Detained migrants killed in airstrike in Libya

Nearly 60 migrants were killed and more than 100 were injured in an airstrike on a migrant detention center in Libya on 3 July.

The Tajoura detention centre near the capital Tripoli housed more than 600 refugees and migrants, most of them from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

The United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the attack and said it may constitute a war crime

The UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement condemning the attack, “Our two organizations strongly condemn this and any attack on civilian life. We also call for an immediate end to the detention of migrants and refugees.”

At least 6,000 refugees and migrants are being held in dire conditions in Libyan detention centres without proper access to healthcare, food and clean water. More than 20 detainees have died from preventable illnesses since September 2018.  Others have been caught up in the conflict and forced to fight on the front lines.

Prince Alfani, the Libya medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders called for the urgent evacuation of refugees and migrants from Libya; “What is needed now is not empty condemnation but the urgent and immediate evacuation of all refugees and migrants held in detentions centers out of Libya.”

From January to May 2019, more than 1, 000 refugees and migrants were evacuated or re-settled out of Libya by UNHCR. However, there are still some 3,300 migrants who are still being held in several detention centres across Libya which are “considered at risk”, according to the IOM.

The ongoing conflict in Libya coupled with the Libyan coast guard efforts to prevent migrants from crossing the sea for Europe, has left thousands of African migrants stranded in the country with no safe way out. Over 3,000 refugees and migrants intercepted at sea have been returned to Libya in 2019. Those migrants that manage to escape Libya on unsafe boats are at risk of capsizing and perishing at sea due to Italy’s refusal to allow migrant ships from Libya to enter Italian ports. On 29 June, the German captain of a migrant rescue ship, carrying 42 migrants from Libya, was arrested and later released after illegally entering Italian waters.

UNHCR is calling for an end to detention for migrants and refugees in Libya.


Eritrean migrants held in dire conditions in Libyan detention centres

More than 650 refugees and migrants, including over 430 Eritreans, are being held in dire conditions in Zintan detention centre in Libya  without adequate access to food and water, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

The conditions at Zintan Detention Centre amount to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and may also amount to torture,” OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville stated on 7 June during a press briefing in Geneva.

Many of the detainees are severely malnourished and locked in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Since last September, 22 migrants, including a large number of Eritreans, have died from tuberculosis and other preventable illnesses due to the lack of access to medical care, according to OHCHR.
Some Eritreans detained in the centre have spoken to several media outlets and aid organisations about the dire situation in Libya.

“A lot of people are dead within a short period. Even we are near death,” one Eritrean detainee told Al Jazeera. “We are the victims, we need a safe life, and we need our rights. For us, it is a black history. We are scared, we are suffering emotionally, psychologically.”

Another Eritrean told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “We have no room to move. We don’t do anything all day long and we talk less too. People simply pray, sleep and stare into space. That’s it. Some people have gone insane from doing nothing. They can’t sleep and start talking to themselves and going berserk. We need to tie their hands and feet,”

OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville also expressed concern over reports of migrants who have disappeared or been sold ‘to smugglers promising transit to Europe’. Colville said there is a huge difference between the number of migrants who have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libyan detention centres and the actual numbers in these centres.

‘The Libyan Coast Guard reported it had delivered hundreds to a facility in Al-Khoms, which is under the oversight of the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM). Of this number, more than 200 were delivered there on 23 May, but the Al-Khoms facility reported that it now has only 30 migrants present, despite 203 been taken there just a couple of weeks ago,’ said OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville.

Aid has been hampered due to the ongoing clashes in Libya,  So far, UNHCR has only been able to secure the release of some 96 migrants from Zintan detention centre. However, there are still some 3,400 migrants and refugees detained in Tripoli.


Ethiopia opens new centre to help refugees access vital services

Ethiopia Centre

Ethiopia has opened a new centre to help refugees access vital services such as registering civil events including births and marriages.

The centre, which was officially opened by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) together with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) and the Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) on 7 June, will be the first centre to serve refugees in the Bambasi refugee camp in western Ethiopia as well as the local communities. Financed by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), similar centres will also be established in the remaining 26 refugee camps across the country to help support the integration of refugees.

The centre, also known as a ‘One-Stop-Shop’, will support refugees and the local community to file and document their civil matters and obtain important identity documentation in order to access basic services provided by the government throughout the country. More than 70,000 refugees born in Ethiopia will also have the chance to obtain their birth certificates.

UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia, Clementine Nkweta-Salami said, “The One-Stop-Shop and the services provided in it will facilitate the government’s out-of-camp policy which foresees a significant number of refugees living and working outside of refugee camps.”

In recent years, Ethiopia has granted more rights to refugees to help improve their lives and in turn, help curb migration to Europe. In January 2019, Ethiopia passed a new law giving almost 1 million refugees the right to live and work outside the camps.

UNICEF applauded the initiative. “The opening of this centre is important for refugee children in Ethiopia who will now realise their right to a birth certificate. A birth certificate is an important identity document that can protect a child from violations such as child marriage and child labour,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia.

Explaining how such centres would accelerate the integration of refugees within their host communities, the Head of the ARRA Zonal Office in Assosa, Ato Amdework Yehualawork said:  “By providing services to refugees and their host communities in one centre, the One-Stop-Shops represents a good start in the ongoing drive to integrate services used by refugees and their hosts, leading to eventual inclusion of refugees into the host communities in line with the new refugee law.”

Equipped with the up-to-date digital technology, the centre will be able to issue refugee identity documents and other civil registration certificates in a very short period of time. It will also provide refugees and the local community with access to internet services. The centre is part of the vital events registration programme which was launched in October 2017.

Hosting more than 900,000 refugees, Ethiopia is committed to the Global Compact on Refugees which promotes refugee self-reliance and access to services for both refugees and local communities.

Civic Voices on the State of Eritrea

Eritrean professionals and intellectuals in December 2018 convened to discuss the implications of Eritrea and Ethiopia peace rapprochement and developments for peace in the region and specifically for Eritrea from a civil society perspective. Is this yet again just the peace between two leaders? What are the pitfalls of a “rushed peace” devoid of specifics and public participation? And what are the prospects for change in Eritrea?

Over the 6 months which followed the workshop, participants engaged in intense consultations and decided to publish their critical reflections in the paper “The State of the Nation” just a day ahead of Eritrea’s Independence Day on 24 May 2019.


Another 222 Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen

Another 222 stranded Ethiopian migrants in Yemen have been airlifted from Sana’a to Addis Ababa on 6-11 May 2019, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The migrants returned to Ethiopia on board four separate flights. The migrants were “unable to continue to support themselves or fund their travel home”, according to IOM, finding themselves stranded in war torn Yemen. These are the first to return from Sana’a since mid-March 2019.

Voluntary return flights were suspended in 2015 when the Yemen conflict started, and resumed in November 2018. During the period of suspension, UN agencies used boats to return vulnerable Ethiopian migrants via Djibouti. Since the start of this year, 733 Ethiopian migrants have returned home voluntarily. The UN said in January that it would repatriate around 3,000 migrants this year.

Despite ongoing conflict in Yemen, migrants seeking economic opportunities in Gulf countries continue to make the journey by land and sea to the Arabian Peninsula. Migrants caught in the crossfire have been rounded up and placed in makeshift detention centres. IOM reports had previously revealed that migrants have been shot at or are dying due to inhumane treatment in detention. Held in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, at least eight migrants have died from acute watery diarrhoea. Overall, there are around 5,000 migrants from the Horn of Africa held across two sports stadiums and a military camp in Yemen’s Aden, Lahj and Abyan governorates.

Migrants also face other risks along the way. Some have been killed as a result of  accidents at sea. “All along the route, migrants face many challenges in accessing protection and assistance. IOM is committed to supporting Yemen and the region in managing migration in a sustainable and humane way,” IOM said in a statement. According to the UN, almost 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen in 2018.