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Zimbabwe vows vote to go ahead despite rally blast

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By Afp

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he was the target of the attack which injured dozens of people

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he was the target of the attack which injured dozens of people

The blast that rocked a ruling party campaign rally in which Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly escaped unharmed, has plunged the country into uncharted waters a month before the first elections in the post-Robert Mugabe era.

But authorities on Sunday ruled out delaying the polls as police said 49 rallygoers, including the country's two vice presidents, were injured in the attack, some of them seriously.

Mnangagwa has called for calm after the blast which went off "inches" away from him.

Footage circulating on social media showed an explosion and plumes of smoke around the president as he walked down stairs from the podium at the city's White City stadium in the second largest city of Bulawayo.

Mnangagwa said he was the target of the attack, which also injured Vice-Presidents Kembo Mohadi and Constantino Chiwenga, and which the state media is describing as an assassination attempt.

The device "exploded a few inches away from me", the president told state broadcaster on Saturday night, blaming the attack on his "mortal enemies".

"These are my mortal enemies and the attempts have been so many".

"It´s not the first attempt (on) my life. I'm used to it. Six times my office has been broken into; cyanide was put in my offices so many times."

The polls in five weeks will be the first since Zimbabwe's veteran leader Mugabe resigned following a brief military takeover in November last year after 37 years in power.

While investigations are under way, the government has ruled out a delay in the July 30 elections.

"As for the elections being postponed, a state of emergency being declared (due to the Bulawayo attack)... rest assured that the electoral programme proceeds as scheduled," the presidential spokesman George Charamba told the state-run Sunday Mail.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba on Sunday told reporters that "comprehensive investigations are in progress".

The upcoming election will be Mnangagwa's first at the ballot box.

- 'People must unite' -

In a voice note he released to the state media on Sunday, Mnangagwa called for unity and peace.

"In November (when Mugabe was removed) we all came together motivated by a dream, (for) a free, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe, a peaceful Zimbabwe," he said, adding "now some people are trying to kill our dream".

"While we have all chosen the path of peace others unfortunately still cling to the tools of violence. I assure you they will not succeed," said the president.

"We as a people must unite."

Previous elections in Zimbabwe had been marred by electoral fraud, intimidation and violence, including the killing of scores of opposition supporters in 2008.

But never had there been explosives detonated at rallies or targeted directly at any political leaders.

Mnangagwa has pledged to hold free and fair elections as he seeks to mend international relations and have sanctions against Zimbabwe dropped.

- 'Internal crisis in ZANU-PF'-

While Bulawayo has long been a bastion of opposition to the ZANU-PF and it was Mnangagwa's first rally in the city, commentators suggest the attack could have been instigated by internal ructions within the ruling party.

"It looks very much like an internal crisis within ZANU-PF," said Gideon Chitanga of the Johannesburg based think tank Political Economy Southern Africa. "The end game in ZANU-PF succession politics will be long and it's ramifications dire".

Yet others point to the old grievances linked to the 1982-87 Gukurahundi crackdown which was widely seen as an effort by then-prime minister Mugabe to vanquish his ally-turned-foe, the ethnic Ndebele liberation leader Joshua Nkomo.

"The main uncertainties now are whether the reaction to the attack includes a crackdown on dissent and political rivals in the name of security or a delay in the election," said Hasnain Malik of the London-based Exotix Capital.

But for ordinary voters like Harare-based Crispen Pfundirwa, the main concern is that security is not tight in the run-up to the election.

"Since 1980 we have not seen any bomb blast at a rally. These sort of things don't happen in Zimbabwe but in Iraqi and Iran," said Pfundirwa.


Three Eritrean teenagers killed themselves after travelling to Britain without their parents

Amelia Gentleman Last modified on Mon 18 Jun 2018 01.05 BST

Three Eritrean teenagers killed themselves after travelling to Britain without their parents

At least three teenage refugees who arrived in Britain from the migrant camp in Calais have killed themselves in the past six months, raising questions about how the Home Office and local authorities handle profoundly vulnerable asylum-seeking children and young people in the UK.

Three young men from Eritrea, two of them aged 18 and one aged 19, have taken their own lives in London since last November. All of them fled conflict in Eritrea, travelling without their parents across Africa and Europe as young teenagers, and all spent time in the Calais migrant camp. A fourth young asylum seeker from Eritrea whose name and age has not been made public is also known to have killed himself last year.

Filmon Yemane had recently turned 18 when he killed himself in November. Alexander Tekle, also 18, took his own life a fortnight later in December, a year after he had arrived in the UK, hidden in the back of a refrigerated lorry. A third teenager, N (whom the Guardian is not naming, at the request of his family), killed himself last month, aged 19, in the same hostel in north London where Yemane had stayed.

An inquest was held into Yemane’s death in April. It highlighted that he was in a state of crisis in the 24 hours before he took his own life, and found that although employees at the sheltered accommodation where he lived had reported a deterioration in his condition to NHS mental health staff, their concerns were not “escalated appropriately within the crisis team”. A pre-inquest hearing was held into Tekle’s death last month; there is no date yet for the full hearing, and no scheduled inquest yet into the third young man’s death.

Filmon Yemane.Filmon Yemane. Photograph: Family Photo

In the absence of other inquest findings, it is impossible to assess what prompted the three teenagers, who were acquainted with each other, to end their lives. All of them had been through extremely traumatic experiences, having fled conflict and encountered multiple dangers on the way to the UK, not least in the often violent environment of Calais, and risked their lives when they attempted to enter Britain by smuggling themselves on to lorries and trains. However, people who knew them have said that they subsequently found the protracted process of applying for refugee status in the UK extremely stressful.

Hamid, another Eritrean asylum-seeking teenager, who knew all three teenagers, said Alexander Tekle and N, the young man who killed himself last month, were both extremely concerned about the length of time it was taking for the Home Office to decide on whether they would be granted refugee status here. Hamid asked for his real name not to be printed, afraid that speaking out might somehow complicate his own asylum claim, which still remains unresolved, three years after his arrival in the UK at the age of 15.

One 18-year-old attempted suicide and ended up in a mental health unit, and was then billed for his healthcare. Elaine Chase of Becoming Adult He said: “Alex and I were close friends. He was such a nice guy but he was giving up on life. He was stressing about Home Office things – we all were. I tried to tell him not to worry too much, but he was thinking about it all the time. He was saying: once you have your papers, you can start your life, you can start college. He wanted to start work; he wanted to send money to his mother. Without papers you can’t work.”

He was unsure about whether Yemane had ongoing concerns about his Home Office status, but he knew that the third young person, N, was very anxious about whether he was going to be accepted as a refugee. “He was worried about Home Office and being sent back to his country and stressing about that,” he said.

The Home Office is understood not to be currently sending people back to Eritrea, because it is considered too dangerous; however child asylum seekers who turn 18 and are not granted refugee status remain in limbo, unable to work, or study, and liable to be sent to immigration detention centres if they do not leave the country voluntarily.

Benjamin Hunter met Tekle while doing volunteer work with refugees in Calais when Tekle had just turned 16. He stayed in touch with him when he travelled to England. “Alex experienced deeply traumatic events on his journey to the UK, in particular in Libya and in Calais, where he lived alone in a tent for as long as a year, subject to abuse and neglect,” Hunter said.

Tekle was wrongly age-assessed on arrival in the UK; it was not easy to get his birth certificate sent from Eritrea, although the documents were eventually sent. For a while he was treated as an adult, and sent to live in a unit for adults where he experienced real difficulties, Hunter said. Since arriving in the UK Tekle had at times been homeless, and occasionally drank heavily as a way of alleviating the stress, Hunter said.

“Instead of receiving the support and help that he desperately needed, upon his arrival in the UK, he told he was not eligible for support as a child or care-leaver. He was placed outside of care, in a hostel for adult asylum seekers where he was violently assaulted,” he said. “Alex was stressed about the wellbeing of his family, about the uncertainty of his future and in particular was stressed by his asylum claim and the thought that he might be deported. The last thing he said to me, the day before he died, was, ‘Why have I not received my papers, like my friends have?’”

His father, Tecle Sium Tesfamichel, a refugee now living in Sudan, said: “Alexander is not coming back. But I want to know this doesn’t happen to children and young people again. These children, who have to leave home through no fault of their own, are traumatised on their journey through the desert and the sea. It is the job of the authorities to look after and guide these children, who come to the UK alone. They shouldn’t come to die.”

The family’s lawyers, Bhatt Murphy, would like the coroner to examine the actions of the local authorities responsible for him, the adequacy of his accommodation, of the age assessments, and of access to mental health services.

An Eritrean woman who works with young asylum seekers (who asked not to be named) said she observed many different pressures making life hard for newly arrived teenagers. “The journey, then the welcome and reception they get here is not what they expected,” she said. “They feel like they are unwanted.

“Everything is so different from how they have lived at home. The loneliness, the language barrier; they are placed in accommodation with no one to talk to.”

The mental health problems experienced by unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have been well documented by refugee organisations and children’s charities.

Sam Royston, policy director at the Children’s Society, which has been carrying out new research into the mental health of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK, said: “These vulnerable young people may have experienced the trauma of war, persecution, bereavement and exploitation, all of which can have a huge impact upon their mental health. Too often, they do not get the help they need ... Practitioners we spoke to knew of young people who had sadly self-harmed and attempted suicide.”

A study by the children’s commissioner last year warned that Home Office delays in processing asylum claims were causing difficulties. “Testimony from migrant children demonstrates how the experience of uncertainty and waiting leads to a state of paralysis and depression, seriously undermining their wellbeing,” the report states.

Elaine Chase, an academic who has interviewed more than 60 unaccompanied young migrants in the UK for the research project, Becoming Adult, said about a third of the people she spoke to had experienced mental health difficulties ranging from difficulties sleeping, anxiety, severe depression to suicidal feelings, often related to uncertainty about their Home Office status. “One 18-year-old attempted suicide and ended up in a mental health unit, and was then billed for his healthcare and told he had to leave the country,” she said.

Her colleague on the research project Jennifer Allsopp said the migrants interviewed tended to be more troubled about the uncertainty they faced about their futures than by the trauma they had experienced in the past. “For them, good mental health is associated with being able to work towards future aspirations; having a sense of stability, moving onwards with their lives. It is very hard to do that, if not impossible, without security of legal status,” she said.

Rosalind Compton, an immigration solicitor with the charity Coram Children’s Legal Centre, who runs advice sessions for asylum-seeking children, said many were under extreme stress. She said she knew an 18-year-old who had attempted suicide in December after being refused asylum. “There needs to be significantly improved mental health support available for all asylum-seeking young people,” she said. “Mental health support is delayed or made ineffective by Home Office delays.”

The Calais migrant camp in 2015.The Calais migrant camp in 2015. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Liz Clegg met Alexander Tekle during the two years she spent working in Calais, supporting child migrants in the camp. She now runs a centre in Birmingham to support those who have arrived in the UK. “He was lovely. I remember him getting in the car and singing along to the radio. He came across like a genuine, funny, sociable boy,” she said. She said many young people were destroyed by spending a long time in Calais trying to get to Britain. Those who spent only a few days in the camp tended to be in a better state when they arrived here.

“It had a profound effect on them and then there’s a delusional notion that it will all be OK when you get to the UK. That can be the final nail. You’ve held on and held on, you’ve kept going and you’ve got here, and then you realise that the dream is not the dream,” she said.

Britain gives temporary leave to remain to all minors who arrive here, but those who are found ineligible for refugee status are asked to begin making plans to return to their home country when they turn 17 and a half. Many of them struggle to gather the correct evidence to show that they should be eligible for refugee status; it can be difficult to access legal advice. “You have to have evidence that you need refugee protection,” Clegg said.

“It’s a nightmare process, and they don’t understand it. None of these children read the Geneva convention or had the slightest idea of the asylum process. For many of them, they so believed that they could get to the UK and everything would be all right, and then they get rejected. It’s hugely stressful. The whole hostile immigration environment is turned towards them. If you are told you can be here only until you are 17 and a half, it’s inhumane – it’s a form of abuse.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We recognise that some unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have fled persecution in their countries of origin and experienced potentially dangerous journeys before reaching the UK. We are committed to reaching asylum decisions as quickly as we can, while ensuring these often complex cases are given proper consideration. Unaccompanied children are looked after by local authority children’s services, who are required to assess their individual needs, including access to mental health support.”

Hamid, who has seen three teenagers in his circle take their own lives in the space of six months, said he still struggled to understand why they decided to give up on life. “Alex was so generous, he would give me his last money; he gave me his clothes. If he had only £1 he would buy two drinks – one for him and one for you. He would share everything with you.”

He remains extremely concerned about his own immigration status and has recently received a Home Office letter informing him that he is a “person without leave”, liable for detention and possible removal from the country. The letter states: “You are not allowed to WORK. You are not allowed to STUDY.”

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email . In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at

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‘A Few People’ Killed at Political Rally in Ethiopia

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Last Updated: June 23, 2018 5:57 AM
VOA News
Ethiopians chant slogans during a rally in support of the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 23, 2018.
Ethiopia’s new prime minister said “a few people” were killed in an explosion at a political rally Saturday in the capital.

Abiy Ahmed also said several people were injured in the blast, which a rally organizer said was caused by a grenade. The attack occurred as he was waving to the crowd of tens of thousands. Police are investigating.

The prime minister added: “Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.”

In a televised interview after the explosion, Abiy said the incident was “an unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united.”

Ethiopians heartened by a wave of reforms under Abiy had packed Meskel Square in a show of support with numbers unseen in recent years in the East African nation.
 Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed waves to supporters as he attends a rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 23, 2018.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed waves to supporters as he attends a rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 23, 2018.
Major changes

Since Abiy took office in April, he has made major changes to the country, including releasing almost all jailed journalists, dropping charges against activists critical of the government and moving to liberalize the economy.

He has also pledged to work toward reconciliation with rival Eritrea, by implementing a long-ignored 2002 border demarcation. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki this week described the peace overtures from Ethiopia as “positive signals.”

The White House said Thursday that it was encouraged by recent progress Ethiopia and Eritrea have made toward resolving their longstanding differences. A statement described the leadership of Abiy and Isaias as “courageous.”
 Ethiopian security forces intervene on Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, June 23, 2018, where a blast killed several people during a rally called by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Ethiopian security forces intervene on Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, June 23, 2018, where a blast killed several people during a rally called by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Media restrictions dropped

Ethiopia’s government also says it has removed internet restrictions on 246 websites and TV channels.

The prime minister’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, announced the news on Twitter Friday, saying “freedom of expression is a foundational right.”

“A free flow of information is essential for engaged and responsible citizenry. Only a free market of ideas will lead to the truth,” he added.

The unblocked news sites include two prominent pro-opposition sites, the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), based in Amsterdam, and the Oromia Media Network (OMN), based in Minnesota.

Many of the unblocked news sites are run from overseas. The media rights group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed the decision Friday.

“Allowing Ethiopians to access these news outlets is a positive sign that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is committed to delivering his promise to end Ethiopia’s censorship of the independent press,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.

Reuters Staff
2 Min Read
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is encouraged by recent progress Ethiopia and Eritrea have made towards resolving their longstanding differences, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.

The two African countries waged a border war from 1998-2000 that killed tens of thousands of people. Disputes over the still-militarised frontier, in particular the town of Badme, have kept the two sides at loggerheads.
On Wednesday, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki raised hopes of a breakthrough in the conflict by describing recent peace overtures from Ethiopia as “positive signals.”
He was responding to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s pledge earlier this month to honour all the terms of a 2000 peace deal, which would include ceding Badme to Eritrea.
Isaias said he was sending a delegation to Addis Ababa to understand Abiy’s position and “chart out a plan.”

Isaias and Abiy “have demonstrated courageous leadership by taking these steps towards peace,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The United States looks forward to a full normalization of relations and the realization of our shared aspirations for both countries to enjoy enduring peace and development,” it said.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Leslie Adler
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Ethiopian army patrol drives within Badme on 8 June 2018 (Photo Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)

June 21, 2018 (ADDIS ABABA) - An Ethiopian official from the border region of Tigray welcomed the decision of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw troops from Badme town in line with Algeria peace agreement signed with Eritrea in 2000.

According to official Ethiopia News Agency (ENA), Debretsion GebreMichael, the Tigray deputy chief administrator, said the Abiy’s decision to "fully implement the Algiers’ Agreement is an icebreaker in the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea".

"The conflict had seriously affected the development of the border areas as well as the countries hindering the possibility of a joint development program which could have been of mutual benefit for the peoples of the two countries," he added.

Debretsion’s statement comes after statements by President Isaias Afewerki welcoming the move of the new Ethiopian prime minister and announced he would send a delegation to Addis Ababa to discuss its implementation

However, he warned against statements by what he described as "TPLF clique, and other vultures" saying they would seek to obstruct any positive change in the relations between the two countries.

Badme is the home of 15,000 people out of nearly 4.3 million Ethiopian in the Tigray’s drylands.

Reports from the border area say local residents are hostile to the government decision and consider it as a betrayal by Addis Ababa.

Some residents told Reuters that they would not remain idle and threatened to vague violence.

“We have no issues over reconciling with our Eritrean brothers. But we will not leave Badme. We do not want peace by giving away this land after all the sacrifice,” Teklit Girmay, a local government official told Reuters.

Also, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which is part of Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF issued a statement expressing their opposition to withdrawal from Badme.

"The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front will not take part in any process that harms the interests of the people of Tigray," said the statement.



US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

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The United States is set to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, with the US ambassador to the UN calling the organisation a "protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias".

Ambassador Nikki Haley said the withdrawal was not a retreat from the US's commitment to human rights, but called the 47-member, international council “an organisation that is not worthy of its name".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the decision "regrettable" but said the UK was "here to stay".
The US has long called for the body to reform, saying it allows members that have been accused human rights violations. Ms Haley pointed to the involvement of countries like China, Cuba and Venezuela in her speech on Tuesday.
“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” Ms Haley said.

Ms Haley also accused the council of maintaining a “disproportionate focus and unending hostility towards Israel" that shows it is "motivated by political bias, not by human rights".

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief, called the announcement "disappointing, if not really surprising".

"Given the state of human rights in today's world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back," he said in a statement.

Washington's withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was signed with a number of other world powers.

It also comes as the US faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border. Mr al-Hussein has called on Washington to halt the “unconscionable” policy.

Diplomats have said the US's withdrawal from the council could bolster countries such as Cuba, Russia, Egypt and Pakistan, which resist what they see as UN interference in sovereign issues.

Ms Haley, announcing the withdrawal at the State Department alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said that if the council does reform, the United States “would be happy to rejoin.” 

Twelve rights and aids groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, wrote to Mr Pompeo to warn the withdrawal would “make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world".

“The US's absence will only compound the council's weaknesses,” they wrote.

A State Department official told The Independent that the US “wants a Human Rights Council that fulfils its purpose as the premier international focal point for human rights issues". Now, it appears to mean the US will advocate for that outside of the group rather from within. 

The official said that “at its best” the council compels violators to act towards “positive action,” however they noted that ” all too frequently, it fails to address critical situations for political reasons – and undermines its own credibility”. 

Read more

The human rights body was formed in 2006, but was shunned by the administration of President George W Bush. In 2009, President Barack Obama reversed that decision after taking office.

The council’s critical stance of Israel has long been a contentious issue for the US, Israel’s main ally. Ms Haley had said last year that Israel is the “only country permanently on the body’s calendar," referring to an item that looks at suspected violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. Washington had called for it to be removed.

Ms Haley also called for the council to vote on resolutions against Venezuela, Syria, Eritrea, Belarus, Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The United Nations General Assembly votes 128-9 to declare the United States' Jerusalem capital recognition 'null and void'

The relationship between the Trump administration and the UN has appeared fractious for much of the US president's time in office. In December the US officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting a vote of 128-9 in the general body to declare the unilateral decision “null and void”. Last month, the council voted to probe killings in Gaza and accused Israel of using excessive force in dealing with protests on the border. The United States and Australia cast the only “no” votes. 

The US has also sought to withdraw from the UN Scientific, Educational, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), citing anti-Israel bias. 

Anjali Dayal, an international security professor at Fordham University, previously told The Independent that although the move is not a surprise, the US is not without “valid criticisms” of the body. There are “human rights abusers with seats on the Council,” Ms Dayal explained.

But, Ms Dayal argued the issue was “not an unknown” drawback of the council. Ms Haley knew this was a problem coming into office since activists, observer groups, and smaller nations have complained about differing regional processes that have allowed it to happen for years. But the US “will have to be in the room” in order to make any significant change to the council, she said.

A sitting member of the Council has never dropped out in its 12-year history, though Libya was kicked out after a vote from the General Assembly in 2011.


Eritrea sending delegation to Ethiopia: diplomat

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  • tagreuters.com2018binary_LYNXMPEE5J0CU-VIEWIMAGE

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is dispatching a delegation to Addis Ababa for “constructive engagement” with Ethiopia after peace overtures from its new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a senior Eritrean diplomat said on Wednesday.

Eritrean ambassador to Japan Estifanos Afeworki said on Twitter that Isais had made the announcement on Wednesday of the potentially significant break-through in one of Africa’s most protracted conflicts. He gave no further details.

This news has been confirmed by BBC Tigrinya service


Amnesty International

18 June 2018

Between 2015 and March 2018, Israel deported some 1,700 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers to Uganda.

Upon arrival in Uganda, deportees find a shambolic reception, which leaves them without papers, without protection and without sustainable resources.

This pushes many to continue their journeys to other African countries or to Europe.

This report argues that Israel’s deportations to Uganda violate Israel’s obligations under international law.

Israel’s deportation policy is a way to abdicate its responsibility towards the refugees and asylum-seekers under its jurisdiction and shift it to less wealthy countries with bigger refugee populations.

This report argues that Israel’s deportations to Uganda violate Israel’s obligations under international law.

Israel’s deportation policy is a way to abdicate its responsibility towards the refugees and asylum-seekers under its jurisdiction and shift it to less wealthy countries with bigger refugee populations.

Full Report:

Israel deporations of refugees AMNESTY


In January 2018, the Israeli government launched a new Procedure for Deportation to Third Countries, under which Sudanese and Eritrean single men who had not applied for asylum by the end of 2017 (or whose request was denied) would be deported to a “third country” in Africa. According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the measure was the third stage of Israel’s policy towards “infiltrators”, the term used in Israeli law to describe irregular migrants.

The first stage (2006-2012) consisted of physically blocking their entry with a tall razor-wire fence along the border with Egypt; and the second stage (2013-2017) involved transferring them to their country or origin or a “third country” on a “voluntary” basis.

In April 2018, the Israeli government admitted that the “third country”, Rwanda, had refused to accept deportations and announced the end of its deportation policy and a new solutions agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), involving some 33,000 people.

Less than 24 hours later, however, the government cancelled the agreement with UNHCR, before rushing to reassure the Supreme Court that a deportation deal with a second “third country” (Uganda) was still valid. Despite these reassurances, the government was unable to show the Court a written deal with an African country accepting deportations. On 15 April, the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of the deportation plan and the release of all Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers detained awaiting deportation.

At the time of writing, the deportations to African third countries are suspended. However, Israel and Uganda are still negotiating a possible agreement for the transfer of Sudanese and Eritrean nationals. Crucially, the “voluntary” transfers, which Israel has been carrying out since 2013, continue.

This report argues that, no matter the language used by the Israeli government, the transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to Uganda are not truly voluntary: they are not based on the free and informed consent of the individual concerned. Up to April 2018, the Israeli authorities used indefinite detention (or its threat) as the main tool to effectively force Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to leave Israel (chapter 2).

Several other measures and factors have made their lives very difficult:

▪ First, the Israeli asylum system is dysfunctional and unfair. As a result, the chances of finding protection in Israel are effectively close to zero. Despite the government’s claim that Eritrean and Sudanese nationals in Israel are economic migrants, most of them seek protection from persecution and other serious human rights violations. Israel’s asylum system creates obstacles to submitting asylum claims; handles them excruciatingly slowly; or rejects them after an unfair and deeply flawed process (chapter 1).

▪ Second, the refusal of the Israeli authorities to officially name the countries the deportees are sent to – and the failure to keep promises as to the treatment they will receive upon arrival – speak volumes as to the scant and misleading information the deportees are provided before leaving Israel (chapter 3).

▪ Third, racist and xenophobic discourse by government officials also weigh heavily on asylum-seekers’ decision to leave (chapter 4).

No consent for “voluntary” transfers can be free and genuine under these conditions.

As the transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to Uganda are forcible, even when the deportee signs consent papers, they must comply with the international law obligation of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from transferring anyone to a country where they would be at real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations or abuses, or to a country where they would not be protected against such transfer.

This report argues that the deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers from Israel violate the international law obligation of non-refoulement and the international law prohibition of discrimination.

Amnesty International urges the government of Israel to immediately halt all transfers of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to “third countries” or their countries of origin, whether forcible or “voluntary”; and assume its fair share of the common responsibility for the world’s refugees, starting with the refugees and asylum-seekers already on its territory or under its jurisdiction.1 The organization also urges the government of Uganda to refuse any form of cooperation with Israel to carry out unlawful deportations, including by refusing to accept the deportees into their territory.


June 13, 2018 @ 05:13 PM 2,995

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At the end of May 2018, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, a group of UK Parliamentarians from across both houses of Parliament, held a session at the UK Parliament to examine the ongoing religious persecution in Eritrea. The meeting was entitled ‘Religious persecution in Eritrea: A crime against humanity’ and was co-organised with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (another cross-party group consisting of over 110 UK Parliamentarians) with the support of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors UK and Aid to the Church in Need. It was chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool who, over the years, has been a vociferous advocate for international religious freedom. During the event, religious leaders representing the Evangelical Protestants, Muslims and the Orthodox Coptic Christians, spoke of the challenges faced by their respective religious communities in Eritrea. Lord Alton speaking on the religious persecution in Eritrea, described Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa. Lord Alton raised the fact that the UK government appears to downplay the atrocities perpetrated against religious groups in Eritrea in order to ‘normalise relations’ with the Eritrean government. He claims that crimes against humanity are being perpetrated in Eritrea, yet the world continues to look the other way. 

The session coincided with a debate in the House of Commons (the so-called Westminster Hall debate) organised by Chris Philp MP, focused on the persecution of Christians worldwide. The debate raised the issue of religious persecution of Christians in Eritrea and, in particular, the case of 33 Christian women who were imprisoned for taking part in a prayer. Both events helped to shed light on the fact that not only is the religious liberty of Eritrea threatened, there is a strong argument that it does not exist in the first place (not in accordance to international standards). Religious persecution in Eritrea affects several religious groups, including the Jehovah’s Witness and Muslim communities. These communities were the first religious groups to experience such challenges in Eritrea before other religious groups came under threat. 

Indeed, Eritrean law incorporates very few protections on religious freedom. Theoretically, the Eritrean constitution provides for a protection for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Yet, despite the fact that the Constitution was ratified in 1997, it has yet to be implemented. More worryingly, it looks unlikely to be implemented since President Afwerki announced plans to draft a new constitution in 2014, rather than to implement the existing one. As a result, religious freedom does not have any effective protection under the Eritrean law. The fact that the constitution has not been implemented detrimentally also affects the protection of other fundamental human rights.

The question is then, is Lord Alton correct to claim that the religious persecution in Eritrea amounts to crimes against humanity? In short, certainly yes. He is certainly not the only one to have reached such a conclusion. In fact, in 2016, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (the CoI-E)">stated that there were reasonable grounds to conclude that crimes against humanity were being perpetrated in Eritrea. For this reason, the CoI recommended that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. In July, the CoI-E recommended that ‘an accountability mechanism to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals accused of committing crimes against humanity in Eritrea, including engaging in torture and overseeing Eritrea’s indefinite military service, which the CoI-E equated to slavery’ be implemented by the African Union.

Eritrea is a religiously diverse country and the government encourages a multi faith tradition, so long as the religion is officially recognised. The problem lies in the fact that the Eritrean government recognises only four religious groups: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. Other religious groups are subject to registration. Any religious group that is not registered is not allowed to conduct any religious activities until such time as the registration is granted. Having said that, according to Pew Research Centre, ‘the Eritrean government has not approved registration for any additional religious group since 2002.

The result of the requirement to register religions is that certain religious factions become effectively outlawed. Evangelical and Pentecostal religious groups are two such examples of religions which were effectively outlawed after the introduction in 2002 registration requirement. Groups practicing these religions face the risk of arrest followed by indefinite detention without charge or any chance of redress, as well as the physical and psychological violence often experienced in detention.

In its 2017 report, USCIRF found that

"Systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations include torture or other ill treatment of religious prisoners, arbitrary arrests and detentions without charges, a prolonged ban on public religious activities of unregistered religious groups, and interference in the internal affairs of registered religious groups.

According to USCIRF, religious prisoners are routinely detained in the harshest of prison environments where they are subjected to cruel punishments. The report further states that

"Released religious prisoners have reported that they were kept in solitary confinement or crowded conditions, such as in 20-foot metal shipping containers or underground barracks and subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations.


USCIRF identified that the situation is particularly severe in the case of unregistered Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

As a result of these challenges, USCIRF indicated that Eritrea meets the requirements for a country of particular concern (CPC) designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. Indeed, the religious persecution in Eritrea is of concern and needs to be addressed urgently. As long as the Eritrean government is willing to engage in a constructive dialogue with the UN and individual states, there is some hope that the dire situation of persecuted religious groups will change. However, if that dialogue fails, Eritrea may well deserve the designation of being the North Korea of Africa.

Ewelina U. Ochab is a human rights advocate and author of the book “Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East.”



Houthi rebels fire a machine gun outside HudaydahHouhouthi

Houthi rebels are trying to hold the port city against government forces, backed by Saudi Arabia

Military sources here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have told the BBC that a major force of Yemeni, UAE and Sudanese troops is on standby in Eritrea to take part in a final push to retake Hudaydah port from Houthi rebels.

The military campaign to drive out the Iranian-backed rebel militia from the key Red Sea port is being directed, funded and led by the UAE.

Officials here have responded to international objections to the campaign by emphasising that Hudaydah port remains open and that maintaining the flow of aid is a top priority.

Over the last two days a ground force of three Yemeni brigades has been advancing northwards towards the outskirts of the city, supported by UAE air strikes and helicopter gunships.

"They have punched through the green zone (of fertile land) relatively quickly to reach the gates of the airport" an unnamed spokesman said on Friday.

He added that the Houthis had laid multiple mines along the coastal strip as well as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that he said bore similarities to Iranian and Hezbollah devices used in Iraq and Lebanon.

Emirati soldiers flying over the Yemeni desert in a Chinook September 2015 Image copyright Reuters Image caption Emirati soldiers flying over the Yemeni desert

Around two thirds of Yemen's much-needed aid arrives through the rebel-held city and there have been international calls to halt the military operation for fear of disrupting the flow of aid.

But UAE officials say the delivery of humanitarian aid has always been an integral part of their planning which began two years ago. On Thursday they announced a 5-point plan to keep aid flowing in despite the military campaign.

Hudaydah has been in rebel hands for the last three years and the UAE believes it provides the Houthis with up to $40 million (£30m) a month in revenues.

The UAE also accuses the rebels of smuggling in arms from Iran, including ballistic missile parts, which both Iran and the Houthis deny. A UN report found that some weaponry had been supplied by Iran but could not determine when.

The coalition believes that if it can deprive the Houthis of these funds then they will quickly capitulate and negotiate a peace deal that ends Yemen's disastrous civil war.

But previous estimates of Houthi weakness have been misplaced and after more than three years of war the rebels still control most of the heavily populated areas in Yemen.

Map showing control of Yemen (13 June 2018)

UAE military sources also said they had been deploying a deception plan with more actions to come. They said this had involved luring the Houthis into believing they were being attacked from the sea to the north of the city when in fact the coalition ground force was advancing up from the south.

But this has come at a cost. They said an anti-ship missile fired by the Houthis at a cluster of UAE naval vessels 24 nautical miles offshore killed 4 Emirati navy personnel.

Meanwhile on the UAE-leased base in Eritrea a "significant" force of UAE F16 and other military aircraft is poised to carry out more air strikes.

A Yemeni man inspecting air strike damage Image copyright EPA Image caption Air strikes have killed thousands in Houthi-held areas of Yemen

The UAE spokesman said "you are not going to see a Mosul situation where air power will flatten whole city blocks".

Yet air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have already caused high casualties in Yemen while failing to dislodge the Houthis from most major cities.

On Friday the CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), David Miliband, told the BBC that out of 100,000 air strikes over the last 3 years, around 4,500 had hit civilians.