News Highlights: Mass killing of civilians reported in Oromia, Sudanese army withdraws from negotiations, Smuggling network shut down

In this week’s News Highlights:  Civilians reportedly killed in an attack in the Oromia region; Talks between Abiy Ahmed and Charles Michel on peace efforts in Ethiopia; Human Rights Watch calls for attention to ‘persistent cycle of violence’ in Oromia; 1,000 humanitarian trucks per months expected in Tigray; The Sudanese army announces its withdrawal, the protesters remain mistrustful; war, drought and lake of international help are destroying Tigray; 20 persons die of dehydration at the border between Chad and Libya; New mass graves discovered in Libya; 22 Malians die in a boat disaster off the costs of Libya; Human smuggling network responsible for 10,000 Channel crossings shut down; Accommodation centers reach limits as numbers of unaccompanied children rise; Protests after the panic in Melilla; UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM call European countries to end detention of children refugee.

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Ethiopia: Civilians reportedly killed in an attack in the Oromia region
Since Monday 4 July, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) have been accusing each other for a massacre of civilians in Oromia, the country’s most populous region, that allegedly left at least 300 dead, writes Al Jazeera. Abiy Ahmed issued a statement on Twitter, in which he accused the OLA of being responsible for a “new massacre” of civilians. The OLA spokesperson, Odaa Tarbii, rejected the accusations, calling for an investigation by a neutral third party, saying that “[t]he regime itself is responsible for the massacres”. Reuters explains that it has not been able to verify the claims of either side at this time, as power and therefore most communications were cut off on 5 July.

Ethiopia/EU: Talks between Abiy Ahmed and Charles Michel on peace efforts
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, spoke by phone with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on 4 July. This follows their meeting in the margins of the AU-EU summit in February 2022, and more recently the visit of the Commissioner for Crisis Management in charge of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, Janez Lenarčič, to Ethiopia on 20-21 June. The European Council reports that Charles Michel took note of the efforts to achieve the humanitarian truce, stressing that they must be intensified and sustained over the long term. The meeting comes as the Commission prepares to approve a €81.5 million package for health and education in conflict-affected areas such as Tigray, Amhara and Afar, Devex said. It is now 18 months since the Commission froze funding to the Ethiopian government because of the war in Tigray. Charles Michel has urged the prime minister to start inclusive peace talks, reports the European Council. 

Ethiopia: Human Rights Watch calls for attention to ‘persistent cycle of violence’ in Oromia
On Monday 4 July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement expressing concern that abuses and violence against civilians in the Oromia region are being sidelined, while attention is instead focused exclusively on the conflict in Tigray. HRW does not deny the gravity of the Tigray conflict, but points to the fact that violence and “abusive government campaign against an armed rebel group had trapped civilians in the crossfire” in Oromia, and that this violence persists without any attention or reparation. “Well before the conflict in northern Ethiopia, there has been widespread impunity for ongoing rights abuses in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, including in areas already suffering from conflict,” HRW said in the statement.

Ethiopia: 1000 humanitarian trucks per months expected in Tigray, UNICEF says
UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Gianfranco Rotigliano told VOA that humanitarian aid has indeed resumed in previously inaccessible areas of Tigray, thanks to the humanitarian truce between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Gianfranco Rotigliano explained that since the truce, 170 trucks have been able to enter previously blocked areas, and that he expects this figure to increase to 1,000 trucks per month. He said that more than 5 million people in Tigray are in need of humanitarian aid, and at the same time, researchers at Ghent University in Belgium, estimated that nearly half a million people have died in Tigray since the conflict began in November 2020, either as a direct result of the conflict or for other related reasons, such as starvation and lack of resources. 

Sudan: The army announces its withdrawal from negotiations, protesters  remain mistrustful
On Monday 4 July, the head of the Sudanese military, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced on television withdrawal of the military’s participation in the political negotiations allowing “political and revolutionary groups to form a civilian transitional government”, various media reports. The army would, among other things, give way to civil society representatives in negotiations to resolve the crisis and dissolve the sovereign council that has governed the country since the coup in October 2021, VOA said. However, repeated violence against demonstrators, the reported continued control of the central bank and Sudan’s foreign policy by the army are increasing suspicions and mistrust among the civilian population that the army is ready to step out of politics. “It would be very stupid if we trusted him again now,” said Dania Atabani, a member of one of the resistance committees.

Ethiopia: War, drought and lack of international help are destroying Tigray
On 1 June, Arte published a television report on the current hunger  in Tigray. In the Tigrayan village of Bomba, sick and hungry people can’t reach the medical centre of Tabia, which is the only place where they can get medical assistance. Abiy Addi hospital has no more medication, no more electricity and is almost out of fuel. International help never reached this hospital. “People are dying here, every minute”, said director of Abiy Addi hospital Dr. Tesfaye. He added: “Instead of helping us, they [NGOs] just watch us”. According to several interviewed witnesses, the Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces intentionally destroyed the property of civilians and the conflict prevented farming, leaving Tigray with no harvest this year. Many people are choosing to walk for days to Mekelle,capital city of Tigray, in order to flee hunger. According to testimonies, people in Tigray are desperate for information and are trying by any means to share news articles, videos and screenshots content that crosses the borders despite the blackout. President of the Tigray Region Debrestion Gebremichael told the reporters that the blockade imposed by the Ethiopian government is impacting every aspect of life in Tigray. According to the reporters, Tigray is now back 50 years ago.

North Africa

Chad/Libya: 20 persons die of dehydration at the border 
On 28 June, the bodies of 18 presumed to be Chadians and two Libyans were discovered at the border between Chad and Libya, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The group of migrants and refugees probably died of dehydration, according to the Libyan Ambulance and Emergency Services. IOM Chad Chief of Mission Anne Kathrin Schaefer said: “These tragedies must be a call to action to provide minimal standards of protection to migrants, enable search and rescue operations, reinforce humanitarian border management, and provide urgently required assistance in this extremely remote area”. Since 2012 and the rise of mining activity in the Northern Chad, more occurences of migrants and refugees being abandoned at the Chad-Libya border have been reported. Since 2014, IOM documented more than 2,000 deaths of migrants and refugees in the Sahara desert.

Libya: New mass graves discovered in Libya says Human Rights Council
On Monday 4 July, the UN Human Rights Council released an investigation by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, which reported on new alleged mass graves in Tarhuna, while the country still bears the scars of war. The report gathered testimony and evidence of “widespread and systematic perpetration of enforced disappearances, extermination, murder, torture and imprisonment amounting to crimes against humanity, committed by Al Kani (Kaniyat) militias”. Mohamed Auajjar, Chair of the Mission, said that a culture of impunity still prevails in Libya, and that the investigations provided for the report have identified previously unknown mass graves. More than 200 people are still missing in and around Tarhuna, added Auajjar. Despite recent progress in resolving disputes, the government of Tripoli, recognised by the international community, remains at odds with a rival parliamentary administration in the east, says UN News. The investigation draws alarming conclusions, including the lack of protection against sexual and gender-based violence against women, concluded Auajjar.

Libya: 22 Malians die in a boat disaster
Between 22 June and 5 July, 22 Malian migrants and refugees  died after their boat was lost at sea for 9 days. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the boat containing 83 people  departed from the Libyan town of Zuwara before being spotted by the Libyan coastguards who rescued 61 of its passengers. Some  survivors were taken to hospitals by IOM and the remaining migrants and refugees were brought to the detention centre of Al-Maya, confirmed IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli. “According to the survivors, 22 migrants, all from Mali, died during the journey. The reported causes of death were drowning and dehydration. Among the dead are three children”, said Msehli. On 5 July, the Ministry of Malians Living Abroad issued a statement calling all Malians to “fight against irregular migration”.


Europe: Human smuggling network responsible for 10,000 crossings shut down
On 6 July, a coordinated action of police forces in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK shut down a human smuggling network responsible for 10,000 Channel crossings in 2021, according to multiple sources. According to The Times, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and  continental police forces, arrested 39 people, searched over 50 properties, and seized over 150 boats and 900 lifejackets through a joint police operation. Regional head of investigations at the NCA Matt Rivers said: “Given the number of boats seized yesterday, yes, we can expect a fall in crossings in the immediate future.[…] Last year, we had nearly 1,000 boats cross the Channel – 135 boats is just over 10 per cent, so we can work out from that the size and scale of the group”. The organisation was charging migrants and refugees between 2,500 and 10,000 euros per crossing, according to The Times.

Greece: Accommodation centers reach limits as numbers of unaccompanied children rise
On Tuesday 5 July, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum released figures showing that approximately 2010 refugee and migrant children are unaccompanied in Greece. Previously, in June, the European Union declared that the number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU jumped by 72% between 2021 and 2022. Accommodation centres are slowly reaching their limits, while the processes of relocating children to other countries are considered rather slow, says InfoMigrants. The Greek government is trying to introduce measures for unaccompanied children, such as the emergency response for unaccompanied minors in precarious situations or the voluntary relocation programme, InfoMigrants describes.

Spain/Morocco: Protests after the panic in Melilla
On 1 July, thousands of protesters took to the streets of different Spanish cities to speak out against the current migration policies, police violence and the militarisation of borders. This follows the deadly panic that took place at Melilla where at least 23 migrants and refugees were reported to have died during a collective attempt by 2000 migrants and refugees to cross the border on 24 June. Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez told El Pais that the questions related to respect of human rights during this event should be asked to Morocco, while Moroccan authorities blamed migrants and refugees for the situation, according to 20 Minutes. Commenting on the events, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said “It’s unacceptable that people try to force themselves across the EU border, using violent means. And it’s unacceptable, people die in this way at our EU border”. She also asked for an investigation of the events.


UN: UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM call European countries to end detention of children refugee
On 5 July, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) published a joint document, in which they called on European countries to end the detention of refugee and migrant children. The paper reports on worrying detention practices in 38 countries across the continent, explaining the serious and negative impact on the health, well-being and long-term cognitive development of children. “Children on the move are first and foremost children, regardless of where they are from and why they left their homes. Detention of children is never in their best interests, it is a violation of their rights, and must be avoided at all costs,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe.

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.