News Highlights: Negotiations in Sudan yield no ceasefire, ICC issues arrest warrants in Libya, EU documents reveal violations at Greek camps

In this week’s News Highlights: Negotiations in Sudan yield no ceasefire; Humanitarian situation in Sudan; Polarisation of Sudanese people via online campaigns; Youth in Sudan organises grassroots movements; Foreign involvement in Sudan conflict; Refugees and IDPs suffer amidst conflict in the Horn of Africa; Deportation and arrests of Eritreans; Situation in Eritrea of growing concern; Ethiopia denies deportation of Eritreans during Tigray war; Interview with Isaias touches on Sudan; ICC issues new arrest warrants for human rights violations in Libya; Families of missing refugees protest in Morocco; 805 migrants and refugees rescued off Tunisian coast; MEPs debate on the situation in Sudan; UK police to investigate organ trafficking; New wave of refugees from Turkey expected if Erdogan wins; 3 dead and 234 rescued off Lampedusa; Italian police arrests 29 alleged smugglers; Meloni and Haftar to discuss migration and stabilisation in Libya; EU documents reveal violations at Greek refugee camps; Europe top-ranked in wanting to reduce immigration; and Germany increases funds for asylum seekers.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Negotiations yield no ceasefire
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) signed an agreement yesterday to protect civilians and allow aid to pass through, but have failed to agree on a permanent ceasefire. Negotiations between the RSF and SAF started on Friday 6 May in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, mediated by Saudi Arabia and the US. The negotiations discuss the cease-fire, the cessation of hostilities and the opening of humanitarian corridors. It has been emphasised that nothing else will be discussed. Airstrikes and fighting have continued throughout the negotiations. A US mediator says the parties remain “quite far apart”. A Saudi diplomat has said that the ceasefire talks have not yielded any progress so far. The pre-negotiations have drawbacks where both mediators are unwilling to engage with other actors. The talks have been criticised over the absence of civilian voices and the talks are legitimising both sides of the conflict as the only legitimate political actors; they are delaying humanitarian responses, and there is a lack of transparency. Burhan said that no settlement can be made until a ceasefire has been agreed to while the SAF is insisting that a precondition for the ceasefire is for RSF to leave urban areas, particularly in Khartoum. The ceasefires in Sudan are not holding because either or both sides believe they can solve the conflict militarily and there are no observers on the ground to see which side is breaking the ceasefire. The next stage of negotiations would be focusing on a durable cessation of hostilities agreement, the US indicated. Sanctions on Burhan and Hemedti, if Sudan peace talks falter, have been hinted at by the US. The US says it is ready to sanction top Sudanese officials if the Jeddah talks do not end the violence.

Sudan: Humanitarian situation
Over 750 conflict-related deaths have been recorded in Sudan, and the humanitarian situation is dire. The real number of deaths is expected to be much higher. There have been numerous reports of disappearances of people, many of whom end up in RSF camps. Over a million polio vaccines in South Darfur have been destroyed after a number of cold chain facilities were looted, says UNICEF, and only 16% of hospitals in Khartoum are still fully functional. Last week, two medical volunteers were arrested and detained by the RSF, while doctors still remaining in Khartoum have received death threats from the military, reports The Guardian. Social media platforms such as WhatsApp are being utilised by Sudanese doctors and medical personnel to reach patients as the majority of health facilities in conflict areas are fully or partially difunctional. A lot of people are experiencing early signs of trauma, according to Sudanese doctors. Over 80.100 of internally displaced persons in Sudan are women and girls between 15 and 49, out of which 8.000 persons are currently pregnant, stated the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its update report. Humanitarian and relief aid has been arriving to Port Sudan from several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the EU. The World Food Program (WFP) resumed food delivery in conflict areas. More than 2.5 million people are expected to face acute hunger in the coming period due to the lack of resources and unsafe humanitarian corridors in crisis areas, estimates the WFP. Logistics in Sudan have been severely disrupted, confirmed by the Logistics Cluster of the UN OCHA. The Sudanese airspace is fully closed for civilian operations; points of entry into the country have limited operational capacities, road infrastructures are damaged, and road transport activities have also been disrupted and limited. 

Sudan: Polarisation of Sudanese people via online campaigns
Propaganda wars on social media are aiming to polarise Sudanese citizens. Supporters of warring parties, as well as supporters of former president Omar Al Bashir, are reported to use coordinated messaging to spread hate speech and cause division. Protests took place in Port Sudan and at the gate of the office of Volker Perthes, Special Representative for Sudan of the UN Secretary-General. The protests are alleged to have been organised by supporters of Al-Burhan and by Omer Al-Bashir. The protests of some 150 people follow the recent statement of Volker Perthes that a solid ceasefire is needed and that civil society should be involved in the peace process. A protest took place in London on Tuesday, 9 May, to join in solidarity with the Sudanese people and speak up for Eritrean refugees currently trapped in Sudan.

Sudan: Youth in Sudan organises grassroots movements
Young civil society leaders, part of grassroots youth networks that have been central to the citizen’s transition to democratic civilian governance, are trying to stop the violence in Sudan. The youth networks in Sudan have been providing humanitarian assistance, such as food, water, medicines, and fuel to people in need. The youth networks have been supporting people fleeing by providing vehicles and drivers, setting up emergency rooms, and creating a website and app to connect people in need. Youth movements have been organising online campaigns to stop the war and urging for a ceasefire.

Sudan: Foreign involvement in Sudan conflict
Videos on social media show RSF troops with newly acquired Man-Portable Air Defence Systems, which were likely delivered via Libya, and will be used to combat SAF’s air force, which is their main advantage in this fight. There have been multiple reports stating that the Wagner forces based in the Central African Republic (CAR) have started supplying weapons and ammunition to the RSF through an airfield in Darfur. Sources have confirmed that foreign fighters have been entering Sudan through Chad, Mali and Niger to support the RSF. The UN assumes that these foreign forces are paid mercenaries, although it is likely that some want to form a state for Arab nomads (minorities in central and west African countries), say observers. UN’s Volker Perthes said in an interview that Libya’s Hafter was the supporter of “one of the two parties” but that it had not a “decisive” impact on the conflict. He mentioned the influence of Egypt and other neighbouring countries and praised South Sudan which “has already been very active”. Perthes said he had no concrete evidence of the involvement of Wagner, but did not rule out the possibility. 

Horn of Africa: Refugees and IDPs suffer amidst conflict
More than 730,000 people have been internally displaced in Sudan and more than 177,000 refugees escaped to the neighbouring countries, reports the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). 21% of recorded arrivals from Sudan to Ethiopia are minors, reports IOM. Over 16,600 people are estimated to have arrived in Metema, Ethiopia, since 21 April, mostly Ethiopian returnees. Essential supplies for refugees in border towns such as Metema are very limited. Ethiopia authorities on the border with Sudan are reportedly refusing Eritrean refugees who are fleeing Sudan to enter Ethiopia. They are stuck in the border region between Sudan and Ethiopia. Ethiopian security forces are taking money from the Eritrean refugees at the Ethiopia-Sudan border, who try to reach Gondar. Those who want to continue from Gondar to Addis Ababa have to pay more. There are estimates of at least 20,000 Eritreans escaping from Sudan to Ethiopia so far. Sudanese refugees and South Sudanese returning refugees stuck in Kiir Adem Payam report cases of separated families as children and elderly were left behind. In Halfa at the Egyptian border thousands of Sudanese wait for at least a week to get Egyptian visas. After a meeting between the UN Relief Chief and Sudanese humanitarian agencies, it was found that the following needs to be urgently addressed: (1) clear agreements protecting the movements of humanitarian supplies and workers, and (2) generosity of the international community to pay for the needs of the Sudanese people. 

Eritrea/Ethiopia/Sudan: Deportation and arrests of Eritreans
The Guardian states that at least 3,500 Eritrean refugees have been forcibly deported from Sudan back to Eritrea in the past weeks. At least 95 of the Eritreans that have been deported were sent to prison. Reports state that Eritrean refugees are being kidnapped from Shegarab refugee camp in Sudan and transported against their will to Eritrea. The abductions are accompanied by extortion for money. The majority of deportees have been allowed to visit their families. Furthermore, the Eritrean ambassador to Sudan is reported to have a black-list of people he is looking for. Eritreans in Juba have warned about the activities of the Eritrean embassy in South Sudan as well. Eritrean and other refugees were sent by South Sudanese Immigration authorities from Juba to Paloch (South Sudan) by plane due to lack of documentation. Paloch is an airstrip built by an oil company. Eritreans and Ethiopians are being charged a lot of money to be moved by cargo plane. Experts say that some Eritreans and Sudanese may be profiting from this situation. In the past 7 days, the Ethiopia Federal Police have been reportedly arresting Eritrean refugees in many places within Addis Ababa, namely Bole Arabsa, Gofa, Goro, Haya Wilet, and Goomoo Condominiums. The reasons for arrests are not known. Eritrean refugees are paying as much as 5000 Birr and more for their release in Ethiopia. Those who do not have money are kept in detention without access to the justice system and without any court ruling. 

Eritrea: Situation in the country of growing concern
Reports warn that Eritrea is organising military exercises in the country, as skirmishes involving the Eritrean military have been reported along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border. Eritrean forces have not withdrawn entirely from Tigray, particularly not from Welkait. Eritrean authorities continue razzias and other recruitment of youth into the national service. The involvement of the Eritrean government in the politics of East Sudan as well as the presence of Eritrean military forces in Kassala has been confirmed by observers. Kassala has an airport capable of receiving International flights. Conflict in Sudan has direct implications on Eritrea and its economic situation as it imports a lot of goods including fuel and gas from Sudan. The northern border between Sudan and Eritrea should be watched carefully as the presence of the Wagner group has been reportedly confirmed, with possibility to import weapons through Massawa port, said experts. 

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Ethiopia denies deportation of Eritrean refugees during Tigray war
Ethiopian Justice Ministry officials denied that Eritrean refugees living in refugee camps in Tigray were refouled by the Ethiopian military to Eritrea during the Tigray war. The Ethiopian delegation was in Geneva in the context of the 76th UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). The officials stated that the role of Eritrea in refoulement of Eritrean refugees is still “under investigation”, but claimed most of the Eritrean refugees were accounted for, and accused the Tigray Defense Forces of attacking the refugee camps. The UNCAT members criticised Ethiopia for denying reports of ethnic cleansing in Tigray and failing to provide facts on the role of Eritrean forces in the crimes. It pressed Ethiopia to ensure accountability. 

Eritrea/Sudan: Interview with President Isaias
An interview with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki was published in which he talks about Sudan, mentioning close ties Eritrea has with Sudan, and good relationships with both parties of the conflict. In the interview, Afwerki states that Sudan is in a transitional period towards stability, and that during the transition, there should be no contest of power and ownership of the revolution. He also says that the unification of the army should be separated from the transition period (there is no haste) and emphasises the need for neutrality of armed forces during this period. Moreover, he says that he was in constant communication with the stakeholders before the conflict erupted, providing advice and suggestions and that Eritrea’s position was clear for both parties. He also states the fact that there are armed groups in Darfur, Kurdufan, Blue Nile and the East that have not yet been incorporated in the process.

North Africa

Libya: ICC updates UN, issues new arrest warrants 
On 11 May, Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) updated the UN Security Council about the situation in Libya. He said that four arrest warrants have been issued and two others are being processed in relation to crimes committed against victims of human rights violations in Libya. In the past six months significant steps were made in the collection of evidence, in the engagement with victims and civil society organisations and with the Libyan authorities. The results were obtained thanks to the use of advanced technology, which he said accelerated the process of ensuring justice. Khan pointed out that there is space for optimism as “we are finally on track”, but “we can do better”. The engagement with the Libyan authorities is expected to further increase, to the point of establishing a field office in Tripoli, he said.

Morocco: Families of missing refugees and migrants protest in Rabat
Families of refugees and migrants who went missing in an attempt to reach Europe held a protest in front of the foreign ministry building in Rabat. They urged the Moroccan authorities to investigate what happened to their relatives after they left Morocco, if they are alive or if they lost their life along the route. During a previous protest, the relatives of the missing refugees and migrants called for the intervention of the European Union in the process of identifying the dead, and granting families visas that would allow them to look for their loved ones. 

Tunisia: 805 migrants and refugees intercepted off Tunisian coast
On the night between 5 and 6 May, National Guard units in Sfax and Mahdia intercepted 19 sea crossings attempts and subsequently arrested 782 Sub-Saharan migrants and refugees. The same night, the National Guard units of Nabeul intercepted 23 Tunisian migrants and refugees, against whom legal measures will be taken, said National Guard spokesman Houssem Eddine Jebabli.


EU/Sudan: MEPs debate the situation in Sudan
Members of the Parliament (MEPs) discussed the situation in Sudan on 9 May, during the Strasbourg plenary session of the European Parliament. Commissioner Olivér Várhely condemned the ongoing conflict between the RSF and the SAF on behalf of the EU, and deplored the loss of lives and violation of international law. He reaffirmed the EU commitment to the establishment of a sustainable ceasefire and to the provision of a political settlement. MEPs called for the cessation of hostilities, the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the establishment of civilian rule. Many MEPs pushed for the EU’s support in providing humanitarian assistance and relief to those in dire need. MEP Berry Andrews underlined that “there is no legal and safe pathway for anybody to leave [Sudan]”, urging the matter to be addressed in the upcoming EU Foreign Affairs Council. MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo urged a deep reflection on the EU’s approach to foreign policy, which should be based on preventive and substantial dialogue in order to find solutions and not “run for cover when it is too late”. Several MEPs called for EU action to stop foreign interference, particularly by Russia’s Wagner group, in Sudan and elsewhere. MEP Maria Arena and others called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to introduce a Committee of Inquiry for the investigation on crimes committed by all parties involved in Sudan’s conflict. MEP Clare Daly denounced the EU for removing its “fingerprints” from the situation in Sudan and pretending “it comes from nowhere”, whereas the EU financed the warlords in Sudan. Contributing to the peace resolution of the conflict “is not about what we must do”, she said, “but what we have to stop doing”. 

UK: Police to investigate organ trafficking
The Metropolitan police (Met) in the UK started further investigations on organ trafficking cases in the UK. This new wave of investigations started after the conviction for kidney trafficking of a Nigerian politician and two accomplices under the modern slavery law in London. This case led more victims of organ trafficking to speak up, thus paving the way for further investigations in London and other areas of the UK. Det Supt Andy Furphy, leader of the modern slavery team for the Met, reported that up to 10% of organ transplants globally are done on the black market according to WHO data.

Turkey: New wave of refugees from Turkey expected if Erdogan wins 
Migration expert Haci-Halil Uslucan warned that if Erdogan is re-elected as President at the election of 14 May, a new wave of Turkish migrants and refugees will follow. Erdogan’s re-election will bring “an even more repressive system” in Turkey, said Uslucan, which will force people to flee. Lawyer Dündar Kelloglu also warns of an increase in the number of people leaving the country, as neither the political nor the economic situation is expected to improve, reports the Deutsche Welle (DW). Kelloglu also told DW, “Young refugees in particular tell us that they see no future in their homeland”, consistently with a study showing that 71% of people aged between 17 and 30 think this way. The recent law sentencing those who spread “false” or “misleading” information in Turkey is seen by many as a violation to the freedom of expression, reports DW, and causes an outflow from Turkey of people who have criticised the government.

Italy: 3 dead and 234 rescued off Lampedusa
Between 5 and 6 May, the Nadir boat from the NGO Resqship rescued 234 migrants and refugees who were travelling on six different boats. 3 people went missing before any help arrived. Resqship tweeted that three fishing boats had pulled 38 people out of the water when the NGO arrived.

Italy: Police arrests 29 alleged smugglers
Italian police arrested 29 people suspected of being involved in a transnational criminal organisation of migrant and refugee smuggling via the Balkan sea route. The arrest came after a four-year-long investigation carried out by the Anti-Mafia District Directorate of Catanzaro, helped by Interpol and Europol and by Turkey, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, the UK and Morocco. The suspects are accused of facilitation of illegal immigration and money laundering, reports ANSA, and might face charges. The network operated in Turkey, Greece and Italy in order to smuggle migrants and refugees from Greece and Turkey to South Italy across the eastern Mediterranean and then facilitated their way to Northern Europe. The DW reports that the migrants and refugees would pay between 7000 and 15.000 euros for the sea crossing, plus a fee of around 500 euros for the trip across the Italian peninsula.

Italy/Libya: Meloni and Haftar to discuss migration and stabilisation in Libya
Italian PM Giorgia Meloni and Libyan General Khalifa Haftar met at the Italian government’s headquarters on 4 May to discuss the increasing number of migrants and refugees reaching Italy across the Mediterranean. As reported by ANSA, Haftar is considered a key interlocutor as he is the military leader in control of the Libyan region of Cyrenaica, from where most of the migrant and refugee departures take place. A few months ago Italy accused the Russian mercenaries of the Wagner organisation of “facilitating” migration flows from Libya in the region of Cyrenaica, reports InfoMigrants. The meeting also focused on Libya’s situation of instability caused by the presence of two governments, which could worsen with the escalating Sudanese conflict. Meloni voiced Italy’s support to the UN efforts in renewing the Libyan political process and consequently bringing the country to presidential and parliamentary elections within 2023.

Greece: EU documents reveal violations at Greek refugee camps
Internal EU documents revealed that three Greek refugee camps failed to meet the EU asylum standards for the accommodation of migrants and refugees, reports Al Jazeera. The “new generation” refugee camps, characterised by “improved” living conditions and asylum procedures, were recently constructed with EU funds. Delayed asylum procedures, allegations of violence against minors and safety challenges are among the problems observed in the facilities by EU representatives. According to documentation seen by Al Jazeera, internal EU staff were highlighting the chronic issues in the new camps even while officials in Brussels and Athens were praising the camps, with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis referring to the camps as “impeccable”. 

EU: Europe top-ranked in wanting to reduce immigration
The Democracy Perception Index 2023 survey, released on 10 May, revealed that Austria is the country with the highest number of people who want migration to be reduced (34% of the respondents). It is followed by Germany (31%), the Netherlands (30%), France (28%) and Sweden (27%), resulting in the Europeans being at the top of the global list when it comes to anti-immigration sentiments. 19% of the European respondents think that limiting migration should be one of the top three priorities of their governments. Worldwide, 12% of respondents find this a priority, amongst other topics such as poverty reduction, fighting against corruption, economic growth and healthcare and education improvement.

Germany: Increasing funds for asylum seekers
The German federal government approved a set of measures to support the 16 state governments facing the rising number of asylum seekers in the country. The measures include a €1 billion increase in the lump sum paid to the German state governments for the year 2023 and an upgrade of their IT systems to accelerate the asylum application procedures. The government did not conform to the requested measure to pay a lump sum of €1,000 per refugee, which, according to them, would cover any increase in the number of asylum seekers. No long-term funding plan was set during the meeting. Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated his willingness to reach agreements with other countries in order to create safe pathways and allow “qualified staff” to enter Germany, while accelerating the return of asylum seekers whose applications have been declined.