News Highlights: Eritrean militia involved in Tel Aviv festival clashes, MSF stops healthcare in Tripoli, Greek-Italian alliance on migration

In this week’s News Highlights: 150 injured in clashes at Eritrean festival in Tel Aviv, armed militia involved; Eritrean forces continued crimes post-November 2022, says Amnesty; Civilians killed in Khartoum and bombing in Nyala; US imposes sanctions on RSF Deputy; Humanitarian organisations call for $1 billion to help Sudan refugees; Protests in Tigray repressed as opposition leaders are arrested; Displacement from western Tigray continues; MSF stops medical missions in detention centres in Tripoli; Appeal against Belgian decision to exclude male asylum seekers from aid; Report on dismantling of Greek asylum system; One person found dead, 14 alive, on Greek island; Italy and Greece form alliance on migration; ECHR slaps Italy for mistreatment of a minor; and President of the French senate wants referendum on migration. 

Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Clashes erupt at Eritrean festivals, 150 injured in Tel Aviv
Over 150 people were injured, some sustaining serious injuries, after violent clashes took place at an Eritrean festival organised by the supporters of Eritrea’s ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), in Tel Aviv (Israel) this Saturday. Some skirmishes also happened in several other locations where the PFDJ-organised celebrations took place, including Bergen (Norway), and Oberuzwil and Zurich (Switzerland). In Tel Aviv, the police intervened by shooting live rounds to break up the fighting. Videos circulating on social media appear to show that the peaceful protesters were not violent when they were fired upon. The Eritrean diaspora warned in advance that a PFDJ-allied militia group, Eri-Mekhete, had been preparing and training in the weeks in advance for the event in Tel Aviv. Eri-Mekhete is linked to other violent militia movements organised by the PFDJ abroad, such as Eri-Blood, 4G and 52, observers state. Men wearing Eri-Mekhete T-shirts were seen and photographed holding a gun. An Israeli hospital reported 11 gunshot injuries. One asylum seeker testified he was shot by Eri-Mekhete. Videos show the training of the Eri-Mekhete paramilitary, instructed by the PFDJ before the festival in Tel Aviv, however these have not yet been verified. Observers call for the paramilitary to be investigated. The Eritrean embassy has reportedly appointed lawyer Ayre Sharabi to represent 14 Eritreans who are supported by the Eritrean government and who have been detained. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a special ministerial team which will “evaluate ways to handle infiltrators who violate the law” in response to the Eritrean festival protests. The Eritrean government blamed among others Israel’s Mossad spy agency for creating friction between Eritreans. Another PFDJ festival organised in Switzerland, Oberuzwil, was cancelled by the organisers. PFDJ-supporters travelled instead to a city just above Zurich to move the festival, which is where violent clashes broke out and police intervened. The protest movement against the PFDJ-organised festivals worldwide started to gain traction during the war in Tigray, when the festivals promoted hate speech and violence against Tigrayans and glorified violence by the Eritrean army, which played a key role in violence against Tigrayans in the war. 

Eritrea: Crimes by Eritrean forces continued after November 2022; organisations call for renewal of ICHREE mandate
The Eritrean Defense Forces are accused of committing war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during the war in Tigray as well as months after the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement was signed, says Amnesty International in their new report. Eritrean troops allegedly carried out extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against women which include crimes of rape, gang rape and sexual enslavement. International organisations call on the UN Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) which is due to be renewed at the 54th session of the HRC starting on 11 September. Among others, organisations point to ICHREE’s key role in ensuring accountability for crimes committed by all parties in the Tigray conflict, including the Eritrean forces.

Sudan: More civilians killed over the weekend in Khartoum and bombing  in Nyala
At least 25 civilians were killed in attacks in Khartoum over the weekend. An airstrike in the Kalakla al-Qubba in the south-west of Khartoum killed about 20 people. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) used warplanes to bomb areas in Nyala, South Darfur, controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). It is the first time SAF has used aerial bombardments in Nyala. The only news coming from Nyala comes from those escaping the city, which is now almost devoid of signs of life. Witnesses from Nyala report mass killings, sexual violence, looting of homes, attacks on health facilities, and destruction of essential services such as telecommunications and water. 

Sudan: Sanctions imposed on RSF Deputy
US imposed sanctions on Abdel-Rahim Hamdan Dagalo, a senior military commander of Rapid Support Forces (RSF), for crimes committed by troops under his leadership in the Darfur region of Sudan. Abdel-Rahim is a brother of Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the chief of RSF. The sanctions are imposed as a response to the allegation of killings of civilians, ethnic violence and executions, as well as conflict-related sexual violence. The US further imposed visa restrictions on Abdul Rahman Juma, RSF General, for his involvement in extrajudicial killings of the Governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abbakar. 

Sudan: Humanitarian organisations call for $1 billion to help refugees
The UN Refugee Agency and 64 humanitarian organisations appealed for $1 billion to provide aid and protection for refugees fleeing Sudan to neighbouring countries. 1.8 million refugees are expected to have fled by the end of 2023. The US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced humanitarian assistance of $163 million to Sudan and neighbouring countries during her visit to the city of Adré, Chad, which hosts thousands of refugees fleeing Sudan. 7.1 million people in Sudan are internally displaced out of which 3.8 million have been displaced due to the conflict in Sudan.Threats to displaced persons fleeing the conflict continue, as women fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan report systematic sexual violence by armed men on the road to South Sudan in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. The UN Human Rights Council should establish an independent mechanism on Sudan, state 114 Sudanese, regional and international organisations.

Tigray: Protests repressed as opposition leaders are arrested
A protest rally by three opposition parties in Tigray, the Tigray Independent Party, Salsay Weyane, and Baytonahave, scheduled for 7 September, was banned by Mekelle authorities, citing a lack of police forces. People who took to the streets were reportedly beaten and attacked by the police forces. The head of Mekelle police stated that 49 people had been arrested. Arrests of officials as well as members of opposition parties have taken place since 5 September. This reportedly included at least 21 members from opposition parties. Getachew Reda, President of the Tigray Interim Administration, said that the security situation in Tigray is not stable as there are organised movements that hinder the work of the interim administration. 

Tigray: Displacement from western Tigray continues, IDPs report torture
Displacement in Amhara-controlled areas of western Tigray continues, with 1,436 displacements reported last week. Many internally displaced people (IDPs) arriving at the Endebaguna IDP centre report being imprisoned and tortured, among others in Maiytsebri, Dima, and Tselemti, and had to pay ransoms of 135,000 birr [approx. 2200 EUR]. The humanitarian situation at the Endebaguna IDP centre is dire, as some IDPs have not received aid for over a year; Five people have been officially confirmed to have died of hunger since March 2023. Meanwhile, OCHA reports that 8300 IDPs in central Tigray are in need of aid, as they have not received any since February 2023. 

North Africa

Libya: MSF stops medical missions in detention centres in Tripoli
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has ended medical operations in detention centres Libya’s capital, Tripoli, says Infomigrants. MSF has reportedly said that they do not believe that they can provide proper care to migrants in the centres as basic conditions of care are not met, but MSF has not halted its operations in other parts of the country. This announcement from the NGO was already made at the end of August. The MSF has repeated numerous times that detention centres in Libya are violent against migrants as they force individuals to “endure forced labor, malnutirition, sexual assault, torture and even extortion”, reports Infomigrants. The MSF has said that they have stopped their humanitarian actions in Tripoli “as a part of a redefining of our financial priorities”. 


Belgium: Associations lodge appeal against FEDASIL denying aid to male asylum seekers
Eight associations have lodged an urgent appeal against the decision of State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor to no longer provide aid to male asylum seekers in Belgium. Federal Asylum Seeker Reception Agency (Fedasil) will no longer provide male asylum seekers with assistance. Immigration lawyers have stated the decision is illegal. 

Greece: Report warns about systematic dismantling of Greek asylum system
A report by Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL) warns that Greek authorities have engaged in legal reforms and illegal practices which are severely obstructing the right to seek asylum. Measures against COVID-19 led to discriminatory practices against asylum seekers, says LCL. Other measures include the unilateral suspension of asylum in March 2020, as well as increased exclusion from asylum procedures and denial of legal remedies. It also includes the alleged pushbacks by Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea.

Greece: 14 people and one body found on the shore of small island in Greece
14 refugees, including 3 children, as well as one deceased man, were found by the coast guard on Farmakonisi, a small island in Greece. They had been making their way from Turkey when their boats had sunk. It is not yet clear how the man died. The coast guard authorities had reportedly been alerted by Alarm Phone that 15 people were in distress and were made aware that one of the people had heart problems. 

Italy/Greece: Alliance on migration
Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni and Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis have agreed to for an alliance of Mediterranean countries for migration issues in the EU. The alliance aims to form a block in the EU in relation to migration and cooperation with African countries. Meanwhile, Italy met with a UNICEF delegation over the arrival of over 12.000 unaccompanied children in Italy in 2023. The Canary Islands are particularly overwhelmed, as 2.692 persons arrived in August 2023, over double the number that arrived in the same period last year.

Italy: ECHR denounces Italy for inhumane treatment of a minor
Italy has been found guilty of “inhumane treatment” of a migrant minor by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The minor, who was unaccompanied, was detained for almost 8 months in a detention facility for adults without having sufficient psychological aid. The ECHR ruled that Italy would have to pay a total of €10.000 of compensation for moral damages and legal expenses. 

France: President of the French Senate wants constitutional reform for referendum on migration
Gérard Larcher, the President of the French Senate, proposes a constitutional reform so that a referendum on migration can take place. Larcher stated to French newspaper Le Parisien on Sunday that “Without constitutional reform, there will be no real migration policy and therefore no successful integration policy”. He proposes to organise a referendum on migration, but in order to do that a constitutional reform would need to happen as the current constitution does not allow a referendum on many matters of immigration. Meanwhile, Infomigrants reports that France has cracked down on migrants trying to cross the channel to the United Kingdom by more heavily patrolling and surveilling the ports and stopping people from establishing temporary camps nearer to the coast.