Between May 24 and May 27 around 400 migrants and refugees have been picked up by the Libyan coastguard and returned to Libya. Two of them drowned during the operation. An additional 90 migrants and refugees have been stopped by a commercial ship and have been returned to Libya as well. The pushback operations are funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and individual member states like Malta and Italy. While Libya has been an unsafe place from the start of the EU’s so called externalized border policy, COVID-19 brings even more risks as detention camps in Libya are high-risk areas for the spread of the virus and rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea have been minimized. An additional element of danger is the intense civil war in Libya, which has turned into a geopolitical conflict and a proxy war between Russia and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the one hand and Turkey on the other. The war takes its toll on the civilian population; on June 1 another 5 civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a rocket attack near Tripoli.
In this week’s news highlights: Ethiopia reduces Eritrean refugee registration by lifting prima facie status; Ethiopia postpones elections due to COVID-19; New Sudanese government needs international support to curb COVID-19; Uganda closes its borders to refugees; Eritrea called upon to release prisoners of conscience; First COVID-19 cases in Greek refugee camp; Cyprus pushes boat with refugees back to sea; Experts call upon the EU to revise migration policy; Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic broke EU law; EU to monitor arms-embargo Libya; Merchants ships returning refugees to Libya may be prosecuted; New NGO rescue mission in the Mediterranean; 1.600 attacks targeting refugees and asylum seekers in Germany; Germany considers asking refugee help; Stateless people could be denied healthcare; UN agencies urge protection of migrants and refugees; North Africa has most reported COVID-19 cases in Africa; Forcibly displaced people and migrants priority to curb COVID-19; And people leave big African cities due to coronavirus.