News highlights: Ethiopia peace talks delayed, Eritreans in Germany no longer forced to Eritrean embassies, Frontex covering up Greek pushbacks

In this week’s news highlights: Peace talks in South Africa on Ethiopia delayed; Isaias Afewerki’s intentions for Ethiopia; Tigray forces accused of extrajudicial killings in Kobo; ICHREE mandate extended; Eritrean trafficker arrested and extradited to Italy; Joint statement condemning the resumption of hostilities in Tigray; Ministers from the 8 IGAD members meet in Nairobi; Interweaving crises are complicating efforts to address hunger, warns UN; Somali journalist syndicate under increasing pressure from government; 15 migrants and refugees murdered by traffickers in Libya; UN human rights report calls out violation of migrants rights in Libya return programme; German court declares  Eritreans cannot be forced to Eritrean embassies for documents; Frontex accused of covering up Greek pushbacks; Mediterranean member states call for Frontex to operate inside third counties; Bounty placed on information about Eritrean human trafficker; ECRE and PICUM publish analysis of EU response to Ukraine crisis; Pope Francis says treatment of migrants “sinful”; Ukrainian refugee protection extended until March 2024.

Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Peace talks in South Africa delayed
The round of negotiations due to take place last weekend on the 8 and 9 October were delayed by what two diplomats talking to Reuters called ‘logistical reasons’. The sources stated a new date had not yet been agreed upon. Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray authorities, had previously stated they had not been consulted prior to the invitations being sent out. In the meantime, offensive operations by Ethiopian federal forces and their allies, including Eritrea, continue in Tigray, says AP News. The forces are now believed to be making significant progress towards the town of Shire in Tigray. A humanitarian worker talking to AP News stated “we are witnessing the heaviest fighting since the war restarted”. Alex de Waal, Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation, stated he believes that the poor preparations of the South Africa peace process revealed a lack of interest by the AU associated parties in ending the war in Tigray. In his article he backs up his claim that the AU is “hand in glove with the federal government of Ethiopia”.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Isaias Afewerki’s intentions for Ethiopia
Tens of thousands of Ethiopian troops are currently serving under Eritrean command, says Alex de Waal, British researcher on African elite politics and executive director of the World Peace Foundation. He believes this is a part of Isaias Afewerki’s, dictator of Eritrea, plan for the region. According to de Waal, Isaias believes Ethiopia is bound for state failure or fragmentation; and he intends to hasten the process by sowing chaos in the country, sending Ethiopians to fight other Ethiopians. In this article Alex de Waal briefly discusses the ramifications of the current war in Tigray for the broader Horn region, centering on the role of Isaias as a key cog in the regional dynamics. 

Ethiopia: Tigray forces accused of extrajudicial killings in Kobo 
Tigray forces are accused of having killed dozens of civilians in Kobo between the 13 and 15 of September 2022, says The Guardian. The Guardian states that the victims were accused of supporting local militias and federal forces; witnesses state that the killings took place once the town was under Tigrayan control. This is the second time killings allegedly took place in Kobo after 24 civilians were executed in and around the city by Tigray fighters last year on 9 September 2021, says The Guardian. Spokespersons for the Tigray government declined to comment.

Ethiopia: Commission of experts investigating human rights violations in Ethiopia sees mandate extended
On 7 October the United Nations Human Rights Committee voted to extend the mandate of the Commission of Experts on Human Rights in Ethiopia’s mandate by a year by a slim margin, says Voice of America. The text was presented by the European Union and passed by 21 votes for 19 against and 7 abstentions. All African nations voted against, except Malawi, which abstained. The experts will produce another report for 2023 for the next session of the Council.

Ethiopia: Human trafficker arrested and extradited to Italy
Reuters reports that on 11 October, sources from the Italian ministry of justice stated that a suspected human trafficking ring leader was being extradited from Ethiopia to Italy to face justice. Reuters reported that 35-year-old Eritrean Temesghen Ghebru Ghebremedhin, a key member of a transnational smuggling ring, is to be charged with international organised crime membership and abetting illegal migration. He was arrested in Addis Ababa attempting to travel to Australia. 

Ethiopia: Joint statement condemning the resumption of hostilities in Tigray
On 12 October Australia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States published a joint statement condemning the resolution of hostilities in Northern Ethiopia. The US Department of State called on the governments of Ethiopia and Tigray to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities and allow for unchallenged flows of humanitarian aid to resume as well as comply with the African Union led peace process. They also called on all foreign actors to cease their involvement in the conflict.

East Africa: Ministers from the 8 IGAD members meet in Nairobi 
Last week the ministers of the 8 Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states met in Nairobi to discuss how to best deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis, says Voice of America. They met alongside aid groups and development partners in order to better coordinate in the face of worsening conditions, including insecurity, food prices, political instability and climate change, in the region. The World Food Programme (WFP) stated their estimated needs for the region went from 4.3 to 6 billion US dollars annually and while donations have come the gap has not been closed. 

Somalia: Interweaving crises are complicating efforts to address hunger, warns UN
Famine has come to Somalia, stated United Nations humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, last week. This one is predicted to be deadlier than the 2011 one that killed 260.000 people, says The Guardian. The UN estimates 41% of Somalia’s population (or 16 million people) will face hunger between now and December 2022. The crisis is not limited to Somalia. The UN calls for urgent aid to respond to the climate crisis, COVID-19, local conflicts as well as the exploding prices of fossil fuels currently pushing millions towards hunger on the African continent. The United Nations estimates 278 million Africans or one in five went hungry in 2021, 50 million more than 2019. This number is projected to reach 310 million by 2030. Haile-Gabriel, Assistant Director-General Regional Representative for Africa for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), attributes this to the unpreparedness of Africa to face those overlapping shocks. 

Somalia: Somali journalist syndicate under increasing pressure from government
On 12 October, Somali authorities attempted to enter the offices of the Somali Journalists Syndicate in Mogadishu and ultimately arrested the organisation’s Secretary General, says Voice of America. There are reasons to believe this may be related to a recent government order banning media coverage of Al Shabab as it came shortly after the syndicate and three other journalistic organisations protested the ban, says Voice of America. 

North Africa 

Libya: 15 migrants and refugees murdered by traffickers
On 9 October the United Nations mission in Libya condemned the “heinous killing” of 15 migrants and refugees near the town of Sabratha. They demand that the perpetrators be put to justice, says AP News. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya stated they believe the killings came as a result of a clash between rival trafficking gangs that escalated into the shooting and burning of the migrants and refugees. AP News states that this incident solidifies Libya’s reputation as one of the most dangerous migration routes especially in the chaos that ensued after the fall of Gadaffi as migrants face extremely regular human rights violations in the country. 

Libya: UN human rights report calls out violation of migrants rights amidst return programme
On 11 October the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report detailing the “widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses against migrants in Libya”. This results in migrants being compelled to accept returns to their countries of origin under conditions that do not meet international human rights standards, says the report. Migrants and refugees are believed to be pushed into accepting returns under abusive detention conditions, threat of torture, sexual violence or extortion denying their right to free choice, says the UN report.


Germany: Eritreans cannot be forced to go to Eritrean embassies for documents
The Federal Administrative Court of Germany Ruled on 11 October that Eritreans can no longer be forced to go to Eritrean embassies to get documents such as passports. The court ruled that the “regret forms” that Eritreans have to sign to obtain documents, amounted to being forced to admit a criminal offence. It ruled that it is not reasonable to subject a person in need of protection to make a statement that threatens them in the future, or their relatives still in Eritrea. The Court also rejects the obligation for the Eritrean refugees of the payment of the “reconstruction diaspora tax” of 2% equivalent to 2% of a person’s income, says Legal Tribune Online. 

European Union: Frontex accused of covering up Greek migrant pushbacks
A report by the European Union’s anti-fraud organisation OLAF watchdog into Frontex’s activities revealed that they had been hiding pushbacks of migrants in Greece towards Turkey in violation of their “fundamental rights”, says AP News. The report accuses top Frontex managers of commiting “serious misconduct and other irregularities” in either covering or not investigating incidents., iIn doing so they are accused of having hindered rescue operations. There have not been any comments from Frontex or Greek authorities that had previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing, says AP News. 

European Union: Mediterranean member states call for Frontex to operate inside third counties
On saturday 8 October representatives from Spain, Greece, Italy, Malta and Cyprus said they would push the idea of allowing Frontex to operate preventatively in third countries to EU leaders later this month, says AP News. The representatives also say they wish to see external application centres in neighbouring countries; they claim this would allow applicants to safely reach Europe in a bid to minimise the loss of lives to reach the external border at the hands of smugglers, says AP News. 

Netherlands: Bounty placed on Eritrean Human trafficker
Dutch authorities continue to search for Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, says the Dutch police. Alleged Eritrean human trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam has been on the run since 2021 when he escaped from an Ethiopian court; he is known for his cruelty towards the people he transports towards Europe with numerous reports of abuse and extortion, says Dutch police. Dutch authorities have placed a bounty of 20.000 EUR for information leading to his location. They have open hotlines and email addresses to enable people to contact authorities about any information available (also in Tigrinya). 

European Union: ECRE and PICUM publish analysis of EU response to Ukraine migration crisis
The European Center for Refugees and Exiles collaborated with Platform International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants to produce an analysis of the European Union’s financial response to the Ukraine migration crisis. According to them, the primary objective of this response was to “encourage Member States to cover the reception, accommodation and integration costs of hosting people from Ukraine”. They believe the measures constitute an important precedent as they focus on the “long-term socio-economic inclusion of third country nationals through structural cohesion funds” as well as increased focus on solidarity mechanisms.

European Union: Pope Francis deems Europe’s treatment of migrants to be“sinful”
In an address to 50.000 spectators on St. Peter’s Square on 9 October Pope Francis made his strongest statement yet on the topic of migrants, says Info Migrants. Going off script, the Pope called Europe’s treatment of migrants “sinful” and “criminal” calling the camps they are sent into “lagers”, says Info Migrants. The Pope also made reference to Ukrainian migrants, questioning whether “we welcome (migrants) as brothers, or do we exploit them?”. 

European Union: Ukrainian refugee protection extended until March 2024
On 10 October Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, confirmed to the media that the European Directive on temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees would continue to be enforced until March 2024. The Commissioner stated that the continued attacks by Russia constituted a valid motive to provide protection to Ukrainian asylum seekers. She also added that Ukrainians opting to return home would not lose their protection status and thus be able to return whenever needed into the borders of the Union. ANSA also states the Union is launching an online job searching tool called EU Talent directed at the Ukrainian community to provide employment opportunities in the Union.