Ethiopia’s refugees unsafe in Kenya and elsewhere: Human Rights Watch

ESAT News (September 21, 2017)

Human Rights Watch said it has documented numerous cases of harassment and threats against Ethiopian asylum seekers in Kenya and elsewhere since 2010.

Horn of Africa senior researcher for the watchdog group, Felix Horne, wrote in a report titled “The Long Arm of Ethiopia Reaches for Those Who Fled,” that Ethiopian asylum seekers were “assaulted, detained, and interrogated before Ethiopian officials in Nairobi, and forced to return to Ethiopia. Many also received threatening phone calls and text messages from Kenyan and Ethiopian phone numbers.”

“In private, some Kenyan police told us that Ethiopian Embassy officials in Nairobi have offered them cash to arrest Ethiopians. Ethiopian refugees said Ethiopian officials tried to recruit them to inform on others, promising land, protection, money, and resettlement to the US or elsewhere.”

Horne writes that the threats against Ethiopian asylum seekers is not limited to Kenya and his organization “has documented abductions of Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers from Uganda, Sudan, Djibouti, and elsewhere. Community leaders, social media activists, opposition politicians, and refugee protection workers have been harassed in other countries.”

Even Ethiopians with foreign citizenship are not spared from the long arm of the TPLF, according to Horne. “High-profile opposition figures with foreign citizenship have also been handed to Ethiopian authorities without a legal process, including a British citizen detained in Yemen [Andargachew Tsege], a Norwegian citizen in South Sudan [Okelo Akway], and a Somali national [Abdikarin Sheik Muse] handed over last month by Somalia’s government.”

Horne said staff of HRW recently spoke to Ethiopian asylum seekers in somaliland who described “harassment from Ethiopian embassy officials and indifference from the UN refugee agency.”

“All this creates a climate of fear and mistrust amongst Ethiopian refugees, preventing them from living normal lives, going to working or even applying for asylum.”

The Human Rights Watch called on The UN refugee agency and host countries to “work harder to ensure Ethiopians fleeing torture and persecution can safely access asylum processes and be safe from the long reach of Ethiopian officials.”