News Highlights: Hundreds feared dead in Greek boat disaster, Reports of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Mass detention in Libya

In this week’s News Highlights: Peace efforts in Sudan stall and US considers other options; Reports of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan; Sexual Violence increases in Sudan; Violence and killings continue in Sudan; RSF takes control of Am Dafok; RSF uses drones for aerial attacks; Conflict Observatory Platform Sudan published; Lootings and closure of facilities; Displacement in Sudan reaches over 2 million; Sudanese refugees need a visa to enter Egypt; Tensions may rise between host and refugee communities in Chad; International actors speak out on events in Sudan; WFP and USAID suspending aid in all of Ethiopia; Tigray delegation travels to Amhara and meets foreign ambassadors; TDF and prisoners of war’s future still uncertain; Costs of war in Tigray; Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines leaves company; Eritrea rejoins the regional group IGAD; Civilians killed in al-Shabaab attack; Libyan coast guard intercepts boat in international waters; UN concerned about mass arbitrary detention in Libya; European Commission to invest €105m in Tunisian migration management; Hundreds feared dead in shipwreck off Greece; Western Balkans countries pledge to cooperate on migration management; Two people drown after being forced to swim to shore; Italian authorities detain Aurora rescue ship; FRA recommends independent review system for border management; and Number of forcibly displaced worldwide hits a record high.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Peace efforts stall and US considers other options
The US is reconsidering its steps in the Sudan peace negotiations, said an anonymous US official. This comes as a reaction to many failed ceasefires brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia in the past weeks. Intense fighting resumed after the expiration of the 24-hour ceasefire on Sunday 06:00 am. There were violations of the ceasefire and the facilitators, Saudi Arabia and the US, expressed their disappointment about the “immediate resumption of intense violence” after the ceasefire ended. During the relative calm of the ceasefire, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) “demonstrated effective command and control over their forces”, which enabled the delivery of some humanitarian assistance, stated Saudi Arabia and US facilitators. The concrete announcement of the new peace approach is expected to come in the next few days, after the US will have consulted on their approach with Saudi Arabia and African countries. Following an IGAD offer to arrange a meeting between the heads of the two fighting parties, Abdel Fatah Al-Burhan, chief of Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), stated he is not yet ready to meet with his opponent Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), chief of RSF, confirmed a Sudanese government official. Clementine Nkweta-Salami, deputy of the UN envoy to Sudan, presented her credentials to the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after Volker Perthes was declared persona non grata by Sudan. Sudanese representatives of civil society, as well as university professionals, youth and activists, spoke with the US Bureau of African Affairs providing a first-hand account of the situation in the conflict areas of Sudan. 

Sudan: Reports of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan
Attacks on civilians based on ethnic identity may amount to war crimes if confirmed, said UN Sudan Envoy Volker Perthes on the deteriorating security situation in Sudan. There are accusations of ethnic targeting taking place in West Darfur against ethnically African residents. Large-scale attacks on ethnic communities in El Geneina have been reported by many sources in the past weeks. 1,100 people have been killed in el-Geneina since 24 April. The West Darfur Doctors Union compared the intensity of the violence with massacres that took place in Rwanda in 1994. Attacks are reportedly committed by the Arab Militias and Rapid Support Forces (RSF). West Darfur Governor Khamis Abdullah Abbaker was killed allegedly by Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Arab militias in El Geneina on Wednesday. The governor had previously accused the RSF of deliberately attacking and killing civilians, describing it as a genocide. Various video recordings circulated on social media showed the detention and wounding of the governor by armed men, some of whom wore RSF uniforms.  The Jeddah Agreement that RSF signed making provision for safe passage was not adhered to, as residents remain trapped inside the city and many who fled by car and on foot were killed. Sources further state that the residents that have remained in the city were forced to relocate to the northern neighbourhoods, cramming thousands of people into 5 km squared. Similar actions were undertaken by the RSF in Kutum and the Kassab IDP camp in North Darfur. The Assistant Commissioner for Refugees in Darfur, Mujeeb Rahman Muhammad Yaqoub, stated the occurrence of ethnic targeting, displacement, rape, murder and mutilation of corpses inside el Geneina. There are enforced disappearances, elderly are being killed and people are being denied access to water sources, the West Darfur Doctors Union stated. An unknown number of medical staff, activists, and journalists have been killed. In social media, concern is expressed that narratives are emerging that “el-Geneina should be cleansed” of the “zurga” (pejorative word for black people) after which the city would become the regrouping point, concerned social media sources stated. 

Sudan: Sexual Violence
The cases of rape in Khartoum officially reported have increased to 36, and the real number is certainly much higher. The Combating Violence Against Women Unit at the Ministry of Social Affairs received an increasing number of reports of abductions and gang-rapes, with girls between 12 and 17 being targeted. Most of the recorded reports mention the perpetrators as RSF soldiers. Rape survivors in Khartoum face an acute lack of medication and access to post-rape kits. Victims are using social media to exchange information on the availability of medication and resources. Many women have access only to traditional herbal medication and remedies. About 5,000 post-rape kits were delivered to Port Sudan but due to ongoing fighting they were not transferred to Khartoum. Local warehouses storing rape-kits in the capital were looted. 

Sudan: Violence and killings 
The escalation and fighting continue across the country as the conflict enters the third month. There are reports that men wearing RSF uniforms have been targeting the homes of Eritrean and Ethiopian female refugees in Omdurman and Khartoum. The parts of Khartoum controlled by the RSF undergo regular raids, looting of houses, and taking of hostages by RSF soldiers. Children are also being recruited to fight for the RSF. There are reports of RSF soldiers pressuring people to convert to Islam, threatening that they will be shot if they do not convert. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that one of their convoys was stopped by the RSF and “obliged” to make a promotional video in support of the forces to be able to continue their journey last week. Clashes between SAF and RSF are reported inside the market of Nyala, South Darfur. Aid from the government and international actors has not been reaching the different states of Darfur. Meanwhile, the WHO Health Cluster states that it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain accurate medical data in conflict areas in Sudan. SAF soldiers have been targeting Misseriya tribesmen, as they consider them supporters of the RSF after many RSF soldiers had been recruited from the Misseriya and Rizeigat tribes. The targeting includes killing, abductions and detainment by SAF soldiers. 

Sudan: RSF takes control of Am Dafok 
RSF reportedly took control of the military base in Am Dafok, in the border area between Darfur and the Central African Republic (CAR), earlier this week. There were no reports of fighting, which seem to suggest that the Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) surrendered without a fight. The RSF already had a presence in CAR, where they are involved in gold mining. The Am Dafok area has been facing network shutdowns for days and therefore it is difficult to connect with residents on the ground, said observers. The border region is of strategic importance in relation to Russia’s influence in CAR. Observers warn about a potential corridor via Am Dafok for supply delivery from the Wagner group.  

Sudan: RSF uses drones for aerial attacks
The use of drones by the RSF in Khartoum was reported on 14 June. Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) reportedly published pictures of a shot-down armed drone carrying a 120mm air drop shell. It appears to be a commercial drone refitted for military use, according to military experts. The drone is manufactured in the UAE. The 120mm air drop shells are produced in Serbia. Both warring sides are reportedly in possession of drones. An investigation is ongoing into whether the UAE provided drones and ammunition to RSF. There is also the possibility that SAF bought that equipment but it was taken by RSF when they captured SAF depots. These speculations have not been verified yet. 

Sudan: Conflict Observatory Platform Sudan published
The US Department of State launched the Sudan Conflict Observatory platform to publish some results of the commercial satellite imagery and open-source data analysis monitoring of the 11 May Jeddah Agreement. The reporting includes information on infrastructure damage, movement of military equipment, and population shifts. Periodic reports will also be published, on “Widespread and targeted humanitarian and human security impacts” were documented via open-source and satellite imagery. Impacts have been documented in Khartoum, North Kordofan, South Darfur, West Darfur, and North Darfur.

Sudan: Lootings and closure of facilities 
Premises of the Sudanese Organization for Research and Development (SORD) have been looted and damaged. It resulted in the loss of much equipment, in addition to a new vehicle. Cashless payments in Sudan are now only serviced by two bank providers, the Bank of Khartoum and Faysal Islamic Bank. Amid acute shortages of cash and with more banks closing their in-person services, cashless services are of essential importance for Sudanese people. Sudan’s air space has been closed off for another two weeks by the Sudanese aviation authority. Closure of airspace – with the exception of humanitarian flights – is extended to 30 June. 

Sudan: Displacement in Sudan reaches over 2 million
More than 2.1 million people have been displaced by the Sudanese conflict as of 13 June, said UNHCR. Out of that 467,195 refugees fled to other countries and 1,670,991 are internally displaced within Sudan. 179,333 displaced people arrived in the eastern parts of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan between 2 and 5 May to seek refuge. Authorities of South Kordofan do not allow buses with internally displaced people to reach Kadugli, capital of the region, reportedly stopping them in the city of Delling at the Khor Abu Habal checkpoint. Authorities claim it is due to security reasons. More than 45,600 people arrived from Sudan to Ethiopia’s Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella regions, most of them through the Metema border crossing, as of 12 June. 

Sudan/Egypt: Sudanese refugees need a visa to enter Egypt
All Sudanese refugees fleeing the conflict to Egypt are, according to a new policy, obliged to obtain a visa through the consulate before they are allowed to enter Egyptian territory. The new policy has been introduced over the past week. Prior to the change, this rule was applicable only to men of certain age categories; now it has been extended to all Sudanese people. Egypt authorities say that the new rule is introduced due to fake visas being offered to refugees in border areas. Over 200,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to Egypt since the start of the conflict. 

Sudan/Chad: Tensions may rise between host and refugee communities
Since the start of the conflict in Sudan, around 90,000 Sudanese refugees have fled to Chad, which together with refugees that were in Chad before the start of the conflict adds to 600,000 Sudanese refugees. The areas where refugees from Sudan have arrived have a local population living in relative poverty and there are risks that if either party feels that the other is getting more support, local clashes will occur, warns researcher Helga Dickow. The closure of the Sudanese border has had an impact on the Chadian economy, with prices of goods and services rising up to 70%, and Chadian exports have come to a standstill. Chad is also experiencing a severe fuel shortage.

Sudan: International actors speak out on events in Sudan
The European Parliament voted on a joint resolution on the humanitarian situation in Sudan with a particular focus on the children trapped and killed in the fighting, which was adopted on 15 June. The outcomes of the votes were 477 votes in favour, 3 against and 43 abstentions. MEPs called for immediate cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access and possible sanctions to be introduced on all parties breaching international, human rights and humanitarian law. The adopted resolution calls for the EU and its Member States to assure that a ceasefire can be agreed to and followed, encouraging considerations of targeted sanctions, as well as providing immediate humanitarian assistance and support. The text further demands an immediate cessation of military action and violence against civilians and humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) strongly condemned the killing of the governor of West Darfur and called for investigation, accountability and justice for all perpetrators. A pledging conference in response to humanitarian needs in Sudan will be held on 19 June. The conference is jointly led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Germany, the EU and the UN. The UN Secretary General expressed great concern about the situation in Darfur, Sudan. He reminded all parties of their obligation to protect civilians. 

Ethiopia: WFP and USAID suspending aid 
The World Food Programme (WFP) has followed USAID in suspending aid across all of Ethiopia. Food aid to children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and resilience programmes for farmers and pastoralists will continue, says WFP. Refugees are not mentioned. WFP and partners are working to “reform the way assistance is delivered across Ethiopia”. The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense has denied allegations that the ENDF and other governmental bodies have been involved in the diversion of aid. However, it has vowed to take decisive measures against any individual member of the army that is found complicit in the diversions. The Ethiopian food aid diversion involved the Ethiopian federal government, Eritrean military forces, Tigray regional authorities, IDP camp coordinators and several aid workers, said General Fiseha Kidane, coordinator of the investigation committee of the Tigray Interim Regional Administration. In total 186 suspects are listed by the investigation committee with 7 persons already arrested. Neither the Ethiopian nor Eritrean government has issued their reaction to the investigation results yet. According to the investigation, the Ethiopian federal government, Eritrean forces and Tigray regional authorities diverted thousands of metric tons of wheat, litres of cooking oil, and quintals of pease. Meanwhile, the ongoing hunger and food crisis is increasingly getting worse across many cities in Tigray. 327 internally displaced persons, including 32 children, have died of hunger since signing the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, said IDP camp coordinators. 670 children are reportedly in critical condition in Samar district about 40 km from Mekelle. 32 newborns have died due to lack of nutrition and medicine in the Seharti Samre district. Farmers from Eastern Tigray face a lack of seeds and fertilisers at the start of the sowing season. They called on the government to provide basic agricultural input to prevent another season with a severe shortage of food.  

Tigray: Tigray delegation travels to Amhara and meets foreign ambassadors
A Tigray interim regional government delegation led by Getachew Reda visited the Amhara region. The delegation was met by the President of the Amhara Region, Yelkal Kefale, to discuss relations between the regions. The President of the Interim Regional Administration of Tigray met with the ambassadors of Japan, Norway and New Zealand as well as UNICEF representatives in order to discuss implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement. The delegation discussed various topics such as the situation of internally displaced persons, rehabilitation processes, and rebuilding of the education system. Meanwhile the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) declined a request asking NEBE for the registration certificate of the TPLF as a regional political party. The request was deemed invalid as a new party could not be created with the same name as a previously existing party, as this would “confuse voters”.

Tigray: TDF and prisoners of war’s future still uncertain  
The fate of up to thousands Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) fighters and prisoners of war (also of Tigrayan ethnicity) that were detained during the war, is still unclear. Human Rights organisations have little information on how many people are still detained or are missing. The conditions in the prison camps were horrific, with many dying of starvation, diarrhea, medical neglect and torture. 

Ethiopia/Tigray: Costs of war in Tigray
Economic loss and costs of the war in Tigray amount to over US$28.7 billion, confirmed the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance. Post-war reconstruction of infrastructure is estimated to cost US$20 billion. Calculations were carried out through a study in collaboration with Ethiopian Universities. The results of the study were delivered in a consultation forum in Addis Ababa with the presence of Ethiopia’s development partners and UN agencies. 

Ethiopia: Chairman of Ethiopian Airlines leaves company
The former Ethiopian Airlines board chairman Girma Wake has left the company, the reasons for this are still unclear. He is replaced by Yilma Merdesa, the Commander of the Ethiopian Air Force. The Ethiopian Federal High Court will deliver a ruling on 30 June on the case against Ethiopian Airlines for blocking Tigrayans from travelling to local and international destinations.

Eritrea/IGAD: Eritrea rejoins the regional group IGAD
Eritrea resumed its membership in IGAD after nearly 16 years, when it pulled out as a response to IGAD’s support of the Ethiopian military intervention backing the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. At the conclusion of the IGAD assembly yesterday, the president of the Republic of Djibouti took over the Chairmanship after Sudan’s term came to an end. During the Assembly it was decided that leaders of Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia will attempt to meet face to face with Generals Al-Burhan and Daglo, to speak on behalf of IGAD with the aim of stopping the war. 

Somalia: Civilians killed in al-Shabaab attack
At least six civilians were killed and 10 were injured in an attack by al-Shabaab on a hotel that lasted six hours in Mogadishu on Friday 9 June. Three members of the security forces and seven al-Shabaab fighters were killed. At least 19 al-Shabaab fighters died in a joint security operation by Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on Sunday. 

North Africa

Libya: Libyan coast guard intercepts boat in international waters
The Libyan coast guard intercepted a boat in distress in international waters off Libya carrying about 50 migrants and refugees, as reported in a tweet by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Once intercepted, the migrants and refugees were transferred to the vessel operated by the Libyan coast guard and the boat they were travelling on was set on fire. The NGO SeaWatch reported that Frontex most likely knew about the boat in distress before it was intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, but it did not alert the crew of the MSF’s rescue boat Geo Barents. Reuters then published pictures showing a group of migrants and refugees arriving in Garaboli in northwest Libya later on that day. The refugees were detained in Libya.

Libya: UN concerned about mass arbitrary detention in Libya
The United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed concerns about the mass arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees carried out by Libyan authorities. In the statement, tweeted on 12 June, the UN said that thousands of people are being arrested in the streets or following raids on alleged traffickers’ camps and warehouses. They are either detained in overcrowded and unhygienic detention facilities or collectively expelled. The UN also reported “an alarming increase in hate speech and racist rhetoric” on the Internet in Libya. UNSMIL urged the Libyan authorities to commit to the international obligations for the treatment of migrants and refugees and to grant UN agencies and NGOs unhindered access to detention centres in order to provide assistance.

Tunisia/EC: European Commission to invest €105m in Tunisian migration management
The EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU is considering investing €105m into a new partnership with Tunisia for migration management. The aid would be directed to finance anti-smuggling and trafficking, border management, search and rescue operations and returns to Tunisia “rooted in respect for human rights”, says von der Leyen. The announcement came during a meeting held in Tunis on 11 June with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Tunisian president Kais Saied. The €105m investment is part of an over €1bn aid package for Tunisia aimed at helping the country to lift its economy and prevent people from leaving. Ahead of the visit, Saied said that Tunisia “cannot be a guard for their countries”. If accepted by Saied, the proposed partnership will be discussed at the European Council summit at the end of June and could lead to the finalisation of a memorandum of agreement. The proposed deal raises concerns over the human rights of migrants, refugees and returnees. Lauren Seibert, researcher at Human Rights Watch’s refugee and migrant rights division, told DW that she fears that the money will be spent in reinforcing security forces in Tunisia and, therefore, migration control.


Greece: Hundreds feared dead in shipwreck off Greece
79 migrants and refugees drowned after the boat they were travelling on capsized off the Greek coastal town of Pylos on 14 June, resulting in the deadliest shipwreck off Greece in several years, says EurActiv. The boat capsized at 2am at night. 104 people have been rescued, while search and rescue operations continue as hundreds more are missing. Reportedly the vessel set off from the Libyan port of Tobruk and was carrying between 400 and 750 people. As it sank in deep waters, the chances of finding more survivors are slim. The NGO Alarm Phone said it was in contact with people on a ship in distress off Greece the day before the accident and that it informed Greek authorities, Frontex and the Greek division of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Greek authorities stated that the people on the vessel refused any assistance from a Greek coast guard boat, as they wanted to reach Italy, although aerial photos showed refugees holding arms outstretched towards Greek authorities hours before the boat sank, reports Reuters. The Greek authorities arrested nine Egyptians suspected of being smugglers and arranging the deadly crossing, reports the BBC

Balkans: Western Balkans countries pledge to cooperate on migration management 
Six Western Balkans countries said that they are willing to work together with the EU and United Nations agencies to improve migration governance, reports Reuters. Security and migration officials and experts in the field of migration and asylum from North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia met on 8 June on occasion of the third Sarajevo Migration Dialogue Conference. They agreed on measures to curb the smuggling and trafficking of migrants and refugees and provide them with alternative routes, while also discussing ways to return migrants, states Infomigrants. Ugochi Florence Daniels, the IOM Deputy Director General for Operations, praised the Balkan leaders for the decision of working together, which gives the chance to look at the “longer-term opportunities” that migration brings, she told Reuters.

Spain: Two people drown after being forced to swim to shore
Two people drowned and one suffered hypothermia after they were forced to swim to the Spanish coast by the skippers of the boats they were travelling on. It is not clear why they were forced off the boat. It happened on 9 June, when the two boats carrying 137 migrants and refugees were located off the coast of Almería, said Spanish authorities. José María Martín, a central government official in the city of Almería, said they were victims of criminal human smuggling gangs. The other migrants and refugees arrived safely on land and were received by the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Red Cross. Search operations were started that day by the coast guard to look for other people who may have drowned.

Italy: Italian authorities detain Aurora rescue ship
The rescue ship Aurora, operated by the NGO SeaWatch, is being detained for 20 days and fined €3333 by Italian authorities, the NGO tweeted on 15 June. The measure was taken as the Aurora crew broke Italian disembarkation rules by heading to a different port than the one assigned by the authorities, reports InfoMigrants. After carrying out a sea rescue of 39 people on 12 June, the Aurora was ordered to head to the Trapani port. The boat crew decided to disembark in Lampedusa as reaching Trapani would take a long time, thus representing a risk for the rescued people, says the NGO.  

EU: FRA recommends independent review system for border management
The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) recommended the EU to adopt an independent review mechanism for IT systems that deal with border management. The recommendation is included in the 2023 annual report published by the FRA on 8 June, which analyses the development of three new large-scale IT systems aimed at facilitating border management and reducing internal security risks. The review mechanism would monitor the implementation phase of the IT systems, which is a crucial phase to ensure that fundamental rights are concretely safeguarded. The impact of IT systems on fundamental rights remains partly unknown, says the FRA. 


UN: Number of forcibly displaced worldwide hits a record high
In its latest Global Trends report, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) found that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide hit another record in 2022, reaching a total of 108.4 million displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order by the end of the year. With the eruption of the conflict in Sudan and the consequent displacement crisis, the figure today is approximately 110 million. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for “much more international support and more equitable responsibility sharing”.