News Highlights: Fighting escalates in Ethiopia, Eritreans call for UNSC sanctions, EU asylum roadmap agreed

News Highlights: Fighting escalates in Ethiopia, Eritreans call for UNSC sanctions, EU asylum roadmap agreed

In this week’s news highlights: Fighting escalates in Ethiopia; US condemns Eritrea’s involvement in conflict in Tigray; Eritreans urgently call for UNSC sanctions on Eritrea; UN warns of famine in Somalia; Sudan orders evacuation of border reception centre due to fighting; Flash floods in Sudan; Clashes in South Sudan cause severe violations of human rights; Video illustrates abuse of refugees and migrants in Libya; EU asylum roadmap signed by European Parliament; Czech Presidency seeks extension of protection of Ukraine refugees; NGOs warn concept of migration ‘instrumentalisation’ could be detrimental to EU law and rights; Report on COVID-19 impact on asylum in EU; Norwegian Eritreans hopeful that Eritrean government influence is reducing; Italian high court rules permanent contract no longer needed for humanitarian stay; Climate summit pledges funds for Africa’s adaptation; Second year of halt to human development, says UN; and Volker Türk new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Fighting escalates
According to various media and sources on the ground, fighting between the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) and the Ethiopian government-allied forces, including Eritrean forces, escalated this week. According to a Tigray representative, a key battle is being fought between Eritrean forces and TDF in Dedebit in Western Tigray. Fighting is also ongoing between the TDF and Eritrean forces along the border. A diplomatic source told AFP tat there is “intense shelling from Eritrea into the Adigrat area, around the border,” which was confirmed to AFP by a second source. Reports state that fighting is taking place on other border fronts, including at the Sudanese border at the Tekeze river. The United Nations indicates that aid to Tigray has halted. US Envoy to the Horn Mike Hammer is extending his stay in Ethiopia, while the EU Horn Envoy Annette Weber has indicated that she will travel there soon, in an effort to apply diplomatic pressure to reach a ceasefire.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: The US condemns Eritrea for reentering the conflict in Ethiopia
With the recent breach of the month-long ceasefire in Ethiopia, the US has condemned Eritrea for re-entering the conflict in Ethiopia. Eritrea dispatched forces to aid Ethiopian troops in the recent reignited military hostilities in Tigray. Authorities in Ethiopia refute the claim that Eritrea has re-entered the conflict. Prior to the resumption of the fighting, peace talks were on the table with the TPLF being in favour of the mediation by the US and the Kenyan government, and the Ethiopian government looking to the African Union with President Olusegun Obasanjo to broker talks. William Davidson, who is an analyst working with the International Crisis Group, says that stability in Ethiopia is a great concern to the US, but also admits that Washington cannot force the parties to the negotiating table. 

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Urgent call to the UN Security Council for action
Ahead of the planned discussion in the UN Security Council (UNSC) about Tigray, the lawyer of an Eritrean human rights organisation issued an urgent call to the UNSC members to take action, in particular over the involvement of Eritrea in the war. The situation in Ethiopia and Tigray was announced to be discussed in the UNSC on 8 September 2022, but it was postponed over disagreements regarding making it an open or closed session. In the letter, the lawyer describes human rights abuses committed by the Eritrean government inside and outside of the country. The letter also mentions the increase of activity by the Eritrean government abroad, in Europe, through organisation of events designed to spread propaganda. The letter calls for pressure on the Eritrean forces to withdraw, and for the implementation of sanctions, particularly against the Eritrean Defense Force (EDF), People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), National Security Office of the Government of Eritrea, Abraham Kassa Nemariam, Yemane Gebreab, Hidri Trust, Hagos Ghebrehiwet W Kidan, and the Red Sea Trading Corporation.

Somalia: UN Humanitarian Chief warns of famine in parts of Somalia 
Somalia is facing its fifth consecutive failed rain season, and famine has become an impending reality, reports the UN. In a statement from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Martin Griffiths, who is head of the OCHA, warns that “famine is at the door”. Poor harvests and drought-induced livestock deaths have led to increasing food prices, greater food insecurity and hunger crisis. The increase in food prices is also continuously affected by the conflict in Ukraine. World Food Programme (WFP) has scaled up humanitarian assistance and aims to reach 4.5 million people with relief and 470,000 with nutrition treatment. Famine has been projected by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) between October and December in the districts of Baidoa and Burkhaba. Margot van der Velden, who is Director of Emergencies for the WFP, states that immediate action must be taken to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Sudan: Humanitarian aid agencies to evacuate border area with Ethiopia
In light of the renewed fighting in Tigray, the Sudanese authorities urge humanitarian aid agencies operating in the Hamdayet border reception centre  for Ethiopian refugees to leave the area in fear for their safety. A source confirmed to Sudan Tribune that military confrontations took place on Sunday near the Sudanese-Ethiopian-Eritrean border. Organisations such as Plan Sudan, Muslim Aid and the UN Refugee Agency have been operating at the centre. Getchaw Reda, who is spokesperson of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accused the Ethiopian government and neighbouring country Eritrea of being responsible for opening a new front. In a statement he says “The Abiy regime, along with the Asmara regime, launched [an] offensive on these fronts.  We are defending our positions,” .

Sudan: Increasing food insecurity caused by heavy rains and flash floods
The heavy rains and flash floods in Sudan have affected approximately 279,000 people, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It has resulted in the  destruction of 16,400 homes and damage of another 42,400 homes in 16 out of 18 states. With the peak of the rainy season approaching, the death toll from the seasonal floods increased to 112 people. Over 1.150 heads of livestock have been lost, affecting the livelihoods of the people, which has exacerbated the food insecurity levels. The 2022 Sudan Emergency Response Plan (ERP) estimates that more than 460,000 people across the country will be affected by the floods in 2022. In 2021,  the number of people affected was 314,500. 

South Sudan: Gross violations of international human rights 
Approximately 173 civilians have been killed as political clashes unfold in South Sudan, stated the United Nations.  Additionally, 131 cases of rape and gang rape has been documented, including a case of a nine-year old girl who was gang-raped to death. The gross violations have allegedly been committed by Government Forces and affiliated militants/groups on one side, and in opposition the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. The United Nations Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS) has identified joint government forces and allied militants/groups operating under officials of Koch and Myendits as the main perpetrators of the human rights violations and abuses. A report released on Tuesday by UNMISS and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirms violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in South Sudan. The report is based on 32 verification missions which have been conducted by UNMISS in the counties of Koch between 11 February and 31 May 2022. 


Libya: Further video documentation of refugee abuse in Libya
A video released by AP last week featuring a Sudanese boy in Libya, threatened by an armed man demanding money, highlights the continued trends of abuse of vulnerable migrants and refugees by militias, traffickers and government forces in Libya. Torture, abduction, ransoming, trafficking and abuses tantamount to crimes against humanity have been confirmed by UN investigators. The UN Refugee Agency states that Libya “isn’t a country of asylum, nor a place of safety”. Despite this, the European Union continues to give millions of euros in funds to Libya to stem the flow of migration; parts of these funds arriving in the hands of UN sanctioned warlords, according to AP. 


European Union: Joint roadmap on European Asylum System and New European Pact on Migration and Asylum
The joint roadmap between the European Parliament and European Council regarding the Common European Asylum  System and the New European Pact on Migration and Asylum has been signed by the president of the Parliament in Brussels on 7 September. It seeks to ensure that negotiations are concluded before February 2024 and the conclusion of the current Parliament and Commission’s mandates. In parallel to this the Czech EU presidency continues to push negotiations along to modify the EU’s asylum system. This process however seems to be stalled as the strategy of step by step negotiation fails to resolve more complex issues. This has resulted in the talks so far only addressing the two issues of fingerprinting and screening that could have ramifications for detention centres says the EUobserver. 

Ukraine: Czech EU presidency to tackle migration reform, further protection for Ukrainians
Vít Rakušan, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, and Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Migration, discussed the extension of the protection mechanism and policy reforms that allow Ukrainian refugees to access work, housing and education in EU member states, reports EurActiv. While it had been introduced for the first time in March 2022 on an annual basis, Rakušan seeks to have it renewed, stating that “[w]e can see that Putin’s war is simply not over at the moment, and neither is the Ukrainian migration crisis.” Rakušan also claimed an updated proposal of voluntary flexible solidarity would be unveiled this month to more effectively distribute another potential wave of refugees. 

European Parliament: Impact of COVID-19 on asylum procedures in EU Member States
The European Parliamentary Research Service published a report discussing the evolution of EU Member States’ asylum procedures under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report discusses the “access to asylum procedures during the covid-19 pandemic”, “conditions in reception and detention centres”, “access to healthcare”, “Dublin procedures”, “resettlement operations and return procedures”,”European Parliament response” and “European Commission response.” The report highlights the attempts at diminishing the impact of the pandemic on non-EU citizens residing in EU member states. It however acknowledges that the pandemic resulted in a decrease of protection and access to rights for asylum seekers  in the EU.

Norway: Eritreans hopeful that influence of the Eritrean government is waning
Norwegian MP Ola Elvestuen met with around 300 Eritreans to discuss the influence of the Eritrean government in Norway. Elvestuen confirmed that he would take the issue of Eritrean government surveillance to the Norwegian parliament this autumn. While a recent report by the Norwegian government confirmed that churches and associations operating as the long arm of the Eritrean government are controlling the Eritrean diaspora, many feel that this may soon be of the past. The latest iteration of a “cultural festival” in Norway, serving as a front for propaganda and hate speech according to the diaspora, has been cancelled, as have similar festivals in seven other European countries. MP Elvestuen believes that this marks the beginning of a widespread change in attitude towards the Eritrean government-organised pressure.

Italy: High court rules permanent work contract no longer required for humanitarian permits
On 7 September, Italy’s highest court ruled that serious desire to integrate into Italian society, a criteria to be granted stay for humanitarian reasons, no longer required permanent employment to be proven. Recognising the complicated economic situation of the country and the reality that most Italians are also unable to secure permanent employment, the criteria were revised. The court ruled that a “plurality of activities” should be used as a baseline such as work, training or proficiency in the language. 

European Union: NGOs issue warning over Instrumentalisation Regulation
On 8 September, a collective of NGOs issued a joint statement over  a proposed amendment to the Common European Asylum System. This amendment, pushed by the current Czech presidency of the European Council, would allow Member states to deviate from obligations under EU law in cases where migration flows are ‘instrumentalised’ – in other words, orchestrated by another country. The concept of instrumentalisation could be adopted by December 2022. The NGOs fear that this would be in violation of multiple EU legal principles being disproportionate, undermining the CEAS as a whole, and not needed given the current flexibility of the framework. The NGOs fear that the claim of instrumentalisation is easy to abuse in order to justify non-compliance with EU law. 


World: As Africa’s climate warms, countries pledge more funds
The climate summit that took place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 5 September saw the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program pledge 25 billion dollars by 2025. The funds are meant to promote the continent’s ability to adapt to climate change. This comes just weeks after the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the 2009 pledge to provide 100 billion dollars of aid a year to developing countries to finance their adaptation to climate warming had not been met – 2020 being the year of highest payout at 83 billion dollars. Mr Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, added that climate change costs Africa between 7 and 15 Billion dollars a year and that the continent would require between 1.3 and 1.6 trillion dollars in the coming decade to fulfil its obligations vis a vis the Paris accords. There was no mention of climate change related migration and displacements.

UN: Overlapping crises halt progress in human development for second year in a row
A report published by the UN development program on 8 September finds that for the first time in the 32 years of calculations of the human development index, it has regressed for two years in a row. This has been attributed in part to the COVID-19 crisis, the Ukraine war, climate change and economic uncertainty. The data, collected from 191 countries, showed that 90% failed to increase living standards for their residents. This particularly hits countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin-America, the Caribbean and South Asia. Conceicao, lead author of the report, states that “[u]ncertainty and the feeling of insecurity hardens people’s commitments to a group that shares a similar set of beliefs and increases hostility to other groups that think differently,” further emphasising the warning of the report that insecurity and polarisation and prevent nations from collectively addressing common issues. There were no mentions of the impact of poverty on migration and relocation of populations.

United Nations: Volker Türk elected new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
On 8 September, Volker Türk was elected new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He will be replacing Michelle Bachelet. Mr Türk’s four year mandate begins “at a time of considerable threats to human rights around the world”, says Amnesty Secretary General Agnès Callamard. She adds that “[Türk’s] agenda should also include strengthening the human rights response to climate change and rising inequality.” According to Al Jazeera, Türk’s appointment has also drawn some criticism. Elected unanimously by all 193 countries, the election is being criticised  for lacking “transparency and consultation with independent civil society.”