News Highlights: Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia call for submissions, Eritrean refugees mistreated, Humanitarians question IOM voluntary return programme

In this week’s News Highlights: UN International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia call for submissions on human rights violations; New footage of the situation in Tigray; Eritrean refugees mistreated by Ethiopia authorities lose hope in the UNHCR; Several ‘terrorist attacks’ stopped, Ethiopian police forces claim; Al-Shabab attacks at border were reportedly a diversion to enter Ethiopia; Battle of influence between Europe and Russia on Ethiopia; Somalia’s application to EAC gets fast-tracked; No political stability in sight in Libya; Over 1,100 people saved at sea off Libya; Aid workers question IOM-assisted voluntary return programme; Two reports firmly criticise the UK Home Office migration policy; Scholars warn about “resource-constrained immobility”; A UNICEF guideline on vulnerability of children on the move for climate-related reasons.

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The greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia call for submissions
The UN International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia calls on all individuals, groups of experts and organisations with information or documents on alleged human rights violations in Ethiopia to submit them to its Secretariat. The Commission seeks in particular information concerning alleged violations of human rights and refugee protection laws committed since 3 November by all parties to the conflict in Tigray. It also requests that information regarding the identification of perpetrators be submitted to its investigation. It finally calls on experts and other organisations to submit recommendations on transitional justice. The deadline for submitting information is Sunday 31 July 2022, but the Commission recommends sending it in as soon as possible.

Ethiopia: New footage of the situation in Tigray
Between 26 and 29 July, TV5 Monde published 4 video reports showing exclusive footage of the situation in Tigray. The reports show the Zalambessa frontline, where Tigray soldiers are fighting against Eritrean troops. Large numbers of youth are recruited to join the Tigray military forces, according to the reports. In Mekelle prison, 6000 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers are held. The prisoners are encouraged by the authorities to participate in “confrontations” where they testify against each other in the hope of being released, according to the reports. Prisoners convicted of war crimes are kept apart in special cells. Some fear to be assassinated by other inmates for the acts they have been sentenced for. Large numbers of hungry people from rural areas are moving to Mekelle in order to look for food. Wealthier people are organising small-scaled food distribution in the city. Tigray is still under blockade and lacks food, medical supplies, fuel, electricity, internet and other necessities. Only a few NGOs are still active in the region.

Ethiopia: Eritrean refugees mistreated in Ethiopia and lose hope in the UNHCR
Eritrean refugees accuse Ethiopian government security officials of abuse, illegal detention and forced displacement even though they are under UN protection as refugees. In early July 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian police stopped a tourist bus and rounded up all the Tigrinya-speaking Eritreans on board, whether they were refugees with UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or foreign passports, an Eritrean-born British citizen told the Guardian. “We refused to get into the bus since the police officers did not give us any explanation. But the officers beat and intimidated us. There was also a mob of ordinary people verbally assaulting us. We were scared,” the victim added. The Guardian has collected several similar testimonies, in which the victims blame the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for failing to protect Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and for abandoning them. The group was eventually taken to a camp in the Amhara region, and those with foreign passports were released 10 days later. The UNHCR in Ethiopia told the Guardian that it was very concerned about the incident, while the Ethiopian prime minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Ethiopia: Several ‘terrorist attacks’ stopped, police forces claim
On 23 July, the Ethiopian joint security and intelligence task force claimed in a statement that it has stopped several terrorist plans and manoeuvers across the country, and that they killed “137 terrorist group members” in Gambela city and its surroundings, and 153 Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) members who the Ethiopian authorities accuse of massacring Amhara farmers in Oromia last month. According to the statement, the task force also organised “a coordinated operation in and around Addis Ababa city” that led to the arrest of 554 suspects, including Fano members, TPLF members, OLF members (referred to as Shene) and al-Shabab members. According to this statement, more than 5,800 “extremist Fano” are currently under investigation or arrested in the country. The OLA rejected the accusations regarding the massacre, according to The Kampala Report.

Ethiopia: Al-Shabab attacks at border were reportedly a diversion to enter Ethiopia
Local officials and security experts in eastern Ethiopia say Al-Shabab militants are still active inside the country, despite claims by authorities of the Somali region that all forces have been “destroyed”. According to VOA Somali’s “The Investigative Dossier” programme, this incursion – the largest ever by Al-Shabab in Ethiopia – serves propaganda purposes. Regional officials now believe that the 20 July attacks on two border cities were a diversion to gain unopposed access to the territory of Ethiopia. A former al-Shabab member also told VOA that the plan appears to be to raise the black flag inside Ethiopia and then issue a prepared statement saying “jihad spread to a new front”. Founded 15 years ago in Somalia, Al-Shabab is now reportedly seeking to establish a presence in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia, VOA reported.

Ethiopia/Europe: Ethiopia in the middle of a battle of influence between Europe and Russia
Several European countries are pushing the European Union to send more money to the Ethiopian Federal Government, despite the alleged war crimes, to counter the Russian growing influence in the region, according to Politico. Among those countries are Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands, whose diplomats are arguing that maintaining strict EU standards is complicated at the moment due to Russia’s increasing presence in Ethiopia. Senior Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group William Davison said: “There are fears Russia might take advantage of deteriorating ties with Addis and its Western partners, […] So there is an overarching desire with some countries for stability with a relatively important ally over humanitarian concerns like accountability over war crimes”. On 27 July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Addis Ababa, where he made statements against the attitude of Western countries towards Ethiopia. Since the start of the Tigray war in 2020, the European Union has been reluctant on resuming full financial support to Ethiopia, according to Politico.

Somalia: Somalia’s application to EAC gets fast-tracked
On 22 July, The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit decided to accelerate the procedures of verification in order for Somalia to join the bloc. A team of experts will be sent to evaluate if the country can be a member. Earlier in the week, Somalia new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud sent a formal request to the EAC to consider his country’s application to become its eight member. Somalia sent its application in 2019, but without immediate reactions from the EAC. 

North Africa

Libya: No political stability in sight
While some progress has been made on the constitutional front, political and economic instability remains in Libya, according to Martha Pobee, UN Assistant Secretary-General for political affairs and peace operations. She also described the human rights situation as a “serious concern”. Since the beginning of July, demonstrations have been taking place to demand rapid solutions to fuel and electricity shortages, UN News reported. The UN also notes that this unstable situation is leading to the development of hate speech. “Of most concern, a radio station in Zawiya broadcasted hate speech against migrants, asserting they were responsible for spreading diseases,” warned the Assistant Secretary-General.

Libya: Over 1,100 people saved at sea
Between 23 and 24 July, over 1,100 people were rescued at sea and 5 were found dead by different operations led by the Italian coastguards, SOS Mediterannée and Sea Watch, according to Al Jazeera. The people were rescued off the coasts of Libya from dangerous situations. Over 24 hours, the vessel Sea Watch 3 rescued 444 migrants and refugees from boats, and are now looking for an European port to disembark, according to Al Jazeera. Head of mission and search and rescue coordinator at Sea-Watch said that Sea Watch is frequently encountering “a lack of coordination and assistance at the European level for those seeking safety” in the Central Mediterranean. She added: “We’re kind of like a floating ambulance – we can provide an emergency response, we can stabilise people for a short period of time, but this is only a very short-term solution.”


Europe/UN: Aid workers question assisted voluntary return and reintegration programme
The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) program implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for migrants and refugees stranded in asylum centres is increasingly being questioned by social workers. They are particularly questioning the “voluntary” nature of these returns, explains Jacobin, especially when it comes to migrants being returned home from camps in Greece. An aid worker denounces the conditions in detention centres for migrants and refugees in Greece. “Have they been forced to return? Absolutely not. But when a person is made so vulnerable by the conditions of the host country, with no prospects of asylum in Greece, then they really only have one ‘choice’ in front of them, which isn’t a choice at all,” she explains to Jacobin. She also denounces the IOM’s lack of knowledge about the security risks faced by migrants and refugees when they return to their country of origin. While aid workers mainly question the programme itself, some people, like Ahmad, interviewed by Jacobin, blame governments; in his case, the Greek government, adding that the AVRR should exist but in a completely politically independent way, offering better reception conditions to asylum seekers.

UK: Two reports firmly criticise the Home Office migration policy
Two different reports on the UK’s handling of refugees and migrants have been published, each containing harsh criticism of the Home Office. The institutions behind those reports are the UK Parliament House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. In his report, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal writes that the responses of the government to the increasing flow of migrants and refugees crossing the Channel are “poor, particularly in terms of systems, processes, resources, data collection and accurate record keeping […]. “These migrants crossed the Channel in dire circumstances. Many were vulnerable and at risk, including children and women on their own, and when they arrived in Dover the way they were dealt with was unacceptable, […] This is because the Home Office has failed, over the past three years, to move from a crisis response to having better systems and procedures in place and treating this as business as usual”. The House of Common Committee report also bares similar criticisms: “While we agree with the Home Secretary that the asylum system is broken, we invite her to make it clear, given the long-term and growing pressures on the system, that it was not migrants crossing the Channel who broke it”. The number of migrants and refugees attempting Channel crossing has increased significantly since 2021.


World: Scholars warn about “resource-constrained immobility”
In the coming years, more and more people with low income will not be able to migrate due to climate change, according to a new publication in the Nature Climate Change Journal. According to the researchers, in a “medium” emissions scenario, the people from the lowest income group will be 10% less likely to migrate by the end of the century due to a phenomenon called “resource-constrained immobility”, materially restraining them from migrating. The researchers advise policymakers to not only focus on climate-driven migration, but also climate-driven immobility. Lead author Helène Benveniste of Harvard University said in a press briefing: “climate change does not only affect the aspiration to move, but also the ability to do so”.

UNICEF: A guideline on vulnerability of children on the move for climate-related reasons
On Monday 25 July, UNICEF, together with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and a range of international organisations, released for the first time a “Guiding principles for children on the move in the context of climate change”, marking the first ever global effort to address this concern. The guideline aims to protect, include and empower all children forced to flee their homes for climate-related reasons. The document contains a set of nine principles that address the vulnerabilities of these displaced children, says UN News. “Managing migration and addressing displacement of children in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters, is an immense challenge that we must address now” said António Vitorino, the IOM Director General. 

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.