Norway: “Ethiopian government has postponed closure of Hitsat refugee camp”

A Norwegian supporter of Eritrea, the campaigner Finn Våge, has been in contact with the government of Norway about the situation of the refugees in Hitsat camp, which has been covered regularly in this blog.

Here is his letter, followed by the Norwegian government’s reply.

Eritrean Committee 27. 03 2020

To the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Development

Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed exposes refugees to major coronary danger and will deprive Eritrean refugee status. We ask our government to evaluate this on the basis of annual aid of more than NOK 500 million to Ethiopia.

1) Abiy Ahmed’s government is considering no longer registering newly arrived Eritrean refugees to Ethiopia and has deprived them of the right to apply for refugee status in violation of the Refugee Convention.

2) Hitsat’s refugee camp will be closed and 11,000 refugees – many young people and children without growing up to care for them, will be moved to another camp that lacks infrastructure and is already crowded.
We remember that the Crown Prince couple recently visited the camp and that the Norwegian Refugee Council, with state aid, has invested considerable resources in, among other things. house building in the Hitsats camp. These are wasted Norwegian funds.

3) In a time of great coronary danger, a move to an already crowded camp will expose 18,000 Eritrean refugees to a high risk of being infected by the COVID-19 virus with the most serious consequences.

4) The Eritrean Committee will also remind the government that the reason why Ethiopia and Norway continue to have Eritrean refugees is that the human rights situation in Eritrea is not improved despite the promises of 18 months. military service and peace with Ethiopia.

The Eritreans have been trying for 20 years to have a dignified life – something that the totalitarian dictatorship still will not give them. The Eritreans therefore escape from a culture of fear without hope for the future. The push factors are the Sawa school, modern slavery in the national service indefinitely, imprisonment without judgment etc. So it is NOT the so-called pull factor – stay in the US / Europe, as the cause of the escape as the regime still maintains – unfortunately still with some Norwegian politicians.

We ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Aid to verify these claims and take the necessary measures.
More information about the case is attached below in a letter from Eritrea Focus. Source: Eritrean

A copy is sent to the Nobel Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Church Aid and the Norwegian press.

Finn Våge ,

Leader Eritreakomiteen

Ministry of Foreign Affairs    Oslo, Norway

Mandag 30. mars 2020 12:28


To Finn Våge,

Subject: Peace Prize Winners attack the rights of refugees and expose them to corona danger.

Thank you for a letter to our two ministers received on March 30 asking you to confirm measures by Ethiopian authorities towards Eritrean refugees.

Ethiopia is an important partner country for Norway, and we have good dialogue with the Ethiopian authorities in the refugee and migration area as well. The Norwegian embassy in Addis Ababa recently visited Shire, near the border with Eritrea, and held meetings with representatives of the UN and the Refugee Council. In addition, the embassy maintains on-going  contact with relevant Ethiopian authorities.

The long-term goal of Ethiopia’s refugee policy is for refugees to be integrated into communities rather than residing in camps. The closure of Hitsat’s refugee camp is in line with this policy. It is crucial that refugees are guaranteed access to basic services, including health services. In today’s situation, where the corona virus is spreading in Ethiopia, the authorities have chosen to postpone the closure of Hitsat for the time being. In our dialogue with the authorities, we have emphasized that the closure of the camp must not lead to increased vulnerability for the refugees residing there. The letter addresses the refugee status of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Earlier, Ethiopia has granted “prima facie” refugee status to all asylum seekers who have arrived from Eritrea. The authorities have now decided that an individual assessment of each case should instead be made. This does not mean that Eritreans will not be granted refugee status in Ethiopia, but it does require Ethiopian authorities to establish good procedures for asylum cases, including complaints.

Although peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia is an important step forward, improving the situation for Eritreans will depend on Eritrea’s political and economic development. Norway continues to promote this message in various forums that meet with like Eritrean authorities, diaspora, civil society, multilateral organizations and through the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Vennlig hilsen


Merete Dyrud

Senior Adviser  / Section for Horn of Africa and West Africa / Ministry of Foreign Affairs    Oslo, Norway




  1. As an Eritrean refugee in Ethiopia,I may add something.As far as I know seeking asylum is a basic human right,everyone has has a right to seek asylum in any country from persecutio.
    But haven’t Eritrean refugees the right to enjoy the human right enshrined by the UN?
    What can be the worst violation of human right than threatening refugees to leave the camp leaving their belongings behind but a bag?
    Ethiopia has been given refugee status to Eritrean refugees and also to most Ethiopians as well.And these Ethiopians being granted the refugee status who claims to be Eritrean refugees are the pain in the ass for us and also the main beneficiaries of any services by the UN.
    As an Eritrean refugee,I’d rather go back and battling the totalitarian dictatorship in my country than to be integrated into the Ethipian community.
    I didn’t come to Ethipia seeking Citizenship as most my fellow Eritrean refugees but to escape barbaric regiem.
    Finally, I’d like thank you for your concern about us.

  2. Thank you for your concern towards us.

    If this camp is going to be closed I can’t imagine how crowd will the other camps will be. How unhealthy environment is going to be created. How much under age mishandling will be. How much ill health youngsters will be produced which will be source of social pollution.
    Currently it may be insensible for some of us who are doing only our business thinking it will not come to us.
    Though I can’t imagine the percent but I am sure that there will be production of youngsters who are a threat to humans .

  3. Well it is a good step for the moment,,it will decrease the exposure of the refugees to corona virus, , , but the excuses given by the govnt was not genuine. cause, the refugees was told to move to the already over crowded refugee camps which obviously not aimed as said, to integrate them in to the communities, , , ,thus this short term relief for the refugees needs to be sustained in any possible means for the sake of the refugees, , . , atlast if any decision is to be made regarding the fate of the refugees, it shouldnt be done by force, , , it needs the conscent and will of the refugees, , ,

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