UN experts urge Ethiopia to halt mass deportation of Eritreans
13 July 2023
GENEVA (13 July 2023) – UN experts today* condemned Ethiopia's summary expulsion of hundreds of Eritreans at the end of June. They called on the authorities to immediately halt any further deportations and put an end to the continuing reports of arbitrary detention of Eritrean refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.
“Collective expulsions are prohibited under international law,” the experts said. “Deporting migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers without conducting an individual and objective risk assessment of their exposure to human rights violations, including torture and enforced disappearance, upon return is refoulement.”
The non-refoulement principle, enshrined in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other international human rights treaties and legal instruments, applies to all forms of expulsion, regardless of nationality or migration status, they said.
“Several cases of family separation have been reported following the mass deportations, with parents forced back to Eritrea and children left behind in Ethiopia,” the experts said.
Patterns of human rights violations against forcibly returned Eritreans, including torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, trafficking and arbitrary detention, have been well documented in previous reports by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. “There is no information on the fate or whereabouts of those deported since their return to Eritrea,” the experts said. “We urge the Eritrean authorities to provide information on their fate and whereabouts and to ensure that they can have access to their relatives, lawyers or anyone of their choice.”
The Ethiopian Refugee and Returnee Service (RSS) stated that those deported were not refugees or asylum seekers. However, according to several credible sources, the group included both registered and unregistered refugees and asylum-seekers. The RSS stopped registering newly arrived asylum-seekers in March 2020, preventing them from accessing the asylum process and from applying for protection under international human rights and refugee law.
“The lack of registration and accompanying documentation places refugees and asylum-seekers in a situation of heightened vulnerability and hinders their access to their human rights in Ethiopia,” the experts said. “We urge organisations with refugee protection mandates, including UNHCR, to mobilise and engage proactively with the Ethiopian authorities to address the lack of access to the asylum system and relevant documentation for asylum-seekers and refugees.”
The UN experts expressed grave concern about the ongoing situation of Eritreans in Ethiopia, noting the reports of continued arrests and prolonged arbitrary detention of Eritreans for alleged violations of immigration law, without charge, without access to a lawyer and without judicial process.
“Immigration detention should be an exceptional measure of last resort, used only for adults, for the shortest period of time and for a legitimate purpose,” the experts said. “It also appears that the authorities are specifically targeting Eritreans, a practice that constitutes discrimination.”
Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
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