• The European Commissioner for Home Affairs has denied being aware of human rights abuses and so-called “desert dumps” carried out in the EU’s migration partner countries in North Africa.
  • Human rights organisations have written to the European Commission President to ensure that Egypt upholds its human rights obligations, and a report by Amnesty International has revealed the forced return of approximately 800 Sudanese refugees.
  • A video by Sea Watch International has shown pullbacks and the mistreatment of migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard in the Mediterranean.
  • An unpublished UN briefing has suggested that Tunisian authorities have rounded up migrants and deported them to Libya where they have been tortured and killed by the latter’s authorities.
  • A report by the Border Forensics agency has revealed the involvement of Moroccan and Spanish Authorities in the migrant deaths that occurred at the Barrio Chino border crossing into Melilla in June 2022.

The European Commission (EC) has denied any wrongdoing following reports that EU funds were allocated to authorities who committed abuses against black migrants in Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania. On 12 June, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, told reporters in Brussels: “We hear reports on things that is not related to our cooperation with the third countries, we hear reports that are worrying”. Her  statement was issued in response to a Lighthouse Reports investigation, which was published in May 2024 and which revealed that the EU was aware of human rights abuses against sub-Saharan African migrants in North Africa, and so-called “desert dumps” by EU-funded migration partners. Johansson insisted that fundamental rights were at the heart of how the EU spent its external assistance budget. “We have not seen any shortcomings in this implementation,” she said. In an X post in which she described the EU’s migration deals as “darkest hypocrisy”, Tineke Strik MEP wrote: “This is where the EU’s migration deals lead to: paying autocrats to dump people in the desert, leave them to die. Instead of promoting European values, Commission and EU leaders knowingly kill human lives and human rights”.

According to EUobserver, a group of human rights organisations have written to EC President Ursula von der Leyen to urge her to ensure that (EU migration partner) Egypt respects its human rights obligations. The signatories, who include Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have called for a “roadmap for structural reforms, with public, clear, specific and time-bound indicators, targets and benchmarks for Egypt to meet its human rights obligations”. “Failing to set human rights benchmarks would instead be a blank check for further abuses and repression in Egypt,” they wrote. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, Egyptian authorities have been forcibly deporting Sudanese refugees to their home country. The report documents an estimated 800 forced returns of Sudanese detainees between January and March 2024. Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Communications in the Middle East and North Africa, Sara Hashash, said: “It is unfathomable that Sudanese women, men and children fleeing the armed conflict in their country and seeking safety across the border into Egypt, are being rounded up in masses and arbitrarily detained in deplorable and inhumane conditions before being unlawfully deported”. Hussein Baoumi from ECRE member organisation the Amnesty International European Institutions Office added: “The message behind these externalisation policies is clear: If you keep migrants out we’ll pay you hundreds of millions or even billions”.

In Libya, a new video published by the search and rescue NGO Sea Watch International has showed the Libyan Coast Guard continuing to mistreat migrants. In the video, which was captured by Sea Watch International’s Seabird monitoring aircraft, Libyan Coast Guard personnel are seen using clubs to attack a group of migrants who had been rescued by the Maridive merchant ship. In a radio exchange between the Seabird and the Maridive, the captain of the merchant ship is heard saying, “I can’t refuse this because they will arrest me and my crew. (…) I am sorry my hands are not free from this”. Sea Watch International X posted: “These pullbacks are illegal under international and Italian national law. Europe lectures about democracy and human rights but funds this violent behaviour against people on the move (…)”.

A confidential United Nations (UN) human rights briefing seen by Reuters has revealed that Tunisian border guards have rounded up migrants and handed them over to their counterparts in Libya, where they have faced forced labour, extortion, torture and killing. According to the briefing, the migrants are held for periods ranging from a few days to several weeks before being transferred to the Bir al-Ghanam detention centre, which is run by the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) and the Libyan Coast Guard. The briefing’s authors also claim that the DCIM had continuously denied UN officials access to the detention sites. “Collective expulsions from Tunisia to Libya and the associated arbitrary detention of migrants are fuelling extortion rackets and cycles of abuse, which are already widespread human rights issues in Libya,” they wrote. According to Tarek Lamloum, a Libyan human rights expert who interviewed more than 30 of the migrants involved, said that the transfers had been taking place “as recently as early May” and that approximately 2,000 migrants who had been detained in Tunisia had been passed on to Libyan authorities since the start of 2024.

A new report by the Border Forensics agency has revealed that both Moroccan and Spanish authorities were involved in the death of migrants at the border between the two countries in June 2022. According to Border Forensics, migrants were reportedly directed to the Barrio Chino border crossing between Morocco and the autonomous Spanish city of Melilla where they were violently repressed by Moroccan and Spanish law enforcement officers. The report gives a detailed account of the tragedy in which 23 migrants died while attempting to scale the border fence into Melilla. The authors claim that “the many dead and missing during the massacre of 24 June 2022 were no accident”. According to one of the survivors: “The Moroccans knew how we were moving and when we were moving. They wanted to direct us towards the border fence where we had no way to escape. That was exactly what they needed, in order to make a larger number of murders. They were preparing the trap. We also spoke with them the days before the massacre and they gave us no alternative but to move from the mountains to their trap”. Border Forensics has used the publication of the report on the second anniversary of the Melilla tragedy to call for a “fundamental reorientation of European migration policies”.

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