East Africa: News - UNHCR Condemns Forced Return of Three Refugees From Djibouti to Addis Abeba

A map showing the location of Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Addis Abeba — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concerns over the reports of three individuals who were returned from Djibouti to Addis Ababa last week. The Ethiopian federal police commission said that the three individuals were members of TPLF who were apprehended by the Djibouti government. After the news was made public on May 31, 2021, the UN refugee agency announced that UNHCR raised its concerns with the Djiboutian authorities about the 'breach of international law, and about the safety and security of the individuals.'

The UNHCR identified two of the individuals as recognized Ethiopian refugees in Djibouti. However, the federal police commission claimed that Habtom Gebre Selassie,Mesele Tamene and Colonel Mohammed Berihu are fugitive members of the TPLF. The investigative bureau at the federal police commission said that it will open an investigation against the individuals.

In its statement the UNHCR said, "Asylum-seekers and refugees, no matter where they are or where they are from, should never be returned to a situation in which they could face serious harm, such as persecution, torture or inhumane or degrading treatment." The agency expressed disappointment in the treatment of the refugees by the Djibouti government. Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR's Regional Director for the East, Horn of Africa and Great Lakes called on the Djibouti authorities to uphold their international obligations in relation to asylum.

One of the hallmarks of the international refugee laws is the principle of non-refoulment which guarantees that no one should be returned to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm. Djibouti hosts over 12,000 Ethiopian registered refugees and asylum-seekers, out of which 300 are of Tigrayan background. AS

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