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Amnesty slams Switzerland’s 'illegal' treatment of migrants at Italian border
Amnesty organized a flashmob in support of refugees in Rome last June. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
12:24 CET+01:00
Amnesty International has criticized the actions of Switzerland in turning back migrants at the Italian border last year, saying it acted “illegally”.
In a press release accompanying its annual report 2016/17, published on Wednesday, Amnesty said the Swiss authorities “had illegally turned back several thousand asylum seekers to Italy”. 
Among them were “several hundred unaccompanied minors, many of them who had relatives in Switzerland,” it said.
Switzerland’s border guards hit the headlines last summer when reports emerged that migrants trying to get into the country at the border with Italy in the canton of Ticino were being turned back. 
Italy complained that Switzerland’s actions were causing hundreds of migrants to become stranded in the Italian city of Como, with makeshift camps springing up around the train station. 
At the time the president of an Italian refugee organization said Switzerland had suspended an agreement with Italy allowing some migrants to cross into Italy. 
But a spokesman for the Swiss border agency told The Local that no such agreement existed and that Switzerland was simpling following the rules. 
Under Swiss law, any migrant who wishes to seek asylum in Switzerland must present themselves at the border and request asylum. They will then be registered with the relevant authorities and taken into the Swiss asylum system. 
However many migrants do not wish to claim asylum in Switzerland but simply pass through the country in order to reach another, such as Germany, and claim asylum there. 
In that case, the Swiss authorities do not consider them to have refugee status and therefore they are sent back to the country they arrived from.
However in a statement obtained by news agency ATS, Denise Graf, asylum coordinator of the Swiss section of Amnesty, said the methods used by Swiss border guards “prevented or dissuaded people from entering the country”.
Migrants, including minors, told Amnesty they had tried to lodge an asylum request on numerous occasions but did not succeed.
In refusing people asylum, “the border guards violate Swiss law,” said Amnesty. 
Border guards also failed to properly assess people’s circumstances before sending them back to Italy, particularly where children were concerned, while a lack of interpreters fuelled confusion at the border, according to the human rights body. 
No one interviewed by Amnesty in Como had received information from the Swiss authorities about the correct procedure to follow, it added.
Contacted by The Local, David Marquis, a spokesman for the Swiss Border Agency, said they “vehemently reject this criticism from Amnesty International” and that they had complied with all applicable laws. 
Those who seek asylum or protection in accordance with the law are passed to reception centres run by the Swiss migration office (SEM), it said. 
However migrants who merely want to pass through the country and who do not fulfil conditions of entry under Article 5 of the Foreigners Act are extradited to Italy under the terms of a readmission agreement dating from 2000. 
The agency is “in constant contact with various relief organizations” in order to “optimize” its processes, added Marquis.
Amnesty’s annual report also criticized Switzerland for other actions last year, including restrictions on the movements of asylum seekers in reception centres, and the use of disproportionate force by police in certain cantons during operations to expel migrants. 
Concerns remain over attempts to deport asylum seekers suffering from mental illness, said the report, mentioning the attempted deportation of a Kurd who had previously tried to commit suicide.
The report also picked up on the case of a 19-year-old dual national who intended to join Isis, saying the SEM wanted to strip him of his Swiss nationality even though he hadn’t yet been convicted of any crime. 
However Amnesty did have some good things to say, praising the “positive measures” that came out of the new law on asylum, passed in a referendum in June 2016.
It also noted a new law requiring cantons to ensure that young asylum seekers had access to education, and the lower house of Parliament’s vote in favour of giving gay people to right to adopt their partner’s children.

Bodies of 74 Migrants Wash Up on Libyan Coast

Thursday, 23 February 2017 12:16 Written by

CAIRO — The bodies of 74 migrants were recovered from a beach near the town of Zawiya in western Libya, rescuers said on Tuesday, an ominous sign before the high season for Mediterranean crossings.

The bodies were believed to have come from a shipwrecked inflatable raft that was found on the same stretch of shore, said Mohammed Almosrti, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent. Some of the bodies were found inside the stricken raft.

The rubber boat left Libya for Italy on Saturday and appears to have been left drifting without an engine for several days, said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in Rome.

“It’s really strange that smugglers would take off the engine,” he said. “They are becoming increasingly cruel.”

Red Crescent workers spent seven hours collecting the bodies on Monday afternoon, and the organization posted photographs of dozens of black-and-white body bags lined up on a beach. Three of the dead were said to be women. Given the capacity of the boat, which could hold up to 120 people, the death toll is expected to rise, Mr. Almosrti said.



File photo of migrants and refugees in rubber boats off the coast of Libya: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The two rescue operations came as the bodies of 74 migrants who drowned trying to reach Europe washed up on a beach west of the Libyan capital, the Red Crescent said on Tuesday.

The Italian coast guard said it mounted operations to rescue two drifting vessels, a large boat and a rubber raft.

In the absence of an army or a regular police force in Libya, several militias act as coast guards but are often accused themselves of complicity or even involvement in the people-smuggling business.

The number of attempted crossings has surged this year, with most departures taking place from the west of Libya, from where Italy is just 300 kilometres (190 miles) away.

Europeans are considering measures aimed at blocking the arrival of thousands of migrants, alarming NGOs which fear that those stranded in Libya may suffer mistreatment.


February 20, 2017

By Ross Kemp

I’ve seen the dangerous route to Europe through Libya, with thousands of people at the mercy of cruelty for profit. But our leaders prefer to keep them there

Ross Kemp with migrants back in port
‘We have a heightened responsibility towards Libya because of the role Britain played in bringing down the Gaddafi dictatorship.’ Photograph: Dave Williams/Sound Ltd

It’s a mass grave that we don’t need the United Nations to verify. Every day an average of 14 migrants, the vast majority from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, die crossing the Mediterranean.

Many more see their European dream turn into a nightmare long before they’re corralled on to flimsy rubber dinghies on Libya’s beaches. They’re the victims of a silent massacre in the Sahara desert – a journey more deadly than the crossing from the coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Come the spring, thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing poverty and violence will die in Libya, but I doubt you’ll hear much about it. Compassion fatigue has set in. The numbers have become too big to comprehend. It’s an old story; we feel numbed by the now familiar news images of men huddled together on boats. Maybe it’s because they’re African and have been written off as “undeserving economic migrants”. These are the people some of our political leaders have in mind when they talk of swarms, plagues and marauders. The understandable focus on Syrian refugees has taken the spotlight away from the more dangerous route to Europe through Libya.

Ross Kemp with migrants waiting to be picked up
‘What I saw there is nothing short of a modern-day slave trade.’ Photograph: Dave Williams/Sound Ltd

Or maybe it’s because, with three rival governments presiding over anarchy in Libya, and the real power lying in the hands of armed militias, getting inside the country to tell the story is just too difficult and dangerous. One thing is becoming clear – many people have come to see this tragic situation as though it were more a problem for us than for the migrants. We have stopped caring about them. As a documentary-maker, I believe it’s our job to make people care. That was the reason my team and I went to Libya – to try to shine a light on the under-reported plight of migrants away from the coastline and to tell the human stories of the men and women making the journey.

What I saw there is nothing short of a modern-day slave trade, with migrants treated as commodities. It’s as though nothing has changed in the 300 years since desert tribes used the very same routes to bring slaves to north Africa: Nigerian women told they are going to Italy to work as housemaids only to be trafficked into desert brothels with no idea when they might leave, young men cruelly beaten and held captive for months until their families pay a ransom, women forced to take contraception to stop themselves becoming pregnant at the hands of smugglers.


What makes their plight even sadder is that most have no idea what sort of country they’re entering. I saw this when I spoke with men and women at the very start of their journey – dazed and battered from the drive across the desert border with Niger but filled with a naive optimism.

Not only are they at the mercy of people smugglers but also the authorities themselves – in the main, armed militias with no one to hold them to account and few other sources of income apart from the migrant trade. In the desert town of Brak, I met a young man who told me he had no choice but to work for a smuggling ring ferrying migrants to a handover point on the back of a pickup.

While Libyans may rely on their own militias for protection, the migrants have nothing and no one to protect them. When they are intercepted by what authorities do exist in the country, they are taken to squalid, overcrowded warehouses – generously referred to as detention centres. In one centre for women in the coastal town of Surman I met Aisha, a young Nigerian. She was bleeding to death after giving birth to her baby girl on the toilet floor. The child died three days later. Since coming home we have tried but been unable to find out what has happened to Aisha. I fear the worst.

Even in the worst refugee camps in the world there is often food, medical facilities and aid workers to offer support. In the Libyan detention centres, migrants are locked up and left to rot. It’s a humanitarian disaster with barely any humanitarian organisations there to help. For tens of thousands of migrants in the country at the moment, they have no means of escape. Libya doesn’t want them, Europe doesn’t want them and even their own countries don’t want them.

We have a heightened responsibility towards Libya because of the role Britain played in bringing down Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship with no strategy for what was to come next. In the five and a half years since his death, lawlessness and anarchy have created the perfect conditions for people smuggling to thrive.

Last month, EU leaders under pressure to stop the tide of migrants travelling to Europe signed a deal with Libya. Far from helping people escape, this deal is aimed at keeping them there. It’s only one step away from forcibly returning them. Whatever your view on the migrants’ rights, forcing them back into the conditions we know they will experience in Libya is far from a humane solution. Conditions for migrants in the country need to drastically improve and until there is evidence of this, can we really consider the current deal an acceptable solution to such a horrific situation?

This article was co-authored by producer Jamie Welham. Ross Kemp: Libya’s Migrant Hell airs on Sky 1 on 21 February at 9pm

Source: The Guardian


February 19, 2027 (ADDIS ABABA) - Eritrean authorities have reportedly jailed two journalists who had been serving for the state-owned Eritrean Radio and Television Agency, run under tight control by the country’s Ministry of information.

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Eritrea, which borders Sudan and Ethiopia, has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa (HRW)

An exiled Eritrean opposition Radio station, Eritrean Forum Radio, on Sunday said that the two journalists had been taken by five government agents from their home in Asmera on February 14.

Citing to eyewitnesses, the Tigrigna language radio broadcast identified the journalists as Abraham Yitbarek and Senait Ekubay.

The two journalists were arrested on suspicion of attempting to flee the home country, the report said.

The Eritrean government considers fleeing citizens as traitors, and if caught they will be thrown in jail for life or could be punished by death if they are suspected of having links with exiled Eritrean opposition groups or with the arch-foe Ethiopia.

A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), released in 2014, estimates that about 4,000 Eritreans flee the country each month to escape indefinite military conscription, arbitrary arrests and other forms of human right violations.

The Red Sea nation has a long-standing shoot-to-kill policy against citizens who try to flee one of the world’s repressive country dubbed by international human right groups as Africa’s North Korea.

According to US-based press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report for 2016 Eritrean authorities detain 17 journalists who have remained in jail since 2001 following 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia.

In a recent report, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said 23 journalists were imprisoned in Eritrea as of December 1, 2014, one of the largest numbers in the world and the most in Africa. Nine have been in prison since 2001, and almost all are being held incommunicado.



JANUARY 26, 2017 18:02
‘If the government forces me to go back to Eritrea, I will die there,’ says one man.
African refugees demonstration in front of Jerusalem Supreme Court

African refugees demonstration in front of Jerusalem Supreme Court. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Over 1,000 refugees, primarily from Eritrea, traveled to Jerusalem on Thursday from the Holot detention facility in the Negev to plead to the High Court of Justice for political asylum amid threats of deportation.

Wearing laminated Israeli Prison Services identification cards around their necks like scarlet letters, the men gathered in the Rose Garden, across from the Knesset, to protest a pending appeal that could result in their deportations to Sudan, Eritrea, Rwanda, or Uganda.

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According to the protest’s organizers, March for Freedom, asylum seekers who have been deported to third-party counties, such as Rwanda, have been systematically sent to Uganda, where they have no legal status, and are at risk of being repatriated back to Eritrea.

“The persecution they face forces our sisters and brothers to continue their search for refuge… where they are trafficked by gangs of smugglers, fall into the hands of ISIS, murderous gangs, and die in the deserts of Sahara and Libya, or at sea,” March for Freedom said in a statement.

“You, the justices of the High Court, are the only ones who have the authority to save Israel from committing the injustice of deporting vulnerable asylum seekers in violation of all international agreements. Our fate is completely in your hands, and we beseech you to carefully consider all of the implications of your decisions, and to make them with the utmost care.”

Tekle Negash, a 21-year-old Eritrean refugee who came alone to Israel in 2012, said he has been incarcerated in Holot for the past three months, where he described the conditions as “horrid.”

Negash, who formerly lived in Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva and Hadera, and supported himself by working menial jobs, said he was sent to Holot after not being able to procure another temporary visa, which refugees must renew every two months.

“When my visa expired, [the government] told me that I had to go to Holot, and that after one year there, if I can’t get another visa, I will be deported,” he said, noting that he is confined to a small cell from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. with 10 other Eritreans.

“It’s very crowded, and there is only one shower and one toilet for us,” he said. “The food there is very bad, and in the summer it’s very hot, and in the winter it’s very cold. We can leave for 12 hours, but we are not allowed to work.”

Negash added: “I applied for asylum, but I don’t have any hope because most asylum seekers are rejected. So, they told me I will have to go to Rwanda, Uganda, or Eritrea.”

Angesom Zerezghi, 26, also fled Eritrea, coming to Israel seeking political asylum seven years ago. He survived working odd jobs in Tel Aviv, until he was sent to Holot five months ago.

Instead of being deported to Africa, he said he hopes to find refuge in Europe, where he will be safer.

“After seven more months in Holot, I don’t know what will happen to me,” he said. “But if the government forces me to go back to Eritrea, I will die there.”

Amanuel Tsegazab, 26, was sent to Holot three months ago, after living in Eilat, where he worked as a dishwasher at a hotel for seven years.

“When I get out, if I can’t renew my visa, I will be deported, and I can’t go back,” he said, adding that it is difficult to obtain the necessary renewals.

“When you go to the visa place, you wait on line all day, and usually can’t get in and have to come back,” Tsegazab explained.

Jeremay Kehase, 33, has been in Holot for nearly one year, and said he fears for his future.

“I have to leave next month, and I am worried because the government has not accepted my asylum request,” he said.

“I can’t survive in my country.”


FEB 17, 2017 - 11:03
Refugees from Eritrea and Tibet arriving in Ticino in 2015

Refugees from Eritrea and Tibet arriving in Ticino in 2015

( Ti-Press/Keystone)

One of the United Nations’ top human rights experts says Switzerland had no good reason to crack down on Eritreans.

François Crépeau, a Canadian lawyer who serves as the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, lashed out at Switzerland’s recent decision to tighten its asylum policy towards Eritreans in an interview with two Swiss newspapers on Friday.

On February 2, the Federal Administrative Court said Switzerland wouldno longer recognise Eritreans as refugeessolely on grounds of having fled their country illegally. Until last summer, leaving Eritrea illegally was considered a legitimate reason for asylum, since whoever did so faced up to five years in prison in Eritrea.

However, the court decided “the illegal exit [from Eritrea] cannot in itself justify recognition as a refugee”, pointing to recent cases of Eritreans returning safely for short home visits after gaining asylum status in Switzerland.

Crépeau, whose job involves investigating human rights violations and promoting sound policies globally, said inan interviewwith the Tages-Anzeiger and Berner Zeitung there was no evidence that someone returning to Eritrea would not face punishment.

“Switzerland must be certain, in every single case, that a return for an individual will not be problematic. This requires a mechanism that can check that after returning nothing indeed happens,” he said.

Crépeau said Switzerland was “pretty much on its own” on this issue and warned against tightening policy based on doubts. Instead, he concluded, the rule should be: if in doubt, err on the side of protection.

The Swiss government’s policy for processing asylum requests from Eritrean refugees is important because Eritreans make up the largest single nationality among asylum seekers in Switzerland: some 5,000 a year. and agencies/ts


Eritrean president describes Hollande and Merkel as 'mentally disturbed'


The Eritrean president has lashed out at Europe for what he says is its role in economically sabotaging his country and depleting its human capital.

Isaias Afwerki was making a rare address on national television late last week as part of his traditional New Year message. Focusing on the infrastructure of the country and other projects for his country, Afeworki examined the thorny issue of migration that continues to bedevil his country.

He specifically took jibes at French President Francois Hollande and his German counterpart, Angela Merkel. Afwerki described both leaders as being mentally disturbed and that they were among those who encouraged the massive movement of his Eritrean youth to Europe.

Eritreans being the greatest historical threat to our enemies, trafficking in human beings has been used to disperse and weaken the country's human capital. The highest priority has been given to this policy, of asylum to the Eritreans.

Francois Hollande is on record to have said almost a year ago that Eritrea was empty of its youth. This was in reference to the teeming youth who left the country to undertake the perilous journey to Europe. “What does he know? What can it do to him?” Afwerki quizzed.

The German chancellor whiles on a visit in October 2016 visit to Ethiopia announced a significant financial aid as part of efforts aimed at Ethiopia accepting Eritrean fugitives. “He (Hollande) and Angela Merkel, all I can say is that these people must be mentally disturbed.”

The Eritrean regime is accused of huge violations of human rights and freedom of expression. The country is also at loggerheads with neighbouring Ethiopia. Ethiopia has also accused them of backing anti-peace forces behind protests in its Amhara and Oromia regions.

In a speech delivered at the 25th anniversary of the independence of Eritrea, he declared that the exodus of the youth of his country to Europe is the result of a deliberate policy fomented by the foreign powers To weaken Eritrea with a systematic recourse to economic sabotage “with the aim of creating poverty and famine”.

“Eritreans being the greatest historical threat to our enemies, trafficking in human beings has been used to disperse and weaken the country’s human capital. The highest priority has been given to this policy, of asylum to the Eritreans,” he said.

With an estimated 5,000 people leaving the country every month in search of a better life, Eritrea is one of the largest contingents of migrants risking the perilous journey to Europe.


UAE to open second military base in east Africa

Monday, 13 February 2017 20:05 Written by

Somaliland would be the second military base after the UAE facility in Eritrea, which has been used against the Houthis in Yemen

Ships being loaded in the port of Berbera, Somaliland in December 2015 (AFP)
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The United Arab Emirates is going to set up a second military base in the Horn of Africa, sparking concern among some governments in the region.

The Somaliland parliament approved the deal for the northern port of Berbera on Sunday, with 144 lawmakers voting for, two against and two abstentions.

Under the 30-year deal, the Emirati government will have exclusive rights to Somaliland’s largest port and manage and oversee operational activities.

DP World, the UAE’s ports operator company, will supervise the port, which will gain a naval base as well as an air base. The lease of the port is contingent on the $442 million deal with DP World.

In return, Somaliland will get investment as well as international recognition: no other country has yet recognised the breakaway territory – which separated itself from the rest of Somalia in 1993 - as an "independent state".

The Emirati port operator will manage the operational activities, but there's no official word on the time it will take for the military base to become fully operational.
UAE’s military is considered a formidable force in Africa, particularly after the establishment of its military base at Assab in Eritrea in 2015.

The Eritrean base has been used by the UAE in the Yemen war against the Houthis. It is not known whether the facility at Berbera will have a similar purpose.

Osman Abdillahi, minister of information and national guidance, toldSomaliland Press, the country’s official news agency, that the “UAE military base will bring investment which will open the flood gates for countries to recognise Somaliland.”

Abu Dhabi is reaching out to countries in and around the Horn of Africa, as it looks to increase its non-oil revenue through other avenues including real estate, trade and financial services.

Abdillahi said: “The Berbera to Wajale highway will cost about $230-300 million, not forgetting the creations of thousands of jobs for our people, which will alleviate the endemic joblessness that has incapacitated our people.”

It is significant because the UAE will be engaging in trade across the port, and for this, it would require a sustainable road network across Berbera. Hence, as the minister said, it will create opportunities for the local people on infrastructure development.

Tension with Ethiopia

But the Somaliland deal has angered Ethiopia, one of the regional powers in the Horn of Africa, which itself has economic ties with the UAE.

As recently as last year, the UAE and Ethiopia signed several investment deals, under the terms of which the UAE is legally bound to protect the economic interests of Ethiopia.

Last January,Ethiopia's prime minister rebuked the UAE governmentfor having established the base in Eritrea.

Hailemariam Desalegn said: “We have also stressed that they will bear the consequences of our response if their operation in the area supports the Eritrean regime’s destabilisation agenda against Ethiopia."

There is still tension between the two east African nations after they fought a war from May 1998 to June 2000.