News Highlights: Eritreans deported from Ethiopia, UK Court deems Rwanda deportations unlawful, New patrol boats to Libya

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In this week’s News Highlights: Violence against civilians and refugees; Public facilities attacked and aid restricted in Sudan; Two-day Eid ceasefire broken; Women and civil society urge for cessation of violence in Sudan; RSF releases 125 SAF soldiers; Displacements due to conflict and food insecurities in Sudan; Troika condemns violence in Sudan; Kenyan President Ruto say there are ‘signs of genocide’ in Sudan; UNSC talks about Sudan; Eritreans face forced return from Ethiopia; Tigray church calls for resume of food aid to Tigray as hunger related death toll rises; Study finds children in primary school experience high levels of trauma; Facilities in Oromia looted and destroyed; Tigrayans disappeared during war still missing; Officials removed in Puntland, Somalia; EU delivers patrol boats to Libya coast guard despite its links with militia groups; NGO vessel rescues 86 people off Libyan coast; Dozens missing and 3 dead off Tunisian coast; Frontex contacts Libyan coast guard for SaR operations; Tunisian model should be extended in other countries, says EU chief; Hungary and Poland block conclusions on migration at EU Summit; ECtHR rules in favour of 67 ill-treated migrants and refugees; Walid case continues in the Netherlands; Rwanda deportation plan deemed unlawful; UK says cost of transferring to Rwanda is in the hundreds of thousands; Greece to continue “strict but fair” migration policy after elections; Greek police and Spanish NGO rescue more than 300 migrants and refugees; Save the Children’s proposal for the protection of unaccompanied minors in Italy; Spain and Morocco under investigation for delayed rescue; and Amnesty accuses Spain and Morocco of Melilla cover-up.

Greater Horn of Africa

Sudan: Violence against civilians and refugees
Air strikes and anti-aircraft fires were reported around Khartoum on Wednesday (28 June). Interviews with people fleeing the city of el Geneina revealed “horrific accounts” of killings of civilians by RSF-supported militia, states the UN human rights office (OHCHR). Dead bodies are scattered along the road and witnesses report dozens of bodies in a location referred to as Shukri, 10 km off the border with Chad. Summary executions of civilians lying on the ground or by shooting into the crowds were reported by the majority of witnesses interviewed. The killings are accompanied by hate speech against the Masalit. The refugees who survive have had their phones and property looted from them. Armed men referred to them as “slaves” and “Nuba”. Witnesses state that the militia is targeting anyone who is black. In Nyala, South Darfur, there is an increase in heavy clashes between SAF and RSF as residents have reported artillery fire and tanks, and many are taking lulls in the fighting as an opportunity to flee the city.

Sudan: Public facilities targeted and aid restricted 
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) gained control over the Central Reserve Police base in southern Khartoum on 25 June, posting videos from inside the facility. RSF claims to have seized 160 pick-up trucks, 27 tanks and 75 armoured personnel carriers, as well as large amounts of ammunition. Entire districts in Khartoum are without running water and electricity has stopped working, said remaining residents in the city. The few health facilities still running suffer from lack of fuel for generators and lack of medical supplies. Aid is not reaching the capital, as the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) want to prevent aid from falling into the hands of the RSF, states the International Crisis Group. Water supplies in places in el Fasher and Nyala have also been cut amidst lack of fuel for generators. 

Sudan: Two-day Eid ceasefire broken
Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Hemedti declared a two-day unilateral truce which started on 27 June to honour the Muslim Eid festivity. The truce was announced in an audio address. The truce was violated as airstrikes and shelling continue to be witnessed in Khartoum. In the address, the RSF leader expressed concern over allegations of human rights violations committed by RSF troops against civilians. The human rights violations against civilians are against “RSF law”, stated Hemedti. In response to the allegations, Hemedti announced the establishment of field courts, which will be headed by Major General Esam Saleh Fidhel. The RSF field courts are mandated to carry out investigations into the claims of offences which are allegedly committed by RSF troops.

Sudan: Women and civil society urge for cessation of violence
Women’s organisations urge for women and girls to be protected from violence in the conflict between the RSF and SAF. The letter is addressed to Lana Nusseibeh, who is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador and current Security Council President, and was signed by 41 women’s organisations from Africa. The letter calls upon the UNSC to take concrete steps to address the dire situation in Sudan. Peace-making efforts should be exclusively focused on strengthening the civil society forces in Sudan, states Sharath Srinivasan, co-director of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge, stating that traditional diplomatic efforts focused on the warring parties have failed in Sudan. 

Sudan: RSF releases 125 SAF soldiers
125 detainees, including 44 wounded men, who had been held captive by RSF were released and transported to Wad Madani, from Khartoum, with support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It remains unknown where the RSF held their detainees. 

Sudan: Displacements due to conflict and food insecurities
About 2.5 million people have been displaced, of whom nearly 2 million people are internally displaced in Sudan since the start of the Sudan conflict. Following the outbreak of conflict, a dramatic deterioration of food security is observed due to large-scale displacement of local populations, severe damage to critical infrastructure, the breakdown of economic activities, cessation of trade and erosion of livelihoods, says the World Food Programme (WFP) in an assessment. The conflict affects the supply and demand side prompting food prices to increase and exacerbating food insecurity. Prior to the start of the conflict on 15 April, 16.2 million people, or 34 percent of the population in Sudan, were already food insecure, states WFP. The areas of West Darfur (56%); West Kordofan (56%); Blue Nile (50 %); Red Sea (49%); and North Darfur (47%) experienced the highest prevalence of food insecurity, says WFP. 

Sudan/South Sudan: Troika condemns violence in Sudan 
The Troika on Sudan and South Sudan, composed of the USA, the UK and Norway, has condemned violence and ongoing conflict in Sudan and called for coordinated pressure from the international community to facilitate immediate ceasefire and protection of civilians. The Troika members also urged for the South Sudanese transitional government to uphold the commitment towards peace agreement implementation without any further delays.  

Kenya/Sudan: Kenyan President Ruto say there are ‘signs of genocide’ in Sudan
“There are already signs of genocide in Sudan,” stated Kenyan President William Ruto in an interview with France24 at a Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. He further said that “the war is not legitimate in any way” due to the amount of military power used to harm and kill civilians. Ruto says peace negotiations will not succeed “until we get General al-Burhan, General Hemedti, political leaders and civil society – women’s groups and youth groups – to the table”. 

UNSC/Sudan: UNSC talks about Sudan 
The UN Security Council (UNSC) held closed consultations on Sudan on 30 June. In a brief press statement following the meeting, the Council called for a halt in the fighting and protection of civilians, as well as adherence to international law. The UNSC also called for more support to humanitarian aid in Sudan and in surrounding countries and for support to aid workers. 

Eritrea/Ethiopia: Eritreans face forced return from Ethiopia
Hundreds of Eritrean refugees that were rounded up and arrested in the Balderas area of Addis Ababa five weeks ago, including minors, were forcibly deported to Assab, Eritrea, state various sources. According to observers, Eritreans that were registered last year had to pay 3 USD per day if they were in the country ‘illegally’. Those who paid were reportedly released. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is monitoring the forced return of Eritreans alleged to be illegally in Ethiopia. EHRC notes that under international law, no-one should be returned to a country where they face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The known number of Eritreans deported is 432 so far, sources state. The Refugees and Returnees Service of Ethiopia states that “NONE of the individuals who have been returned are refugees or asylum seekers.” Ethiopia withdrew the ‘prima facie’ refugee status recognition for Eritreans in March 2020, despite lack of evidence for improvement of the situation in Eritrea. Additionally, Eritrean refugees arriving from Sudan to Metema, Ethiopia, are now being asked to pay USD 5000 per adult to be smuggled to Addis Ababa, new reports state. Minors are paying USD 2000. Smugglers that used to operate in Sudan have now moved their business to Metema, observers state. Meanwhile, the Refugee and Return Service (RRS) of Ethiopia has stopped issuing birth certificates to newborn babies to Eritrean refugees in (parts of) Ethiopia. It is unclear whether the service was stopped everywhere in Ethiopia or particularly in Tigray due to the war in Tigray. The lack of documentation is creating difficulties for family reunification. In some instances, reunification of families requires mothers to leave their (undocumented) babies behind. This would seem to be in contravention with international law. The RRS has not yet responded to the questions asked on the procedure, why this happened and how it is mitigated.

Tigray: Church calls for resumption of food aid as hunger-related death toll rises
Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin from the Adigrat Eparchy in Tigray called upon USAID and the World Food Programme to resume food aid to Tigray. He denounced food aid diversion, stating that keeping food from the war-impacted communities is a “death sentence”. Over 700 hunger-related deaths were recorded across 7 administrative zones of Tigray in the recent weeks amid the food aid suspension. At least 27 people including 11 children have died of hunger in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp in Abiy Adi, Tigray. Farmers’ lives and their livelihoods are continuously endangered by the remaining explosives and landmines spread across the land in Tigray. About 726 square kilometres of land is still contaminated. 

Tigray: Study finds children in primary school experience high levels of trauma
High levels of trauma and education loss are recorded amongst primary school children impacted by the war in Tigray, a study by the Luminos Fund and the Tigray Education Bureau shows.

Ethiopia: Facilities in Oromia looted and destroyed
Health facilities and water systems are destroyed in Oromia due to the ongoing conflict and violence. Most of the 42 existing health facilities in Begi (Oromia) have been looted or damaged. This is a district of 100,000 inhabitants, who no longer can access (urgent) medical services. 

Ethiopia: Tigrayans disappeared during war still missing
Tigrayans that were arrested throughout Ethiopia during the war, including those that served in the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, remain in prisons within Ethiopia, states a transcript obtained of a meeting between US senators and Special Envoy Mike Hammer on 11 May 2023. Individuals from Tigrayan origin taken from Addis Ababa during the Tigray war to Afar and to other places seem to have disappeared and their whereabouts were unclear, without any attention being given to their fate, the transcript reads.

Somalia: Officials removed in Puntland, Somalia
The leader of the Puntland region in Somalia, Said Abdullahi Deni, appointed new officials and removed some others. Among the removed officials is the opposition force leader General Jim’ale Jama Takar. Other removed persons are suspected of having ties with opposition and/or those that oppose Deni’s plans for elections and constitutional amendment. Dozens were killed last week among clashes in relation to a parliamentary debate on changes in the constitution. 

North Africa

Libya: EU delivers patrol boats to Libya coast guard despite its links with militia groups
The EU delivered two patrol boats to Libya as part of the EU executive project “Support to integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya” during a ceremony in Messina, Italy, on 22 June. The decision of delivering boats to the coast guard clashes with reports attesting the collusion between the Libyan coast guard and militia groups involved in Libyan civil war, says EurActiv. The donation is meant to support Libyan authorities’ migration management and enhance border control and surveillance on the Libyan side. The UN had previously noted that the EU provides “technical, logistical and monetary support” to Libyan entities that committed crimes against humanity, such as Libya’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, the Libyan Coast Guard and the Stability Support Apparatus.

Libya: NGO vessel rescues 86 people off Libyan coast
The Ocean Viking, a boat operated by the NGO SOS Méditérranée, rescued 86 people off the Libyan coast. They were trying to reach Europe when their makeshift boat got into distress, reports AfricaNews. 80% of the people rescued are reported to be unaccompanied minors.

Tunisia: Dozens missing and 3 dead off Tunisian coast
37 people are missing after their boat capsized due to strong wind and high waves off Tunisian coast. The boat, which was carrying 46 migrants and refugees, departed from Sfax and was heading to Lampedusa. Four survivors told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that they had been rescued by another vessel and then taken to Lampedusa. According to Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for the IOM, some of the other survivors were returned to Tunisia. Meanwhile, at least 12 people went missing and three died after three boats sank off Tunisia, reports The Guardian. It is not clear if the four survivors who talked to the IOM were on one of these three boats.


EU: Frontex has direct contact with Libyan coast guard for SaR operations
The EU border agency Frontex “directly” contacted the Libyan coast guard when it caught sight of boats in distress carrying migrants and refugees, says the 2022 annual report of the Frontex Consultative Forum. The Forum, created as an advisory body for Frontex, says that interceptions by Frontex in international waters close to the Libyan coast are to be transferred to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) of the Mediterranean countries. However, according to the report published on 26 June, Frontex notified 50% of its boat sightings to the Libyan coast guard, which then carried out Search and Rescue (SaR) operations. Intercepted/rescued migrants and refugees are most likely to be subjected to fundamental rights violations (murder, arbitrary detention, torture, trafficking and sexual violence) in Libya and that is why, according to the report, “returns to Libya may amount to violations of the principle of non-refoulment”. 

EU/Tunisia: Tunisian model should be extended in other countries, says EU chief
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said that the recently-agreed deal with Tunisia to tackle migration should be “a blueprint for similar partnerships in the future”.  The agreement with Tunisia is at the centre of controversy as it supports the country’s autocratic President Kais Saied, says EurActiv. Heated criticism was raised by the families of jailed Tunisian opposition politicians, in particular by Yusra Ghannouchi, who described the deal as “shortsighted and counterproductive”. The daughter of opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi said that the EU money to Tunisia, a country where widespread human rights violations take place, would not help the country to stop migration. Kaouther Ferjani, daughter of prominent jailed exponent of Ennahda party, Said Ferjani, said that the EU betrayed the values of democracy and human rights in order to make a deal with Tunisia. A group of 9 Mediterranean EU countries issued a document urging the EU to start a partnership with other Northern African countries, such as Egypt and Morocco. The partnerships would aim at establishing solid cooperation on migration and mobility based on “tailor-made, comprehensive, balanced and mutually beneficial” agreements. In exchange, the EU would offer “strategic use of forms of legal migration”, adds the document. The EU is looking at Egypt to agree on measures to stop migration of undocumented people and dismantle rings of people-smuggling and trafficking.

EU: Hungary and Poland block conclusions on migration at EU Summit
Hungary and Poland refused the closing of the migration topic at the EU Summit, where EU leaders met on 29 and 30 June, forcing the discussions to continue well into the night and into Friday. Earlier this month, the two countries had already voted against the EU plan to reform the rules on the relocation and processing of asylum seekers. The position, providing for a system of relocation quotas and mandatory contributions for non-compliant countries, was adopted by a qualified majority at that time. Before heading to the EU summit, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland should be exempted by the plan as it already hosts an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Ukrainian refugees. The Polish and Hungarian leaders are trying to ensure that future decisions will be taken by consensus, allowing them to block it. 

EU: ECtHR rules in favour of 67 ill-treated migrants and refugees
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in favour of 67 migrants and refugees who started a case over the inhumane treatment they received at Moria refugee camp in Greece (now in disuse) in 2017 and 2018. Each of them will be awarded €5,000 for “moral damages” and €1,000 for court costs. ECtHR condemned Greece for the “inhumane and degrading” conditions of detention, resulting from overcrowded spaces and scarcity of basic items. The 67 people reported being placed in an outdoor small “cage”, given insufficient water and food, having to sleep on the floor and receiving only 40 minutes a day of running water.

Eritrea/Netherlands: Walid case continues in the Netherlands
The case of the Eritrean Tewolde Goitom, nicknamed Walid, an alleged human trafficker at the apex of a human trafficking organisation operating in Libya and trafficking Eritrean refugees, was discussed in a preliminary hearing held in Zwolle, The Netherlands, on 27 June. The court heard from the prosecution that The Netherlands has requested the extradition of Walid’s collaborator, Kidane, who is currently held in the UAE. The next hearing in the case will be held on 18 September 13:30. The case is expected to run into 2025. 

UK: Rwanda deportation plan deemed unlawful
The Court of Appeal ruled that the UK’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful as the latter country cannot be considered as a “safe third country”. The ruling was approved by a majority of two to one vote on 29 June. Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett said that the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful “unless and until the deficiencies in its [Rwanda] asylum processes are corrected”. He explained that it is most likely that people sent to Rwanda will be returned to their home countries where they face “persecution or other inhumane treatment”. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government will attempt to overturn the decision before the UK’s top court because he “fundamentally disagree” with the Court of Appeal. Deportation flights to Rwanda will probably not take place this year, says EurActiv

UK: UK says cost of transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda in the hundreds of thousands
Ahead of the ruling by the UK Court of Appeals ruling deportation to Rwanda unlawful, the UK government estimated that the cost to transfer to Rwanda people applying for asylum in the UK would be 169,000 pounds (£) per person. On 26 June, the government published its first assessment on the costs to implement its plan to tackle record numbers of people arriving in small boats from France by deporting them to Rwanda. The cost includes an average £105,000 in hosting expenses to Rwanda, £22,000 for the escorting expenses and £18,000 as legal costs. Home Secretary Suella Braverman supported the plan and said that “doing nothing is not an option” because, if no action is taken, the cost of housing asylum seekers in the UK would rise to £11 billion a year.

Greece: Greece to continue “strict but fair” migration policy after elections
Greece’s new Migration and Asylum Minister, Dimitris Kairidis, said Greece will continue to pursue a “strict but fair” migration policy. After the victory of Mitsotakis’ party in the general elections of 25 June, Kairidis was appointed as migration minister of the newly formed cabinet led by Mitsotakis. “We are humanitarians but not naïve”, said Kairidis, pledging to extend a wall along the Greek-Turkish border and enforce sea surveillance in the eastern Mediterranean. Among his objectives, there is also the finalisation of an EU-wide migration agreement.

Greece/Italy: Greek police and Spanish NGO rescue more than 300 migrants and refugees
Greek border police rescued 145 migrants and refugees from an islet in the Evros border river with Turkey, with the help of the Special Disaster Management Unit (EMAK) and in the presence of Frontex officials. The rescue operation started after a nonprofit organisation notified the authorities about the presence of 145 people, including 30 minors, at the Greek border. Police stated that the migrants and refugees had been transferred by boat from Turkey to Greece by smugglers and abandoned on the islet. All of them are safe. The Spanish NGO Salvamento Maritimo Humanitario rescued 172 migrants and refugees, including 55 unaccompanied minors, off the coast of Lampedusa and disembarked them safely in the Italian port of Salerno on 25 June. 

Italy: Save the Children’s proposal for the protection of unaccompanied minors 
Save the Children Italia proposed measures for the full implementation of law 47/2017, which regulates the protection of unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy. Without a full implementation, “critical issues continue to persist”, said Daniela Fatarella, director general of Save the Children Italia, mentioning the issue of not having an adequate number of places to host the minors when they first arrived. The charity organised a conference in Rome on 22 June and presented the proposals, which include independent border patrols and more suitable housing and education programs. Fatarella also expressed the need of creating “a structured European search-and-rescue system at sea”, which has to guarantee quick disembarkation in a safe port and prevent the loss of lives. The humanitarian organisation finally called for a new mechanism of family reunification and for a system to allow the correct identification of children and adolescents and prevent pushbacks.

Spain/Morocco: Spain and Morocco under investigation for delayed rescue 
Spain launched an investigation into the rescue operation that Spanish and Moroccan authorities performed in relation to the sinking of a dinghy on 21 June. The dinghy was carrying about 60 migrants and refugees from Morocco to the Canary Island when it got into distress and appealed for help. More than 12 hours passed before a Moroccan rescue boat appeared and rescued 24 people, while 2 were found dead and the others remain missing and are presumed dead. Spain’s public ombudsman is investigating the reasons for the delay and the responsibility of Spain. Spain has been accused by the NGOs Caminando Fronteras and Alarm Phone of failing its duty to rescue as the dinghy was in the Spanish SaR zone. Spain’s maritime rescue service, Salvamento Marítimo, said it “acted in full compliance with the rules” regarding rescue operations and, as the dinghy was closer to Western Sahara, it was decided to let Morocco carry out the rescue. The ombudsman will analyse any possible breaches of civil liberties from the Spanish side and can make recommendations to the parliament. Its reports will be necessarily acknowledged by the government, which is then constitutionally mandated to react to them, as explained by Reuters.

Spain/Morocco: Amnesty accuses Spain and Morocco of Melilla cover-up
Amnesty International accused Spanish and Moroccan authorities of an “apparent cover up” of the events that took place in Melilla enclave on 24 June 2022. That day, around 2,000 Sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees attempted to cross the Spanish-Morocco border at Melilla. Clashes broke out between the security forces, both Spanish and Moroccan, and the people, causing the death of 37 migrants and refugees, says Amnesty, while 76 are still missing. Amnesty denounced the two national authorities for not conducting an effective independent investigation in order to condemn crimes under international law, human rights violations and racism and discrimination at the border. Furthermore, Spanish and Moroccan authorities have been accused of blocking any attempts to find the truth, leaving the families of the victims in a limbo of suffering, says Amnesty in its statement. Protests erupted in Madrid on 24 June on the occasion of the first anniversary of the incident.