The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has raised an alarm that refugees and migrants, many of them Nigerians, are taking more “diversified and dangerous journeys” to cross rough seas.
The UNHCR Director of Europe Bureau, Vincent Cochetel, while releasing a new report: “Desperate Journeys,” on Monday in New York, said the migrants and refugees are relying on people-smugglers or using flimsy boats to cross rough seas to Europe.
Cochetel said increased border restrictions and lack of accessible legal ways to reach Europe have caused more desperation among refugees and migrants.
He said: “About 90 per cent of them travelled by boat from Libya, and the top two nationalities of those arriving were Nigerians (21 per cent) and Eritreans (11 per cent).
“This route is particularly dangerous and in 2016 more deaths were recorded at sea than ever before.
“Furthermore, children making this journey are especially vulnerable, and the number of unaccompanied and separated children arriving is increasing.
“Last year more than 25,000 came, representing 14 per cent of all new arrivals in Italy.
“Their number more than doubled compared to the previous year.”
Cochetel explained that the “closure” of the Western Balkan route and the EU-Turkey decision in March 2016, caused a drastic decrease in the number of people reaching Greece via the Eastern Mediterranean route.
He said: “This report clearly shows that the lack of accessible and safe pathways leads refugees and migrants to take enormous risks while attempting to reach Europe, including those simply trying to join family members.
“However, since then, the Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy becomes the primary entry point to Europe and arrival trends in Italy show that the primary nationalities who crossed to Greece had not switched in significant numbers to the Central Mediterranean route.
“In addition to drowning, migrants and refugees also risk being kidnapped, held against their will for several days, physical and sexual abuse, torture and extortion by smugglers and criminal gangs at several points along key routes.”
The UN refugee agency pointed out that in 2016, some 181,436 arrived in Italy by sea in need of international protection, and also victims of trafficking and migrants seeking better lives.
The report also showed that in the last part of 2016, more people reached the continent through the Western Mediterranean route, either by crossing the sea to Spain from Morocco and Algeria, or by entering the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta.
Similarly, people continued to leave Turkey along the Eastern Mediterranean route from April onwards, but in much smaller numbers, it said.
Cochetel explained that most crossed the sea to Greece or Cyprus, others also crossed via land into the country or into Bulgaria.
He said: “Most who arrived by sea to Greece (87 per cent) came from the top ten refugee producing countries.
“This was also the case for those who continued to move along the Western Balkans route: in Serbia, for instance, 82 per cent of those who arrived came from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and almost half are children – 20 per cent of those unaccompanied.”
Cochetel said these numbers, however, have reduced since April 2016.
He said the study revealed that tens of thousands of people also have been reportedly pushed back by border authorities in Europe, including in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Spain and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The UNHCR also regretted that there were many cases of alleged violence and abuses in an apparent efforts to deter further entry attempts.
ADDIS ABABA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A ban on Eritrean refugees working in Ethiopia is hampering efforts to reduce illegal “secondary” migration, with tens of thousands risking violence and drowning in pursuit of a better life, the Overseas Development Institute said on Thursday.
"Ethiopia is a vital country of asylum, offering the prospect of freedom and security," said the British think tank, but it added: "Refugees are not allowed to work in Ethiopia, making it hard to build a future in the country."
Hence, it said, most Eritrean refugees living in Ethiopian camps wanted to escape to a third country in the hope of winning work, security and a settled life.
About 5,000 refugees flee Eritrea each month to escape poverty, political persecution and the prospect of potentially indefinite military conscription.
Some 155,207 currently live in neighboring Ethiopia, home to nearly a million refugees - the second largest refugee population in Africa - thanks to its open-door asylum policy.
But in 2014, 84 percent of Eritreans interviewed in Ethiopia said they planned on‘moving to another country’, while around two-thirds pursued so-called secondary migration in 2015, according to Amnesty International.
"People tend to give life a go in neighboring places – Sudan, Ethiopia – and only turn to options further afield once they realize those situations aren’t tenable in practice," Richard Mallett, one of the report's authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Many are then destined for Europe, undeterred by increasingly restrictive immigration policies, with Eritreans forming the fifth largest group of irregular arrivals on European shores in 2016.
Most crossed from Libya, the most dangerous route over the Mediterranean, exposed to violence, torture by smugglers, and the deadly risk of the sea itself, according to a report by Medicins Sans Frontieres published last month.
According to the ODI report, those who embark on the often perilous onwards journey from the Horn of Africa do so despite the promise of comparative freedom and security in Ethiopia, and the livelihood support policies, such as loan and training programs, offered by NGOs there.
Because Eritreans are prevented from legally accessing the Ethiopian labor market -- in contravention of the right-to-work enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention -- any skills and capital they acquire through such programs cannot be put to full use, the report said, causing frustration and hopelessness.
Under Ethiopian law, refugees are prevented from engaging in formal employment, regardless of whether they live in camps or cities, though some find casual labor or bend the rules.
The evidence suggests that many people will be more inclined to stay in Ethiopia if refugee labor rights are enhanced, the report said, since informal work is often insecure, badly paid, and exploitative. For women it can mean prostitution.
The World Bank, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and other international organizations have highlighted the success of nearby countries, such as Uganda, which offer refugees extensive employment rights.
It said Ethiopia’s refugee policies were counterproductive.
“The support that is being provided by such programs is for the most part overshadowed by refugees’ lack of access to decent work – work that is reliable, adequately paid and that draws on their skills,” the report said.
(Reporting by Tom Gardner. Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has raised an alarm that refugees and migrants, many of them Nigerians, are taking more “diversified and dangerous journeys” to cross rough seas.
North Korea is evading international sanctions with a sophisticated network of overseas companies, enabled partly by its continued access to the international banking system, says a forthcoming United Nations report seen by Reuters.
North Korea is under heavy U.N. sanctions and a strict arms embargo designed to impede the development of its banned nuclear and missile programmes. The U.N. panel of experts, which produced the 100-page draft report, was created to investigate reported infringements of those sanctions.
“Designated entities and banks have continued to operate in the sanctioned environment by using agents who are highly experienced and well trained in moving money, people and goods, including arms and related materiel, across borders,” the report says.
U.N. member states should “exercise heightened vigilance” over North Korean diplomats engaged in commercial activities, it says, because some may be providing financial support to illegal networks.
North Korea "is flouting sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication," the report says.
It details a previously unknown interdiction of North Korean-made military communications equipment destined for Eritrea in July last year.
The interdiction was the second time North Korean military equipment bound for Eritrea had been intercepted, indicating an ongoing arms trade between the two countries, the report said.
The seized equipment, part of an air shipment, included 45 boxes of battlefield radios and accessories, the report says.
The radios were manufactured by a Malaysia-based front company called “Glocom”, which is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the sanctioned North Korean intelligence agency tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement, the report says.
The report identifies two North Korean trading companies which, according to an unidentified U.N. member state, are linked to sanctioned entities, including the Reconnaissance General Bureau.
The report also outlines North Korea’s use of the financial system to pay for its sanctioned operations.
“Behind these illicit activities is the continued access of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the international banking system,” the report says, using North Korea’s official title.
“Despite strengthened financial sanctions in 2016, the country’s networks are adapting by using greater ingenuity in accessing formal banking channels,” the report said.
In cases where financial access is more restricted, North Korean agents use bulk cash and gold to circumvent the financial system entirely, and at times use foreign citizens as middlemen and facilitators.
The report says North Korea continues to export banned minerals despite last year's sanctions putting a cap on coal exports, a key source of hard currency for the state’s nuclear and missile programmes.
China has said it would ban coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year. On Thursday, North Korea issued a rare reproach of China, its main diplomatic backer, over the ban.
The U.N. report says enforcement of sanctions against North Korea "remains insufficient and highly inconsistent" and calls for additional measures to address shortcomings.
(Reporting By James Pearson; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
by Martin Plaut
It could have been a tragedy: six Eritreans were arrested by the Sudanese police and threatened with deportation back to Eritrea (or what is termed ‘refoulment’ by the United Nations refugee agency.)
The six were in a dire condition, having only just managed to escape from people traffickers. The two women and four men had walked for three days when they were picked up by police on Saturday in an area 2 - 25 kilometres from Khartoum.
At this point they were told they would be taken to court, which was likely to return them to Eritrea, from which they had just escaped. The group would have faced arrest, indefinite detention and possible torture if they were returned.
Thanks to the rapid intervention of lawyers the six were released after paying a fine of 1,200 Sudanese pounds. This is a great deal of money, nearly $US 200 at the official rate of exchange.
Human rights activists say the Sudanese police regard the Eritreans as a source of income. But for the impoverished Eritrean community the strain of collecting and paying these fines is unbearable. And there are reports of another four Eritreans being held in another prison.
February 21, 2017
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.
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
‘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.
‘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.
- 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.