Egypt says it defends treatment of Ethiopian refugees

ESAT News (April 6, 2016)

Egyptian officials said they will defend the rights of the thousands of Ethiopian refugees in that country, according to a report by the Al-Monitor newspaper. The statement from Egypt came after Ethiopian officials accused Cairo of supporting Ethiopian opposition groups.

Ethiopian officials’ accusation came after the Oromo Media Network, an opposition media, held its two years anniversary in Cairo last month. Ethiopian officials accused Cairo of being behind the event.

An Egyptian government official who coordinates African affairs and spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said, “The Egyptian authorities have nothing to do with the ceremony.”

He explained, “A group of Ethiopian activists applied for a security approval for the ceremony, which they obtained, similarly to any other foreign communities wishing to hold activities in Cairo.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) fact sheet issued in February said that 6,916 Ethiopian asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR in Cairo.

“Most of the Ethiopians who are registered with the UNHCR are of the Oromo people, whose registration rate has been constant since 2015,” Marwa Hashem, assistant public information officer for the UNHCR in Cairo, told Al-Monitor.

Ahmad Badawi, head of the Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Support, told Al-Monitor, “Egypt is committed to its international obligations not to reject asylum seekers when they do not oppose national security, even those who enter illegally.”

The Egyptian government does not provide any special advantages to Ethiopian refugees without providing the same to other foreign nationals, he said. UNHCR is in charge of providing services to all refugees.

The Egyptian political administration has said that, while it seeks to build trust and goodwill, its open-door policy for Oromo refugees is part of an international commitment to the refugees’ case and should not be perceived as an attempt to exploit any internal conflicts to weaken the Ethiopian state, according to the report by Al-Monitor.