Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Somaliland authorities to cease forcibly returning refugees and asylum seekers to possible persecution in Ethiopia.
On 28 December, authorities returned 20 Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers in violation of the fundamental international refugee law prohibition against “refoulement,” the forcible return of anyone to persecution or to a place where their life or freedom is threatened.
The Interior Ministry confirmed the deportations at a 1 January news conference. Shortly before they were deported, an international humanitarian worker met the group on 28 December, at the immigration office in Wajale, on the border with Ethiopia.
“Somaliland should be protecting, not trampling on, the most basic rights of refugees,” HRW quoted Daniel Bekele, its Africa director, as saying.
“The authorities should immediately account for this group’s forcible return and issue a public reassurance that refugees and asylum seekers won’t be deported in the future,” he said.
At the 1 January news conference, Somaliland authorities threatened further deportations, saying that refugees and others currently occupying the Social Welfare Centre would be deported if they did not vacate the premises. No date was given for future deportations.
Somaliland ended all registration of asylum seekers in 2008.
UNHCR estimates that at least 20,000 undocumented foreigners are in Somaliland, including unknown numbers of Ethiopians and others who want to claim asylum.
International law prohibits the deportation of anyone seeking asylum prior to a fair determination of their status.
Large numbers flee Ethiopia to escape persecution every year. Previously returned refugees have been detained by the authorities. Torture is common in Ethiopia's prisons.
Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, after the demise of Somalia’s last functioning government.
No country has recognized Somaliland’s claim of statehood.
-0- PANA SEG 6Jan2012