Yemen orders arrest of colonel who oversaw notorious detainee center

African migrants lay on the ground under a tarpaulin at a makeshift shelter in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. (AFP/file)
Updated 19 April 2018

Yemen orders arrest of colonel who oversaw notorious detainee center

  • The former director of the African refugee center is accused of human rights violations and rape of African migrants
  • More than 87,000 people arrived in Yemen from the Horn of Africa in 2017 alone — UNHCR

ADEN: Yemen’s interior minister on Thursday ordered the “immediate arrest” of an Aden-based colonel, citing allegations of rape against African detainees that occurred under his watch.

Interior Minister Ahmed Al-Misri “directed the relevant security services to immediately arrest Col. Khalid Al-Alwani, the former director of the African refugee center, and refer him for investigation over human rights violations and cases of rape against African migrants,” a statement on the ministry’s website said.

Al-Alwani was suspended from his role overseeing the Buraika migrant detention center in mid-March but continued to serve as a police chief for the Mualla district in the southern port of Aden.

The ministry said it had already pledged to carry out a full investigation and take legal action against those found guilty of abuses “regardless of whether they are members of the ministry.”

Human Rights Watch published a report on Wednesday saying Yemeni government employees had “tortured, raped, and executed” migrants and asylum seekers at the Buraika migrant detention facility in Aden. Migrants held at the facility — in use since early 2017 — were denied refugee protection and often deported en masse into rough seas, the watchdog said.

The UN refugee agency published a parallel report corroborating the findings and calling for “unfettered access” to detainees.

Last year, more than 87,000 people arrived in Yemen from the Horn of Africa, according to the UNHCR.

Yemen’s government is based in Aden, having been driven out of Sanaa by Houthi rebels who overran the capital in 2014.

Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed in Yemen’s conflict, which has unleashed what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

Updated 19 October 2018

EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

BRUSSELS: European Union and Arab leaders will meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling, officials said Thursday.
European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other North African countries to curb illegal migration.
“The European Council welcomes the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU Member States and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019,” the council of EU leaders said after a summit in Brussels.
The Cairo-based Arab League includes North African countries Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as those in the Middle East and Gulf.
EU officials insisted the summit was about more than just migration, but part of a broader push to build closer ties with Africa outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September.
“It is now much more than about migration and fighting traffickers,” an EU official told reporters.
Juncker urged the EU to strike a “new alliance” with Africa that would create millions of jobs and include a free trade deal.
The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, hopes the strategy will both showcase its international influence and help stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
The EU also wants to boost development in sub-Saharan Africa to ease the poverty that often drives migration.
Brussels has previously struck cooperation deals with both Turkey and Libya, whose coast guard officers are trained by the Europeans to stop migrant sea crossings — despite concerns about conditions in Libyan detention centers.
The deals with the two gateway countries have helped to cut migration to Europe sharply since a 2015 peak, but the bloc wants to expand work with all north African countries.
The leaders called for “strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa,” according to the summit’s published conclusions.
“Work with third countries on investigating, apprehending and prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should be intensified,” it said.
EU officials say Egypt has set a high bar in fighting traffickers and smugglers, which could be emulated by other North African countries.
The EU is increasingly focused on bolstering its external borders amid longstanding divisions over redistributing asylum-seekers who make it to Italian and other European shores.
But it is still confronted with the refusal of Hungary and other former communist eastern countries to admit migrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
And Italy’s populist government has this year turned away migrant rescue ships in a bid to force fellow EU countries to share responsibility for them.
The United Nations refugee and migration agencies, the UNHCR and IOM, had this week urged EU leaders to take steps to ensure responsiblities are shared.
They said the debate was so “dangerously toxic” in some countries that it was harder to find common solutions.
Even though fewer people were arriving in Europe, the two agencies said, the rate of people dying in the Mediterranean was increasing. More than 1,700 lives have been lost since January.