East Africa: Ethiopia – Rights Experts Denounce Mass Deportation of Eritreans

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.