A group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts on Thursday voiced “grave concern” over hostile conditions impacting Eritreans refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Ethiopia, including targeted arrests and prolonged arbitrary detention.
According to the experts, hundreds of Eritreans were also subjected to summary deportations at the end of June.
“Collective expulsions are prohibited under international law,” the experts, including Mohamed Babiker, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said in a news release issued by the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
“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 principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in the Convention against Torture and other international human rights treaties, guarantees specific protection against all forms of expulsion, regardless of nationality or migration status.
“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.”
According to data from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), as of the end of May, there were around 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia, having fled violence and hardship in their country.
Children separated from parents
The human rights experts said that several cases of separation were reported following the mass deportations, with parents forced back to Eritrea and children left behind in Ethiopia.
The Human Rights Council-appointed experts also called on Eritrean officials to ensure those forcibly deported are protected, amid report of serious rights violations against them, including torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, trafficking and arbitrary detention.
“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 experts said, calling on refugee protection organizations in Ethiopia to engage with the Ethiopian authorities to support access to the asylum system and relevant documentation for those on the move.
In addition to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, the experts joining the call included the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; and the Working Group on arbitrary detention.
The experts are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations and work on a voluntary basis. They serve in their individual capacity; are not UN staff and do not receive a salary.