News Highlights: Displacement from Sudan reaches 1.3 million, Elections in Puntland, NGOs condemn EU for deaths at sea

In this week’s News Highlights: Latest ceasefire in Sudan monitored, but breached; UN scrambles to deliver aid in Sudan, as 1.3 million people are displaced; Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees stuck in Sudan; Cities in Darfur experiencing fighting, looting and blackouts; Refugees from Sudan in trouble in Chad and Egypt; TPLF files complaint against NEBE; WFP announces aid measures in Tigray, but not resumption of aid; IDPs in Tigray protest occupation by Eritrean and Amhara forces; Fighting in Amhara and Oromia regions continues; EOTC pledges to restore relations; Somalia’s Puntland region to hold elections; High-level pledging event for Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia falls short of goal; Eritrea as country with the second-highest prevalence of slavery; Migrants and refugees report on Libyan detention centres; GNU attacks opposing militia with air raids; UK government announces new measure to curb migration; UK Home Secretary tries to skip final vote on the illegal migration bill; Italian NGOs condemn European countries for deaths at sea; Italy to build first hotspot in the North of the country; Germany publishes new draft citizenship law; German Interior Minister urges reform of the EU asylum system; Austria strengthens border controls as Hungary releases people smugglers; Greece to investigate over illegal deportations of migrants and refugees; 3 dead and 12 missing at sea in Greece; Increased crossings at Poland-Belarus border concerns Germany.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Latest ceasefire monitored, but breached
Both of the warring parties in Sudan have broken the ceasefire which went into force on 22 May after the agreement was signed in Jeddah on 20 May, confirmed by a Joint Facilitators’ Statement from Saudi Arabia and the US. The Saudi and US facilitators note that while fighting appeared less intense, offensive military operations, use of artillery and airstrikes in Khartoum, El-Obeid and other parts of Sudan suggest that both sides violated the Jeddah agreement. The latest ceasefire is remotely monitored by a 12-member monitoring committee consisting of three representatives from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), three from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), three from the US, and three from Saudi Arabia. Blinken emphasised in a video message that the US supports the citizens of Sudan, that the citizens should be represented and that the government should be representing the citizens. The role of the army should be to defend the country against external threats, said Blinken. On Thursday, the US accused Wagner group of supplying missiles to the RSF. They stated that this resulted in: “a prolonged armed conflict that only results in further chaos in the region”. The latest short-term ceasefire in Sudan has been agreed for seven days. Under the agreement, the forces should withdraw from hospitals, facilitate the distribution of aid, allow the safe passage for humanitarian actors, and restore essential services. Although the ceasefire has been breached, the relative lull in the fighting has allowed some residents to leave their houses to look for essential supplies.

Sudan: UN scrambles to deliver aid, as 1.3 million people are displaced
The conflict in Sudan has now displaced 1.3 million people inside and outside the country, and millions of people are stuck in their homes and unable to access essential services, states UNOCHA. The lull in fighting has allowed some to venture outside. The UN and aid partners are scrambling to deliver essential supplies in the places where the ceasefire is holding. Water scarcity is a critical problem for inhabitants of Khartoum, as most water distribution points have been destroyed or taken over by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Networks of neighbourhood groups have formed to distribute water and food. Thousands have fled to Abeyi or the Nuba mountains, which is controlled by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction. Reports show increasing incidences of gender based violence (GBV) particularly within internally displaced communities. Women and girls in transit, in temporary shelters or border areas are in highest risk of exposure to GBV including sexual violence and exploitation. The Missing Project in Sudan has recorded 229 cases of missing people, most between 15 and 35 years old. At least 17 attacks were deliberately carried out on healthcare facilities in Sudan between 27 April-16 May, showed a report by Insecurity Insight. Further reported incidents are currently undergoing independent verification. 

Sudan: Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees stuck in Sudan
Many Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees who fled war in Tigray are now stranded amid conflict in Sudan. Humanitarian aid in Um Rakuba refugee camp, hosting about 20,000 refugees from Tigray, is worsening due to damaged infrastructure, unsafe road passages and inflation. Refugees do not feel safe to return to their homes in Tigray as many zones are still occupied by Eritrean and Amhara forces. Kidnapping of Eritrean refugees from Sudan is still an ongoing practice, reportedly perpetrated by Eritrean authorities and human traffickers. 

Sudan: Cities in Darfur experiencing fighting, looting and blackouts
Refugees from several cities in Darfur report dire situations in some cities in Darfur. The city of Zalengei in Central Darfur has been under siege by armed militia in the past days and communications have been completely cut off.  Widespread looting of among others UN offices, banks, government buildings, health facilities and private residences is reported in Zalengei. Looting and fighting in El Geneina also continued, as well as communications blackouts. Essential communications equipment was destroyed in Nyala.

Sudan: Refugees from Sudan in trouble in Chad and Egypt
Thousands of refugees continue crossing the borders into Chad and Egypt. Refugees arriving in Chad from Sudan are being relocated from border areas to newly established camps due to security reasons and better support, informed the UN Refugee Agency. It is a race against time to move refugees before the rainy season starts. Humanitarian staff warns that this could be a disaster, as the refugees could become locked off from receiving supplies. Refugees wanting to cross the border with Egypt are experiencing long waiting times. The Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi reportedly said that Egypt is welcoming Sudanese people as “guests” not as “war refugees”, granting them right to work and freedom of movement within Egypt.  The humanitarian assistance for Sudanese refugees is, for that reason, limited as Egypt does not set up refugee camps to address the influx of refugees from Sudan.  Those crossing the border need to buy a bus ticket to the nearest town where they are received by volunteers. 

Tigray: TPLF files complaint against NEBE
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) filed a complaint to the African Union against the decision of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) which rejected  TPLF to be reinstated as a legal political party earlier this month. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) Chairperson Debretsion Gebremichael states that the TPLF will not re-apply as a political party, as required by NEBE. Debretsion pointed out that the TPLF is the signatory to the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and therefore it is the TPLF that safeguards the implementation of the agreement. Current and past office holders in the federal government must be held accountable for decisions taken during the Tigray war, stated Debretsion.

Tigray: WFP announces aid measures, but not resumption of aid
The World Food Programme announced it will enact additional measures across Ethiopia to prevent food aid diversion. It does not appear that food aid in Tigray has been resumed, however. WFP, partners and USAID cut off food aid to people in Tigray in dire need of it, following reports of aid diversion. The decision to stop aid to Tigray must be reversed, states the Tigrai Universities Scholars Association (TUSA). While welcoming the investigations into the aid distribution, TUSA warns of the dire consequences of halting the food aid, as living conditions continue to deteriorate amidst lack of medical services, no salaries for public servants, no education, and no aid. Additionally, the location of about 13,000 HIV/AIDS patients is not known, showed a post-war study of the Tigray Health Bureau, aiming to localise and identify AIDS patients in Tigray. The survey was carried out across various zones in Tigray with the exception of places which are still occupied by Eritrean or Amhara forces. 

Tigray: IDPs protest occupation by Eritrean and Amhara forces
Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Tigray held demonstrations calling for withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray so they could peacefully return to their homes. The rallies have been simultaneously organised in Mekelle, Shire, Adwa, Adigrat and Abyi Adi. Thousands of IDPs called on the federal government, interim regional government of Tigray as well as international community to facilitate the humanitarian aid within Tigray and take actions to implement all conditions agreed upon in the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement.

Ethiopia: Fighting in Amhara and Oromia regions continues
The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) is increasing its activities in Amhara to crack down on FANO and other Amhara Militia, including through drone strikes, reports state. Ethiopian opposition politician and journalist Eskinder Nega formed the Amhara Popular Front party for Fano and other Amhara militia. Additionally, heavy fighting took place between the ENDF and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on Saturday and Sunday in the western part of the Guji zone. OLA has reportedly attacked 7 prisons and freed political prisoners.

Ethiopia: EOTC pledges to restore relations
The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) held its annual assembly and pledged to renew efforts to restore relations in the synod. 20 million birr in support of communities affected by war in Tigray has been pledged by the EOTC. Despite the break of ties between EOTC and the Tigray Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Holy Synod aims to continue the  activities and mission in Tigray, said EOTC patriarch Abune Mathias. The Holy Synod established a Peace Committee in support of dialogue, peace and reconciliation across Ethiopia and expressed concerns over the ongoing challenges in Oromia. Meanwhile, the Tigray Orthodox Tewahedo Church will ordain 10 new episcopates who will be positioned across all zones in Tigray as well as overseas in North America, Europe, Australia, Canada and the Middle East. This appointment is done in complete autonomy from the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as the Tigray Orthodox Church declared itself an independent church in May 2021.

Somalia: Puntland region to hold elections
Somalia’s Puntland region held local elections on 25 May. They are the first one-person one-vote elections in 54 years. Voting was postponed in three districts, including Puntland’s capital of Garowe, due to security incidents, stated the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission. Some opposition groups had called for an election boycott. The voting count has started, but no results were in as of the time of writing.

Somalia/Kenya/Ethiopia: High-level pledging event falls short of goal
A high-level pledging event to support the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa took place in New York on 24 May. The pledging event, aimed at Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, raised only 2.4 billion USD of the hoped for 7 billion USD, which the UN indicated is necessary to stop a humanitarian crisis. Before the event, NGOs urged in a joint statement that the effects of climate injustice, particularly extreme droughts and flash floods, should be addressed by the international community. The funding gap for humanitarian aid is increasing, warn observers; particularly as the Horn is under increasing pressure from climate change-related extreme weather events and conflict.

Eritrea: Country with the second-highest prevalence of slavery
Eritrea is the country with the second-highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world, according to the Global Slavery Index report. It is only surpassed by North Korea. 

North Africa

Libya: Migrants and refugees report on Libyan detention centres
Three migrants and refugees reported on their experience of the time spent in the Libyan detention centres. The three young people told volunteers of Doctors Without Borders about the awful conditions of the centres. The rooms they were locked in had no windows, so it was difficult to breathe and they were in complete darkness, besides for the few short moments when the guards opened the door to “throw some food” at them. The three were part of a group of 26 refugees and migrants who were rescued by Doctors Without Borders’ ship Geo Barents and brought to Brindisi, Italy, on 19 May. They were found in international waters off the Libyan coast after they called Alarm Phone for help. One of them said that when they saw a ship approaching them they “feared it was the Libyan Coast Guard”.

Libya: Government attacks western coastal area with air raids
The UN-recognised government of national unity (GNU) in Tripoli, Libya, states that it commanded the national air force to carry out air strikes against what it called traffickers of people, fuel and drugs in western coastal areas . The attack, conducted on 25 May, “successfully hit their targets”, said the Libyan Ministry of Defence. Residents of Zawiya reported hearing explosions and gunfire. The city houses military factions that oppose the GNU. 


UK: Government announces new measure to curb migration
The UK announced new measures to curb immigration, according to which foreign and international students on non-research courses will be prevented from bringing their family members and dependants over to the UK. The new government bid also prevents international students from switching from the student visa route into work routes before they complete their studies, in order “to prevent misuse of the visa system”, reports the UK government website. Once they finish their studies, overseas students have six months to either obtain a work visa or leave the UK. The measures, entering into effect for students starting their courses from January 2024, is one of the steps taken by the government to reduce net migration, as it expected to make a “significant difference to the numbers” of arrivals, said Rishi Sunak.

UK: Home Secretary tries to skip final vote on the illegal migration bill
The aides of UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman sent several emails to the Tory office to seek an allowance for Braverman to skip the final Commons vote on the government’s illegal migration bill. The Guardian reported that the chief whip, Simon Hart, called Braverman to command her attendance to the third and final reading of the asylum bill. This happens in a challenging period for the government’s migration management as “net legal migration” is expected to rise and hit an all-time peak, reports The Guardian. During the G7 summit of world leaders, PM Rishi Sunak expressed his commitment to bring migration numbers down below the level he “inherited” as prime minister, while keeping as main focus the fight against people arriving “illegally” in small boats across the Channel.

Italy: NGOs condemn European countries for deaths at sea
Several Italian NGOs criticised the EU and the European countries for their alleged inadequate response to the migration crisis, reports InfoMigrants, which led to thousands of deaths of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. The NGOs called on the countries to take responsibility in preventing deaths at sea, pushing for the adoption by the states of a more humanitarian approach to migration and for the abandonment of restrictive border control policies. They also urged Europe to set up an implementation plan of search and rescue operations and a coordinated international response to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees. The NGOs reiterated the need of a relocating system across Europe that would ease the pressure on first arrival countries and lead to fewer deaths at sea. Italian President Sergio Mattarella expressed his concerns over the difficulty of engaging with EU countries on the issue of migration. According to the President, “a common European policy on migration is indispensable”.

Italy: Italy to build first hotspot in the North of the country 
The Italian government announced the construction of the first hotspot for migrants and refugees in northern Italy, most likely in the port city of Trieste, located in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG). As it is close to the Slovenian border, Trieste plays an important role in the Balkan route, which connects Turkey and Greece to Western Europe, and hosts a high number of migrants and refugees. The decision followed a summit in Trieste which saw the participation of FVG’s four prefects, Regional President Massimiliano Fedriga and the government’s Extraordinary Commissioner for the Migrant Emergency, Valerio Valenti. The trigger factor of the talks on the possibility to build a hotspot was the increase of 180% in arrivals from the Balkan route in FVG from January to April 2023, together with the lack of a proper state-run reception facility in Trieste.

Germany: Germany publishes new draft citizenship law
The German Interior Ministry published a draft legislation which makes it easier to apply for the German citizenship, in order to attract skilled labour and boost the national economy. The draft proposes that the residency years required to be naturalised should be three to five, no longer eight, and allows for keeping multiple citizenships. This treatment will be applied to those who have special skills, like speaking German fluently, being exceptionally successful in their jobs or doing voluntary work, explained Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. Reuters reports that language requirements to get the German citizenship are meant to be eased for the “Gastarbeiter” generation, whose members are foreign workers who migrated to Germany between the 1950s and 60s. Criticism to the proposal arised in relation to the possibility of it encouraging “illegal migration”. 

Germany: Faeser urges reform of the EU asylum system
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser urged the EU to adopt a reform of the asylum system and implement stricter immigration rules, in particular by putting in place external border controls. During the joint press conference in Berlin on 25 May, Feaser met her Austrian counterpart Gerhard Karner and voiced out her concern on the pressure that migration has on both countries. She expressed the need of having “a fair distribution (of refugees) in Europe”. Karner stressed that the deportation of  people not entitled to asylum should be facilitated in order to better engage in helping those in need.  

Austria: Austria strengthens border controls as Hungary releases people smugglers 
Austria’s interior ministry said it would strengthen border controls with Hungary after the decision by the Hungarian government to free convicted people smugglers from jail. The government of Hungary gave them 72 hours to leave the country. According to Bence Rétvári, Hungary’s state secretary of the interior ministry, the decision was inevitable as the prisons are overcrowded and the European Union “refuses to contribute to border controls”, reports The Guardian, and did not refund the expenses faced by Hungary in implementing the measures to protect the bloc’s external borders. Austria summoned the Hungarian ambassador to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna for an urgent meeting, as reported by EuroNews.

Greece: Greece to investigate illegal deportations of migrants and refugees
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis opened investigations over allegations of illegal deportations of migrants and refugees committed by Greek authorities. The investigation was called for by the European Commission, as EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson declared that the Commission “stands ready to take formal steps, as appropriate” against Greece. The allegations are based among others on a video shared by the New York Times showing the Greek Coast Guard, using a boat partially funded by the EU, abandoning 12 migrants and refugees on an inflatable raft in the Aegean Sea. The objective was allegedly to let the Turkish authorities rescue them. Turkey picked them up and transferred them to the detention centre of Izmir. This act represents an illegal pushback and violates EU and international law. 

Greece: 3 dead and 12 missing at sea
A boat carrying 17 migrants and refugees capsized in the Aegean Sea on 26 May, causing the death of 3 people and leaving 12 missing. Greek state broadcaster ERTNews reported that a “large search and rescue operation”, involving two coast guard boats, a helicopter and land assets, was carried out after two migrants and refugees were found off Mykonos island.

Poland/Belarus/Germany: Increased crossings at Poland-Belarus border concerns Germany
Polish border guards reported that a higher number of migrants and refugees are trying to cross the Poland-Belarus border and get into the Polish territory recently. Migrants and refugees are attempting and managing to enter Poland despite the high wall and the electronic surveillance system built along the border with Belarus. The renewed influx of people into Poland raised concerns from Brandenburg and Saxony regions in Germany, which urged the country to reintroduce check points and controls at the Germany-Poland border.