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Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa
Africa, European Union, Libya

Date: 12/12/2017
Author: Martin Plaut

Source: Amnesty International
12 December 2017, 00:01 UTC
Full report at the end of this summary

"By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused," said John Dalhuisen.

European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya, said Amnesty International in a report published today, in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

Libya’s dark web of collusion details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses.”

A policy of containment

Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures aimed at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean, with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders. Their cooperation with Libyan actors has taken a three-pronged approach.

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

Detention, extortion and exploitation of migrants

The criminalization of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to DCIM detention centres where they endure horrific treatment. Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the soul-destroying cycle of exploitation to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money. If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.

While it is unclear how many members of the Libyan Coast Guard collaborate with smugglers, it is clear that, during 2016 and 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard’s increased capacity, due to support from EU member states, has led to an increasing number of operations where migrants are taken back to Libya. So far in 2017, 19,452 people have been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, taken back to Libya and immediately transferred to detention centres where torture is rife.

One man from the Gambia who was detained for three months told Amnesty International how he was starved and beaten in a detention centre: “They beat me with a rubber hose, because they want money to release me. They call the family while beating [you] so the family send money.” After his family paid the ransom he was taken to Tripoli by an assigned driver who demanded further payment. “I had to stay with him until I pay the money back, otherwise he will sell me.”

“One immediate way to improve the fate of refugees and asylum seekers in DCIM centres would be for the Libyan authorities to formally recognize UNHCR’s mandate, sign the Refugee Convention and adopt an asylum law. The automatic detention of migrants must also stop as that is when the worst abuses occur,” said John Dalhuisen.

Libyan coastguard endangering lives, intimidating NGOs

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress.

Footage, pictures and documents reviewed by Amnesty International indicate that a boat donated by Italy in April 2017, the Ras Jadir, was used by the Libyan Coast Guard during a horrific incident on 6 November 2017, where their reckless actions contributed to the drowning of up to 50 people.

Ignoring basic security protocols, the Ras Jadir approached a sinking inflatable vessel about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya. When it failed to deploy its rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to help facilitate the rescue, migrants were forced to climb the high sides of the ship and many fell into the water.

A nearby NGO vessel, Sea-Watch 3, deployed its own RHIBs to try and save people but footage shows those aboard the Ras Jadir throwing objects at these RHIBs to force them away. It also shows migrants aboard the Ras Jadir being whipped with a rope and others trying to jump into the water to try and reach the RHIBs.

Whilst reckless and dangerous actions by the Libyan Coast Guard have been documented before, this appears to be the first time a boat provided by a European government has been proven to have been used in such an incident.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused,” said John Dalhuisen.

“European governments must rethink their cooperation with Libya on migration and enable people to get to Europe through legal pathways, including by resettling tens of thousands of refugees. They must insist that the Libyan authorities end the policy and practice of arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and migrants, immediately release all foreign nationals held in the detention centres, and allow the UNHCR to operate unhindered.”

BACKGROUND

The Ras Jadir was donated by Italy to the Libyan authorities in two ceremonies: the first in the port of Gaeta (Italy) on 21 April 2017, and the second in the port of Abu Sittah (Libya) on 15 May 2017. The boat is clearly portrayed in videos of the ceremonies, in the presence of the Italian Minister of Interior Marco Minniti.

At the end of September 2017, IOM had identified 416,556 migrants in Libya, of which more than 60% are from sub-Saharan Africa, 32% from other North African countries, and around 7% from Asia and the Middle East. UNHCR figures show that 44,306 people in Libya were registered as refugees or asylum-seekers as of 1 December 2017. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher.

Amnesty Libya EU

Source=https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/libya-european-governments-complicit-in-horrific-abuse-of-refugees-and-migrants/

Africa, European Union

This paper – presented to the European Parliament hearing on the ‘externalisation’ of the EU’s borders – is important.

The background the EU’s strengthening of its co-operation with Libya to prevent Africans from reaching Europe by sea. The EU is also working far deeper in Africa, with Niger and Mali, as well as Sudan and Egypt, to halt Africans before they reach the Mediterranean coast.

This is what is meant by ‘externalisation’ of the EU’s borders: building a virtual ‘wall’ that will prevent Africans landing in any part of Europe.

This paper explains the benefits to European military and security industries of this policy. Here are a few examples:

  • Germany provided Airbus equipment to Tunisia
  • Italy paid the Italian company, Intermarine, for ten patrol ships for Libya
  • The Dutch government allowed the export of Thales radar equipment to Egypt, in spite of an EU arms embargo

Stop Wapenhandel are planning a full report for next year

Martin


EU border externalisation benefits European military and security industry

Mark Akkerman of Stop Wapenhandel


EU border externalisation policies have devastating consequences. In the first place for refugees, who are confronted with ever more and more militarised border security and control measures. But these policies also undermine the development of countries, they strengthen dictatorships, feed repression and human rights abuses and threaten security and safety.

The way the EU deals with the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ has been marked by a discourse of securitarization of migration, framing migration and refugees as a threat, to be dealt with by boosting and militarising border security. The EU exports this model, these policies, which are heavily influenced by the military and security industry through intensive and succesful lobbying, to third countries. They have to act as border security outposts, preventing refugees from even reaching the external borders of the EU.

This ‘cooperation’, often enforced through blackmail, such as threatening to withold development aid, takes many forms. One of those is EU donations of equipment or EU funding for equipment purchases by third countries. With this, during the last years everything from helicopters, patrol ships and vehicles, via surveillance and monitoring equipment to biometric identification tools has found its way to countries outside the EU.

There’s a real danger that equipment provided, for example surveillance tools, will also be used for internal repression. Sudan, one of the worst dictatorships the EU is cooperating with, blatantly said it would use donated equipment for internal purposes as well. And, let’s remember, EU countries have a bad track record for supplying equipment to human rights violating regimes. For example, during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ popular uprisings were often surpressed with arms provided by European states.

Another problem is the diverting of money for development cooperation and peacebuilding to the goal of stopping migration. Oxfam recently calculated that over 80% of the budget of the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa comes from the European Development Fund and other development and humanitarian aid funds. And about 30% of the Trust Fund budget in the first two years goes to migration management or border security projects. One example of this is the purchase of six vessels from Dutch shipbuilder Damen by Turkey for strengthening its coast guard. The €20 million the EU used to finance this came from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), intended for peace-building and conflict prevention. It is even the largest project under this Instrument.

But the EU also pressurizes third countries into increasing on security and military, at the cost of much-needed spending on education, health care, fighting poverty and other social and environmental issues. At the same time, EU policies to decrease migration undermine migration-based economies, for example the one in the Agadez region in Niger, and economies that rely on remittances from refugees in Europe.

This feeds an untenable situation, threatening economic development, security and internal stability in many countries. In the end this will only force more people to flee, especially in the longer term. And though it shouldn’t be a leading question, given this, it is also very doubtful that these externalisation policies actually serve European interests, especially in the long term. As one unnamed EU official said: we are only “creating chaos in our own backyard” and that will eventually turn against us. Another point is that by making regular migration ever more diffcult, the EU is pushing refugees into the arms of criminal smuggling networks, that take over more and more from people who just had a job in facilitating migration.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the secutarization of migration in third countries, and the militarisation of borders, backed up with EU funding, benefits one group of interests however: those of the military and security industry. Major arms companies as Thales and Airbus have already shifted their attention in the field of border security to the African market.

Some examples: Germany donated large ammounts of Airbus equipment for border security to Tunisia, as well as 50 Rheinmetall fighting vehicles for border security to Jordan. Italy and the EU fund a large border security project in Libya from Italian company Leonardo. Another Italian company, Intermarine, sold ten patrol ships to Libya, again paid for by Italy. And French shipbuilder Ocea also provided patrol ships to Libya. One of those ships was used this year by the Libyan coast guard to intercept a NGO vessel on a rescue mission. The Dutch government allowed the export of Thales radar equipment to Egypt, in spite of an EU arms embargo, praising the role the Egyptian navy plays in stopping migration to Europe.

Biometric security companies, such as Veridos, OT Morpho and Gemalto, receive one order after the other for biometric and other identification equipment, because the EU pushes and funds third countries to register their population, including refugees present, with fingerprints or other biometric identification mechanism, to be able to identify (and often deport) them quicker if they enter Europe. French company Civipol, owned by the state and large arms producers as Thales, Airbus and Safran, sets up fingerprint databases in Mali and Senegal. In those fingerprints of the whole population of those countries will be stored. Big Brother on a global scale, but, again, also ignoring the risks of using those databases for internal repression.

Next to the military and security industry, several European state and intergovernmental institutions are main profiteers from EU funding for border security and control in third countries. Civipol was already mentioned. It is especially stunning that Civipol wrote a consultancy paper for the European Commission in 2003 that laid some foundations for current measures on border externalisation and already proposed that the EU should exercise heavy pressure on third countries to get them to act tougher on migration and refugees. Not suprisingly, Civipol has been a major beneficiary of EU border externalisation ever since, implementing many EU-funded projects. In other words: it helped shape the policies it now profits from.

Other institutional profiteers include the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, the International Organisation for Migration and the German state development institution GIZ. The for example last implements the Better Migration Project, under which Sudan is supported to strengthen its border security capacities.

If you take a list of the 35 countries the EU focuses most on in border externalisation, in strengthening border security and control and/or concluding readmission agreements to make deportations possible, this gives a mix of mostly African countries, some in the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, and some in Central and Eastern Europe. Of these 35 countries:

  • half (18) falls in the category ‘low human development’, only eight have a high level of human development;
  • half (17) has an authoritarian government, only four can be deemed democratic, yet still with flaws;
  • half (17) is listed as ‘not free’, with only three listed as ‘free’;
  • one-third (12) faces extreme human rights risks, the other 23 still face high risks;
  • one-fifth (7) has a EU and/or UN arms embargo in force against it.

Yet, the total value of licenses issued by EU member states for arms exports to these 35 countries in the decade 2006-2015 is over €76 billion. Arms exports that more often than not feed further conflicts, violence and repression.

The least to say is that there are other priorities, both for these countries and for the EU in relation to them, than stopping migration. EU policy should be focused on promoting democracy and human rights as well as fighting poverty and furthering sustainaible development. There are many red flags, in almost all of the countries, on why the EU should be careful about cooperating with them. This is especially important when such cooperation includes strengthening military and security capacities, with training, funding and providing equipment. Or in other words: the EU is doing exactly what it shouldn’t be doing, and in the end the only profiteers are military and security companies and institutions and those politicians that spread hate, racism and repression.

 

Source=https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2017/12/08/how-halting-african-refugees-before-they-reach-the-eu-benefits-european-military-industries/

Last Updated on Thursday 07 December 2017

Addis Ababa, 6 December 2017: As part of the efforts to address the plight of the African migrants in Libya, the Joint African Union-European Union-United Nations Task Force convened its first meeting at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, on 4 December 2017. The meeting was chaired by the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira el-Fadil. 

In addition to representatives of the European Union and the United Nations, the meeting was also attended by representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and relevant Departments within the African Union Commission. It is to be recalled that the Task Force was established during the Tripartite meeting between African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, European Commission President Jean Claude Junker, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini, and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, held in Abidjan on 29 November 2017, on the margins of the 5th African Union-European Union Summit.

The Task Force, which will be chaired by Commissioner Amira el-Fadil, agreed to operate at three levels: political, working-level and operational (to be coordinated by the African Union Liaison Office for Libya based in Tunis). The immediate focus of the Task Force will be on the repatriation, within the next 6 weeks, of the 20,000 migrants currently in identified Government-controlled detention centers who have expressed the wish to leave Libya, while work will also continue to address other related issues. 

Other immediate priorities also include working with: (i) the concerned African Union member states to provide consular services to their nationals stranded in Libya, in order to identify them and provide them with travel documents; (ii) the Libyan authorities to grant landing permits for airlines other than those from Libya, in order to expedite the returns; and (iii) neighboring countries to provide overflight permission. 

The Task Force expressed appreciation to countries that have already pledged to support the returns from Libya, and urged other member states to do the same. The European Union pledged to provide financial support to those countries to facilitate return and reintegration efforts. 

On 5 December 2017, the Chairperson of the Commission met with the Permanent Representatives of 21 member states that either have nationals stranded in Libya or share a border with Libya. The Chairperson and the Commissioner for Social Affairs used the opportunity to brief the member states on the ongoing African Union-led efforts with partners. The Chairperson highlighted the collective duty of the continent to act quickly and swiftly to ease the suffering of stranded African migrants. In this respect, he called on concerned Member States to send consular officials and to speedily provide consular services, including identification of their nationals and issuance of emergency travel documents. He further urged the Libyan authorities to ensure the safety and security of the migrants held in Government-controlled detention centres, facilitate access to all detention centers for consular officials from the migrants’ countries of origin and officials from the African Union and the International Organization for Migration, and to issue flight and landing permits for all air carriers transporting migrants.

The Chairperson reaffirmed the commitment of the African Union to work closely with its member states, the United Nations, the European Union and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the necessary steps are put in place in order to expedite the voluntary repatriation and resettlement process of the African migrants. He expressed appreciation to the member states that pledged logistical support and/or offered to host migrants to be resettled, within the framework of African solidarity and shared responsibility. He urged the other African Union member states to contribute to these efforts.

Source=http://www.peaceau.org/en/article/african-union-efforts-to-address-the-plight-of-the-african-migrants-in-libya

By Abraham T. Zere

 
 
Are Eritrea's young people saying enough is enough? Credit: David Stanley.

Are Eritrea’s young people saying enough is enough? Credit: David Stanley.

On the 31 October, Eritrea experienced a rare protest as hundreds of people took the streets in opposition against the nationalisation of an Islamic school. Government forces reacted in characteristically brutal fashion and dispersed protesters with gun-shots in the capital Asmara.

A protest in the hugely repressive state of Eritrea is remarkable in of itself. But last month’s demonstration was additionally notable for the make-up of its participants. Many of those who took to the streets were secondary school students. An article on the Ministry of Information’s portal dismissively referred to the protestors as “a group of teenagers”.

For over 16 years, there has been virtually no space to challenge the government of Eritrea. There is no independent press or right to free association and movement. Internet penetration is almost non-existent. And extreme militarisation and surveillance pervade society. All the government’s former critics have all been imprisoned, disappeared or have fled.

However, that does not mean there is no opposition to the regime in the country. They may be disconnected from one another and uncoordinated, but 31 October was not the first time “a group of teenagers” has expressed its frustrations and openly defied the all-powerful Eritrean government.

The plight of Eritrea’s youth is well-documented. Facing indefinite military conscription and a lack of jobs, the youth are fleeing the country in droves only to be stranded in the neighbouring countries or faced with the risky journey across to Mediterranean. Even the sons and daughters of the ruling elite try to escape the country, including the youngest son of President Isaias Afwerki. They would prefer to cut ties with their parents and risk living as destitute refugees than remain in Eritrea.

Of course, not everyone leaves. Some stay happily. But for the many disillusioned young people who remain in the country, there is the feeling of a deepening divide between their generation and the governing system. Recently, this has manifested in a number of under-reported clashes between protesting youth and the government.

The regime attempts to suppress such incidences, which is made easier by its restrictions on international media. This means that these events largely remain confined to those directly affected, but they could have a much broader significance.

[Dear Europe, if you really must re-engage with Eritrea, here’s how you should do it]

[The questions no one is asking about Eritrea]

Fighting back

Despite continued repression and an education system set up to produce obedient citizens, Eritrea’s youth currently seems to be the only group ready to openly confront the regime. Young people in national service have reportedly booed officials coming to conduct seminars and killed commanders’ goats in protest.

The class of 2013 was reportedly particularly insubordinate. According to students and an internal report that was leaked, many of that year’s intake was punished for their defiance by being told they would be recalled to the military training centre Sawa after their exams. They were told to prepare for a long walk. That night, however, hundreds of students fled. Soldiers were deployed to lock down the camp.

Those who remained – more than 12,000 – were rounded up and forced to travel on foot for over 21 days. The report says two students drowned crossing a river, while another two died from snake bites. On arriving at their destination, the group was put in open prison camps without proper shelter. 34 more died, while there were 17 unwanted pregnancies.

This year, there was news of similar collective resistance. In July, 6,000 students were reportedly deployed to Adi-Halo where President Afwerki is attempting to establish a college of agriculture and machinery. However, there was allegedly no proper lodging to accommodate the students, many of whom were assigned there involuntarily.

They believed they were brought there to work on Afwerki’s projects in the area. In protest, they started leaving rocks on the road the president takes to his office in Adi-Halo and demanded he address their concerns.

When the military intervened, the unarmed students openly challenged the guards. In October, tensions escalated and protesters began throwing stones at them. The Eritrean opposition radio Medrek reports that the military responded by forcibly moving the students to Naro in the far north for military training.

Eritrea’s youth standing up

These isolated but notable incidents suggest that the protest in Asmara last month was unique, but not unprecedented. In that demonstration, hundreds took to the streets of the capital in defiance of the regime’s repressive rule and in anger at its decision to wield greater control over the education system. Once again, many of them were students.

These acts of insubordination suggest that many young people are now saying enough is enough. There does not seem to be coordination around a collective movement. But in the face of clear threats and repression by the regime, and in the absence of an organised opposition, groups of youth may be beginning to take matters into their own hands. Knowing no-one will instigate change for them, frustrated young people may be feeling a greater sense of ownership over their own affairs and future.

If they do continue to mobilise, they may nevertheless find support amongst their as yet quieter compatriots. In Asmara, police sent to disperse the protest reportedly told demonstrators that they share their grievances and refused to fire on them.

That is reportedly how the protesters managed to get so close to the Office of the President. It was there, however, that Special Forces fired on them in a show of violence that leaves those who would question the regime in no uncertain terms about what they ultimately are up against.

SWource=http://africanarguments.org/2017/11/29/eritrea-youth-are-taking-matters-into-their-own-hands/

 

In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Photo: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

 
 

28 November 2017 – The United Nations is stepping up its work to stop the grave abuses perpetrated against refugees and migrants along the Central Mediterranean routes, including alleged slave trade in Libya, two UN agency chiefs told the Security Council Tuesday.

The meeting was held at UN Headquarters in New York in response to growing international concerns about risks facing migrants and refugees, which were illustrated by recent news reports and videos showing African migrants in Libya allegedly being sold as slaves.

“This is an enormous human tragedy and we can stop it,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), via video link from Geneva, underscoring the need to break the smugglers’ business model.

In such efforts, IOM has helped 13,000 people get out of detention centres in Libya and 8,000 in Niger, he said, noting that there are about 15,000 still in such facilities.

IOM is working with partners, including the Government of Libya, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the African Union, the European Union, and countries of origin, to forge an agreement to implement a programme to empty those detention centres, Mr. Swing said.

Also briefing was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who told the Council: “The grave abuses perpetrated against migrants and refugees along the Central Mediterranean routes can no longer be ignored.”

“Compelled to flee, but without legal pathways to safety, refugees are exposed to appalling harm, together with migrants, including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour,” Mr. Grandi said, also via video link from Geneva, adding that these abuses proliferate where governance is weak and transnational criminal networks take root.

“This requires a comprehensive approach encompassing countries of origin, transit, and destination,” he stressed, highlighting the need to strengthen refugee protection and offer solutions along the routes.

UNHCR is stepping up its work – but faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, he added.

UNHCR is helping the authorities address the needs of displaced Libyans and others affected by conflict. Reception and protection mechanisms are being incrementally strengthened. Plans for a transit centre in Tripoli are progressing positively.

“Too often, measures pursued in relation to the Mediterranean routes have centred on how to control, deter and exclude. This can have a dehumanizing effect – and more importantly, alone, it does not help refugees and migrants avoid exploitative, deeply harmful situations,” Mr. Grandi said, calling for a comprehensive set of political, security, humanitarian, human rights and development investments.

“Your attention is welcome, because your leadership is critical to ensuring that this happens,” he told the Council members.

Source=http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58176#.Wh_ETrpFzIW


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN chief 'horrified' at buying and selling of African migrants in Libya

Djibouti, Eritrea and Counter-Terrorism

Saturday, 25 November 2017 13:19 Written by

Behind the East African nation of Djibouti's strained relations with Eritrea - and Qatar - is the country's counter-terrorism strategy

November 24, 2017


One of the only things the small East African nations of Eritrea and Djibouti agree on is Qatar’s destabilizing role in the region. When Djibouti downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Doha on June 5th, the government knew there would be consequences. But it was unaware they would fall so close to home.

In a surprise move, Qatar announced the withdrawal of its troops from the Eritrea-Djibouti border on June 14. Qatar’s forces had been keeping the peace between Eritrea and Djibouti since 2010, as part of a Doha-led mediation process. The two African nations had a brief border conflict in 2008 – a dispute which dates back to a 1900 colonial agreement between Italy and France which left the precise location of the border ill-defined.

Following Qatar’s withdrawal Eritrean forces quickly took full control of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. “Djibouti will have to react to this seizure in some way though in what manner Djibouti will respond to this is unclear,” said Joseph Siegle, Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in a June interview.

As painful as the loss of that territory is, Djibouti may still think its decision was worth it. The country’s stance against Qatar is part of a tougher fight against terrorism both within its region and beyond. Djibouti was a founding member of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism and also participated in the Arab Islamic US Summit held in Riyadh in May. This has continued despite the potential loss of Djiboutian territory caused by Qatar – this summer Djibouti also formally joined the US-led Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Djibouti believes that its struggle against Eritrea is tied to terrorism concerns. It asked the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group to investigate alleged Eritrean funding for the Somali terrorist group group Al-Shabaab last year. Djibouti has also accused Asmara of funding a group of 200 Djiboutian rebels. “I personally doubt that Qatar is directly funding Al-Shabab in Somalia. There is more evidence to suggest the possibility of Eritrean support for Al-Shabab but, of course, Qatar could be using Eritrea as a proxy,” said a senior Somali intelligence official who agreed to speak off the record during the recent intelligence conference in Khartoum.

Despite the crisis along the border with Eritrea, Djibouti has maintained a force of roughly a thousand soldiers in Somalia as part of the African Union force fighting Al-Shabaab. But Qatar’s sudden withdrawal may have cost Djibouti more than a strip of its territory. Djibouti also worries about the fate of its prisoners of war held by Eritrea – an issue that Qatar had attempted to negotiate.

At the end of the 2008 conflict, Eritrea held nineteen Djiboutian prisoners of war – though some escaped and four were later were released. “[Eritrea] continues to spread blatant lies about the prisoner’s condition and has refused to account for them despite repeated calls by the UN Security Council,” Ambassador Dualeh said.

While Djibouti would be outgunned in any renewed fighting, the country’s changing economic fortunes might strengthen its military and negotiating position in the future. “The tiny new nation has no army, less than one square mile of arable land and no resources except sand, salt and 20,000 camels,” the New York Times wrote in 1977. In the intervening decades Djibouti has become an economic success story – its GDP of Djibouti increased by 6.5% in 2016, in part thanks to the development of its port and transport services.

Djibouti aims to become the “Dubai of Africa” and serve as a regional trading hub. Ethiopia – with a population of one hundred million – is the world’s most populous landlocked country. It depends on Djibouti’s port to reach the sea, and as a result the tiny country handles ninety percent of Ethiopia’s maritime trade. To better meet those needs, Djibouti opened two new harbors this year – and another port is nearing completion.

Djibouti also maintains its diplomatic clout by hosting several foreign military bases. Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion outpost, has been America’s only permanent military base in Africa since 2001. Sitting next to Djibouti’s international airport, the US joint-operating base has been an important part of America’s ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Djibouti has also welcomed military bases from China and Japan in recent years – and Saudi Arabia is also considering a base. Partly in response, Eritrea is host to a base from the home of the real Dubai: the United Arab Emirates.

War is bad for business, and ultimately Djibouti hopes its dispute with Eritrea will be ameliorated through negotiation. Ambassador Dualeh told Raddington Report that, contrary to media reports, China has not offered to act as a mediator of the dispute now that Qatar has gone.

“We would like to see the UN Security Council urge Eritrea to resolve the border issue peacefully,” Dualeh said, “and to accept to submit the boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice, for a final and binding determination of the boundary based on international law”. No one expects that to happen soon.

source=https://raddingtonreport.com/djibouti-struggle-against-terrorism/

 

Eritrea, Burundi slammed for threatening U.N. human rights experts

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over threats meted out to its special rapporteurs in Eritrea, Burundi and the Philippines.

A statement released on Tuesday (November 21) titled “Attacks / threats by States against UN human rights experts, read in part: ‘We are concerned by continuing efforts by certain States to undermine and denigrate important mechanisms established by the 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council.”

On the specific case of Eritrea, the statement bemoaned verbal attacks on its human rights expert, Ms Sheila Keetharuth – who recently released a report to the effect that the rights situation in Eritrea was not getting any better.

The Ambassador referred to her as a 'naked Empress with no clothes' and accused her of acting like a “Viceroy over Eritrea,” and carrying out a witch-hunt.

“The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila Keetharuth, has also faced considerable hostility in conducting her work, including a personal attack by the Eritrean Ambassador during her interactive dialogue at the Human Rights Council session in June.

“The Ambassador referred to her as a ‘naked Empress with no clothes’ and accused her of acting like a “Viceroy over Eritrea,” and carrying out a witch-hunt.

“Once again, it must be stressed that Ms. Keetharuth has been faithfully carrying out the mandate given to her by the UN Human Rights Council, and she should not be subjected to this type of vitriolic personalized attack by Government officials.”

In the case of Burundi, the U.N. body said it had lodged a complaint with the government of how its ambassdor threatened authors of a recent report presented by a Commission of Inquiry that probed rights issues in the volatile country.

“The High Commissioner has informed the (Burundian) Government that he finds it unacceptable that the members of a Commission mandated by the Human Rights Council are threatened with prosecution for performing the task set for them by the Council.

“This threat by the Government of Burundi constitutes a clear violation of article VI of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which applies to experts performing missions for the UN.

“He has urged the Government of Burundi to review its policy of refusing to cooperate with the independent International Commission of Inquiry and to cease threatening its members.”

The third country mentioned was the Philippines where President Duterte and his supporters are said to have openly threatened the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary execution, Agnes Callamard.

Source=http://www.africanews.com/2017/11/24/eritrea-burundi-slammed-for-threatening-un-human-rights-experts/

Appeals court rules against mining company Nevsun Resources, clearing way for workers to have claims of human rights violations heard in Canadian court 

Workers and visitors walk within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea, operated by Canadian company Nevsun Resources. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Thursday 23 November 2017 13.52 GMT Last modified on Thursday 23 November 2017 13.56 GMT

A Canadian mining company has lost its bid to block a lawsuit accusing it of human rights abuses against miners in Eritrea after a ruling by an appeals court in British Columbia.

The decision, against Nevsun Resources, paves the way for a groundbreaking legal challenge that links the Vancouver company to allegations of modern slavery.

The case, launched in 2014 by three refugees who alleged they were forced to work at Bisha mine and endured harsh conditions and physical punishment, is one of only a handful in which foreign claimants have been granted access to Canadian courts to pursue firms based in the country over alleged human rights abuses abroad.

Filed in Canada, the lawsuit was directed at Canada’s Nevsun, which owns a controlling interest in the gold, copper and zinc mine through a chain of subsidiary corporations.

The case was catapulted into the spotlight last year when a court in the province of British Columbia ruled that it could be heard in the Canadian legal system.

Nevsun appealed the 2016 ruling, arguing that any lawsuit should be heard in Eritrea. On Tuesday, however, the British Columbia court of appeal dismissed the company’s challenge, noting the risk of corruption and unfairness in the Eritrean legal system.

Joe Fiorante of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said: “There will now be a reckoning in a Canadian court of law in which Nevsun will have to answer to the allegations that it was complicit in forced labour and grave human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.

”In affidavits filed with the court, the plaintiffs – all of whom have since left Eritrea – alleged that as conscripts in the country’s national service system, they were forced to work for government-owned construction firms subcontracted to build the mine. They claimed the conditions were inhuman and work was carried out under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture and imprisonment.

A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea

A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Since Nevsun owns 60% of the Bisha Mining Share Company, which owns and operates the mine (the other 40% is owned by the Eritrean government), the plaintiffs claim the Canadian company must have been aware of the reported abuses, but failed to prevent or stop them.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In their decision, the British Columbia appeals court judges referenced a 2016 UN inquiry into human rights in Eritrea, which found the government had committed crimes against humanity in a widespread and systematic manner. The report noted that officials in the one-party state had enslaved up to 400,000 people, with many describing how the country’s system of lifelong military service amounts to modern-day slavery.

This system is at the heart of the case against Nevsun, said Fiorante. “Our case alleges that people that were conscripted into that system were forced to work in service of building a Canadian-owned gold mine in Bisha, Eritrea,” he said.

Fiorante added that about 60 people have so far come forward with similar claims of being forced to work at the mine.

Nevsun has denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit. While the company declined to comment on the latest ruling as the matter is before the court, a Nevsun spokesperson referred to a 2015 human rights audit of the Bisha mine, noting that contractual commitments strictly prohibit the use of national service employees by Bisha’s contractors and subcontractors.

Last year the Guardian spoke with several people who alleged they had been forced to work at the mine, earning as little as a dollar a day. The work was carried out amid horrendous conditions and a climate of fear and intimidation, they claimed.

“The mine was like an open prison,” said one former security guard, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect family still in Eritrea. “They can take you and do what they want with you. I was owned by them. We were like objects for the government and for foreign companies to do with us what they wanted.”

Source=https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/nov/23/canadian-mining-firm-historic-legal-case-alleged-labour-abuses-eritrea-nevsun-resources

 

 

Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Horn of Africa

They may have fled from Eritrea, but the refugees in Hitsats camp in northern Ethiopia have not forgotten the plight of their friends and families back home.

These videos, sent from the camp, show their determination to support the residents of Asmara, who have been resisting attempts to take over their school, with the arrest of Hajji Musa Mohammednur, the president of the school’s board.

In taking this stand they join thousands of Eritreans who have shown their opposition to the regime’s attack on the independence of the school in protests around the world, including Washington, London and Stockholm.

Hitsats camp was opened in 2013 by the UN refugee agency, and was designed to hold 20,000 refugees.

Eritreans, Sudanese worse affected by Israel's forced deportation plan

Eritrea

A plan by Israeli authorities to forcibly deport to third countries or jail African migrants will affect predominantly Eritrea and Sudanese migrants in the country.

Israel is looking to close its Holot detention center for African migrants within four months. The center is home to thousands of refugees.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in a statement last week said it was seriously concerned about the move under which proposals: “Eritreans and Sudanese asylum-seekers and refugees would be compelled to accept relocation to countries in Africa or face imprisonment in Israel.”

Eritreans and Sudanese asylum-seekers and refugees would be compelled to accept relocation to countries in Africa or face imprisonment in Israel.

“In light of the intention to see the departure of infiltrators on a large scale to third countries, we may reconsider the need for the continued existence of the Holot facility, as the infiltrators’ departure could come directly from city centers to the third countries,” Israeli authorities are quoted to have said.

It is believed that for Africa, Rwanda and Uganda are the third countries that Israel plans to send the refugees to. An Israeli High Court in August okayed the emigration policy but tasked the government to ensure that deported migrants will be safe with the third countries.

If successful, it will be the first time that such a move has been executed given that earlier attempts by Italy (Libya) and Australia (Malaysia)with third-party countries were dismissed by local courts with the reason that such deportations were inconsistent with international law.

It is believed that over 40,000 African migrants are residing in Israel by close of 2016. The government insists they are largely economic migrants even though most have applied for refugee status and that they are fleeing conflict and persecution back home.

Eritrea is one of the African countries that produces the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers from south of the Sahara. Most young people flee harsh economic conditions back home and the political situation as well.

Source=http://www.africanews.com/2017/11/21/eritreans-sudanese-worse-affected-by-israel-s-forced-deportation-plan/