coup demonstrations in Sudan, Sudanese medics said. At least tens of thousands of people took to the streets. The demonstrations were held on the 3rd anniversary of the demonstrations that overthrew al-Bashir’s regime. The demonstrations on 30 June intended to increase popular pressure on the government to hand over power to the people, The Sudan Tribune writes. Ahead of the demonstrations, Sudanese authorities launched a new campaign to arrest anti-coup activists, Rehab Mubarak, a member of rights group Emergency Lawyers, told The Sudan Tribune. Emergency Lawyers reported that plainclothes officers were making arrests, and activists posted explanations on social media about how to avoid the cartridge guns, which were apparently used by the authorities on the protesters. Authorities closed off phone and internet lines during the protests.

Horn: Drought increasingly impacting socio-economic situations
The drought in the Horn of Africa persists as more and more Somalian districts are facing “severe drought impact for all indicators and low levels of response”, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). According to OCHA’s June drought impact snapshot, only 12 of the 74 districts of the country are considered as showing “low drought impact”. 7 million people are already affected by the drought in the country, and more than 805,000 people were displaced by the drought. According to central bank Governor Abdirahman Abdullahi, this situation has an important impact on the economy and is poised to push the inflation in the country close to 10% by the end of the year. Meanwhile, internally displaced people from the Somali region of Ethiopia are vulnerable as their livestock is dying or in too bad shape to be sold, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNICEF’s Regional Child Protection Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa, Andy Brooks, says: “‘[w]e are seeing alarming rates of child marriage and FGM across the Horn of Africa – with some destitute families arranging to marry off girls as young as twelve to men more than five times their age”. On 28 June, the UNHCR published an emergency appeal to address the urgent needs of the Horn of Africa regarding the drought.

UNHRC50/Ethiopia: Human Rights Commission “alarmed” by the violations in Ethiopia
On 30 June, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia addressed the UN Human Rights Council for the first time during its 50th session. Commission Chair Kaari Betty Murungi began her speech by saying: “ [t]he Commission is alarmed that violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law – the subject matter of our inquiry – appear to be perpetrated with impunity even now by various parties to the conflict in Ethiopia”. She then discussed the framework of her investigation so far, stating : “we have assembled our team in Entebbe, Uganda, and the investigation has started, albeit remotely”. She also said her team has already interacted with victims, first hand witnesses and has analysed submissions. Kaari Betty Murungi stressed the lack of resources that her commission is facing: “Despite this progress, and as noted earlier, we still lack the staff needed to carry out our mandate. That mandate includes the collection and preservation of evidence to support accountability efforts, and for this, we require adequate resources”. The Ethiopian delegation responded, stating that “the country is now turning a page. The government of Ethiopia has decided to seek a peaceful end to the conflict”.

North Africa

Libya: At least 1 dead and 30 missing at sea after a shipwreck
On 27 June, a pregnant woman died and 30 people remain missing at sea after a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The humanitarian boat Geo Barents arrived as the boat was already sinking, and managed to save 71 people. According to MSF medical team leader on the Geo Barrent Stephanie Hofstetter “Survivors are exhausted, many have ingested large amounts of seawater and several were suffering from hypothermia after spending many hours in the water […] At least 10 people, mostly women, suffer from moderate to severe fuel burns and need further care”. 69 people on board still await disembarkation, despite their precarious medical condition, says MSF on Twitter.

Libya: Rise of access constraints for humanitarians
During May 2022, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) observed an increase of 50% in access constraints affecting humanitarian partners in Libya. INGO visas expiring is an important factor of this rise, because the short validity of the entry permits makes sustained INGOs presence difficult. Money withdrawal and money transfer in the country are also complicated, which also restrains the movement of agencies, personnel and goods. An additional looming challenge is the lack of funds of the local airlines, which will make access to places like AlKufra and Sebha more difficult for INGOs personnel, observed OCHA.

Morocco/Spain: Panic at the Melilla border kills 37 migrants and refugees
On 24 June, 37 migrants and refugees died in Melila trying to cross the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave, according to NGO Walking Borders. This happened during a stampede as around 2,000 migrants and refugees tried at once to cross the iron fences at the border, according to The Guardian. According to a survivor interviewed by El País, “The Moroccan agents were very violent, more aggressive than other times, and people panicked,  […] That’s what provoked the stampede”. According to  the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, some people were left for hours injured and motionless on the ground by the police forces, “which increased the number of deaths”. Six different NGOs are asking for an investigation into the events of this day, according to The Guardian. 


Greece: Greek authorities allegedly use asylum seekers to carry out pushbacks for them
On Tuesday 28 June, the newspapers Le Monde, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD Report Munchen and The Guardian published an investigation in which they state that Greek police uses migrants and refugees to push boats back to Turkey. Six asylum seekers identified by the media stated that they were forced by the police to participate in violent and illegal deportations, writes The Guardian. The migrants and refugees interviewed by the newspapers call themselves slaves and claim that they have been forcedly recruited by police forces, and some of them report to have been locked up by police forces between the pushback operations they were involved in. Some of them also confirmed to The Guardian that smugglers connected to a gangmaster working from the police parking lot would promise them they could stay in Greece for another month in exchange for their work. The six men were not allowed to carry phones while they assisted in the forced pushbacks. The report contains testimonies of the asylum seekers, documents confirming their detention and subsequent release, as well as testimonies of the inhabitants of the border villages. The Greek authorities do not appear to have made any comment at this time.

Lithuania: Torture and human rights violations in detention centres
On 27 June, Amnesty International released a report on the abuses encountered by migrants and refugees in Lithuania. Lithuania is arbitrarily detaining migrants and refugees in militarised detention centers where people face ill-treatment, inhumane conditions and torture. People held in these centres are denied the access to fair asylum procedures and are subjected to other human rights violations as the authorities are hoping for more ‘voluntary returns’. The actions of Lithuanian authorities are not in accordance with EU Law, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty International highlights the contrast between the welcoming attitude of EU countries towards Ukrainian refugees and the abuses perpetrated against migrants and refugees from other origins.

France: Migrant shot near Dunkirk
On 26 June, an Iraqi migrant from the camp of Loon-Plage near Dunkirk was severely injured by a gunshot, according to France Bleu. This event follows the armed clashes in the camp in May 2022, which killed one person and injured three others. According to the NGO Adra, the population of the camp diminished since the clashes due to evacuations led by local authorities, and the Iraqi community, which were reportedly involved in the previous firefights, are not the most represented community anymore.

UK: Tougher prison sentence for smugglers and illegal entries
On 28 June, The Nationality and Borders Act came into force, introducing harsher sentences for people smugglers and people illegally entering the country, according to Sky News. The migrant and refugee smugglers, among whom are the ones that drive the small boats, can now face up to 14 years of imprisonment, and the people illegally entering the country or overstaying their visa can now face a maximum of 4 years in prison, according to Sky News. The authorities are also now able to deport foreign national offenders up to a year before the end of their jail time. 


UNICEF: New report launched on the situation of children in conflicts zone
On 28 June, UNICEF launched its new report entitled “25 years of children and armed conflict: Taking action to protect children in war”, which analyses sixteen years of data on grave violations committed against children during conflict situations. The report highlights the gravity of the situation, noting that in just 10 years, from 2010 to 2020, verified grave violations have jumped by 185%, said Tasha Gill, UNICEF Senior Advisor on Child Protection in Emergencies, at a press conference in Geneva. “Our analysis shows that despite decades of advocacy with parties to conflict and those who influence them – as well as strengthened mechanisms for monitoring, reporting and responding to grave rights violations – children continue to bear the brunt of war. Every day, girls and boys living in conflict zones suffer unspeakable horrors that no one should ever have to experience,” she 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.