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 Hub.com
A copy is sent to the Nobel Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Church Aid and the Norwegian press.
Finn Våge ,
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.
Senior Adviser / Section for Horn of Africa and West Africa / Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oslo, Norway