News Highlights:  Somali President visits Eritrea, Over 10.000 returned to Libya by coastguard in 2022, ECHR ruling against Greece 

In this week’s News Highlights: Somali President visits Eritrea and Somali soldiers trained there; EHRC publishes first annual report; UNOPS and Ethiopia agree on first reconstruction plan in Tigray; UNOCHA reports on women affected by conflict in Ethiopia; Pro-democracy groups in Sudan sceptical towards al-Burhan’s promises; NGO calls for stop to harassment of Christians  in Sudan; UNMISS chief calls for stability in South Sudan; UNHCR and IOM update on refugees in Libya, over 10.000 returned this year; ECHR rules Greek authorities acted unlawfully during 2014 boat disaster; Lampedusa centers in crisis; Frontex warns of more migration due to food crisis; European Commission and Morocco agree to cooperate against smuggling; UN releases report on children in armed conflict; and UNHCR says that the protection of refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic was inadequate.

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The greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Somali president visits Somali soldiers trained in Eritrea
On Friday 8 July, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud arrived in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, to begin a four-day visit, report various media. Received by President Isaias Afwerki, the two men discussed issues related to regional affairs, including a visit to camps where 5,000 Somali soldiers were sent to Eritrea for training three years ago by former Somali President Farmaajo. The soldiers, who paraded before the presidents, completed their training in 2021, according to what Farmaajo stated during his handover, but had not been returned for political reasons. According to some sources, these soldiers are being held hostage by the Eritrean government, and some observers on social media note that pictures of the parade show less than 2,000 troops. This difference raises concern that some of the soldiers are missing, and some observers question why the information of these soldiers was kept secretive, and how many have died, potentially in the Tigray war. At the end of the visit, both presidents signed a Memorandum of Understanding, to strengthen the bilateral relations of the countries.  Upon returning to Somalia, Mohamud spoke to parents of the soldiers in Eritrea, who have not been in touch with their families since 2018, and promised they would return home soon.

Ethiopia: EHRC describes human rights violations in its first annual report
On 8 July, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published its first report on the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The report describes serious human rights violations in the context of the war in Ethiopia. It states that all parties to the conflict have committed serious violations, and that not only civilians but also prisoners of war have been victims of these violations, the EHRC writes. “[These violations] resulted in widespread deaths, psychosocial and physical injury, sexual and gender based violence, displacement and destruction of property, targeting civilians, including women, children, older persons and persons with disability and carried out in extreme brutality and cruelty” the EHRC writes. Covering the period from June 2021 to June 2022, the report has been submitted to the House of Peoples’ Representatives and is the result of investigation, documentation, evaluation and “[…] with the recommendations it puts forth, the report is a useful tool for federal and regional governments in particular to review and take corrective measures in their respective area of work”, says Daniel Bekele, EHRC Chief Commissioner.

Ethiopia: UNOPS and Ethiopia reach agreement to start reconstruction in Tigray

Ethiopia signed an agreement with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) on 12 July to rebuild basic social structures destroyed by the conflict in Tigray. The agreement is part of the $300 million World Bank-funded project in April to assist affected communities. “Unops will implement the project in Tigray until the situation in Tigray improves and allows the government to implement the project through its own structures,” said the statement of the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance.

Ethiopia: Women severely impacted by the conflict, UNOCHA report says
On 11 July, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) released a situation report on gender inequality in the conflict-affected regions of northern Ethiopia, particularly in Tigray. UNOCHA estimates that the conflict has nationally left more than 5.2 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and that it has affected all genders, ages and population groups differently. According to the report, in Tigray, 83% of health facilities are unable to provide maternal services and 50.3% of pregnant and lactating women are acutely malnourished. UNOCHA concludes the report with recommendations, including the urgent need to invest in health facilities and the priority to be given to measures to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Sudan: Pro-democracy groups continue to mobilise against the military’s ‘tactical game’
As General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced the withdrawal of of the military from negotiations over the transitional government in Sudan on the 4 July, civilian activists continue to call for citizen mobilisation with daily demonstrations and sit-ins in the capital. Pro-democracy groups have decided to form a “Revolutionary Council” that will include 100 individuals from different opposition groups, Africa News reports. This “revolutionary council will make it possible to regroup revolutionary forces under the orders of a unified leadership”, said Manal Siam, a pro-democracy coordinator. During his announcement, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan also outlined his intention to create a new Supreme Military Council, which is causing doubt among pro-democracy activists, says DW. “The military is not genuine about withdrawing from the political process. They are playing a tactical game that allows civilians to join the governmental talks without the military, while they actually plan to establish a government that they will be able to control through the Supreme Military Council” said Hamid Khalafallah, Sudan researcher at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

Sudan: Human rights group calls on government to stop harassing Christians
On 10 July, the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), a US-based human rights group, issued a statement calling on the Sudanese government to urgently end the harassment of Christian citizens. The call follows several arrests by the police, including one on 22 June of four Christians for the crime of apostasy. However, this crime was decriminalised in July 2021, by amendment. ACJPS reports that the authorities continue to harass Christian citizens and therefore do not respect the Constitutional Declaration of 2019 and the various international treaties to which Sudan is a party. 

South Sudan: UNMISS chief calls for stability as transition period ends in 2023
The head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Nicholas Haysom, issued a statement on Friday 8 July, celebrating South Sudan’s Independence Day (9 July) and calling on leaders to mobilise and reach agreement ahead of the next elections in 2023. “The journey out of civil war has not been easy and the upcoming months will be critical for South Sudan, as the transitional period approaches its end in February 2023. Now is the time for national leaders to redouble their efforts to agree on a roadmap – with clear benchmarks, timelines, and priorities – to pave the way towards free, fair and credible elections.” he said. Nicholas Hayson also reiterated the UN’s commitment to peace and humanitarian access in South Sudan.

North Africa

Libya: UNHCR and IOM updates

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) published its Libya update on 13 July. It noted that on 6 July, 19 refugees were flown out on a resettlement flight to Norway. The report also noted that 9430 refugees and migrants were intercepted and returned by the Libyan coast guard so far in 2022. However, these numbers have been further upgraded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to 10,200 returned in total. IOM reports that between 3 and 9 July alone, 300 refugees and migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya. IOM warns of appalling conditions for the returnees. IOM further states that in 2022, 175 persons have been confirmed to have died at sea, and 634 are missing and presumably dead. The UNHCR report also noted that there are 2,742 persons in Libyan detention centres as of 3 July. As of 1 July, UNHCR has registered 43,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. 


Greece: EU Court condemns Greece for ‘violation of the right to life’ in 2014 shipwreck
On 7 July, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned the Greek authorities, in the case of Safi and Others v. Greece, for failing to protect the lives of 27 migrants and refugees during a mass drowning in 2014. On 20 January 2014, a fishing boat carrying 27 migrants and refugees sank in the Aegean Sea, killing a total of 11 people, writes InfoMigrants. The 16 remaining survivors filed a complaint against the authorities, claiming that the sinking was caused by a Greek coastguard vessel trying to push the boat back into Turkish waters. The authorities had defended themselves at the time by explaining the sinking by a sudden movement of the passengers on board. The court however ruled in favour of the survivors, ordering Greece to pay 330,000 euros to the survivors for moral damages, writes InfoMigrants.

Italy: Lampedusa overloaded, navy starts moving first people
Following the recent submergence of Lampedusa’s refugee identification centre, the Italian navy began relocating a first group of 600 migrants and refugees on 9 July, according to the Associated Press (AP). Lampedusa, the Sicilian island, is closer to North Africa than to Italy, making it a key entry point for persons departing from Libya, AP adds. According to the Italian interior ministry, 2022 has seen a sharp rise in daily arrivals of migrants and refugees, with 30,000 asylum seekers since January 2022, compared to 22,700 in the same period in 2021. The 600 migrants and refugees will be moved to another centre in Sicily, from where they will then be distributed across Italy, according to AP. EUObserver notes that while Lampedusa is making headlines, from the ground, the hotspots where refugees and migrants are transported to, are fenced off and well hidden.

EU: EU must prepare for new wave of migration, says Frontex
The acting executive director of Frontex, Aija Kalnaja, has issued a warning to the European Union that a new wave of migrants and refugees due to the global food crisis is expected. The initial cause of this new wave would be the conflict in Ukraine, which is causing an obstacle or even a halt to the transport of grain, which could ultimately uproot people from all over the world, reports InfoMigrants. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the EU would take action to combat illegal immigration. “We should not wait until we have a crisis at our borders. We … need to reach out earlier on,” she added. 

EU/Morocco: Commission renews partnership against human smuggling after Melilla events
On 8 July, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and the Spanish Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, travelled to Rabat to meet the Moroccan Minister of the Interior, Abdelouafi Laftit, to discuss the events in Melilla. On 24 June, hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees tried to cross a border post in Melilla, a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa, and the crowd effect caused the death of dozens of migrants and refugees, says AP. The European Commission and Morocco “agreed to renew their partnership in order to work together to tackle human smuggling networks, in particular following the emergence of new, extremely violent, methods adopted by such criminal networks”, writes the European Commission.


UN: 24,000 grave violations verified in 2021 for children in armed conflict, says UN
The United Nations has released its annual report on children and armed conflict (CAAC), in which the destructive impact of conflict on children around the world is highlighted. The “armed conflicts” to which the report refers are “conflict escalation, military coups, and takeovers, protracted and new conflicts, as well as violations of international law”, writes UN News. The report highlights nearly 24,000 verified grave violations against children in 2021, with grave violations such as killing and maiming, as well as forced recruitment and exploitation of children. Ethiopia, among others, has been added to the list of concern. “[…] we must not let these numbers discourage our efforts. They should serve as an impetus to reinforce our determination to end and prevent grave violations against children. This report is a call to action to intensify our work to better protect children in armed conflict and ensure that they are given a real chance to recover and thrive” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

UNHCR: Global response in protecting refugees during pandemic inadequate
An international assessment conducted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), with the help of other international actors, was released on 7 July, and found insufficient results on the rights of refugees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The assessment was intended to measure how refugee rights were protected during the pandemic, UNHCR writes. Among the most serious consequences of the pandemic, the report notes the actions of dozens of states in denying rights of access to territory and asylum claims, which resulted in a number of forced returns, and thus situations of danger, UNHCR adds. “We’ve been urging vigilance ever since the onset of the global health emergency, warning that it would test global commitment to protecting the forcibly displaced […] This evaluation illustrates the extent of the damage. It shows clear evidence the pandemic was used to justify restrictive measures detrimental to the rights of refugees. More than two years on, some of these troubling policies and practices remain in place”, said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.

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.