Ethiopia threatens hundreds of Eritrean refugees with enforced return to Eritrea
(London 11/12/2020) Arbi Harnet (Freedom Friday) has received disturbing information from Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia.
The news relates to around 300 Eritrean refugees who fled the fighting in Tigray.
Some were working in various capacities in Tigray region and some are from the refugee camps that are home to thousands of Eritrean refugees.
Once in Addis they were detained at the offices of International Organisation for Migration in the area of Bole in Addis and have been threatened with forced return to Eritrea.
The process is presented as voluntary return and they are being held in the voluntary return registration centre of IOM.
In a message smuggled out of the centre the refugees have asked for help in stopping this injustice that is about to be perpetrated against them. They asked for pressure on IOM to not be complicit to this crime of returning them to the brutal regime they had fled from.
Many in the group had arrived in Tigray in the last couple of years and some have been taking advantage of the opportunity to work and settle in the region and live outside the refugee camps.
If returned to Eritrea they will be considered absconders from the national service and be punished for that and the circumstances under which they fled.
In addition, under the current circumstances of active war with Tigray that Eritrea is participating in together with the Federal government of Ethiopia, they might even be considered as agents and collaborators as they had been living and working in Tigray.
Arbi harnet believes that this return that is being orchestrated by the Federal Government of Ethiopia is against the principle of “non-refoulement” which prohibits States from transferring or removing individuals from their jurisdiction when there are grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return, including persecution, torture, ill treatment or other serious human rights violations.
The Group calls for UNHCR to intervene and protect the refugees in accordance to the refugee convention and prevent their return to a certain ill-treatment in Eritrea.
IOM should also be aware that none of the refugees have consented to this return and thus their return is a contravention of their stated objectives.