Addis Abeba — A panel of United Nations experts has strongly condemned Ethiopia’s recent expulsion of hundreds of Eritrean individuals, stating that it is a clear violation of international law. The experts are urging authorities to immediately cease any further deportations and put an end to the arbitrary detention of Eritrean refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants. They emphasize that collective expulsions are illegal under international law and that deporting people without properly assessing the risks they may face upon return, such as torture or enforced disappearance, is considered refoulement. This principle of non-refoulement, which is protected by international human rights treaties and legal instruments, applies universally, irrespective of nationality or migration status.
The UN experts have also expressed concerns about cases of family separation resulting from these mass deportations. Reports indicate that parents are being compelled to return to Eritrea while their children are left behind in Ethiopia.
The UN’s statement comes after the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) revealed that numerous refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from Eritrea, have been detained in different areas of the capital for not presenting documents revealing their immigration status. The EHRC’s statement was based on complaints filed by Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Addis Ababa.
Previous reports from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea have extensively documented various human rights violations against forcibly returned Eritreans, including torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, trafficking, and arbitrary detention. In light of these circumstances, the experts are urging Eritrean authorities to provide information on the status of the deportees and ensure that they have access to their families, legal representation, and the right to contact anyone of their choosing.
The Ethiopian Refugee and Returnee Service (RSS) recently claimed that those who were deported were not refugees or asylum seekers. However, the United Nations experts contradicted this claim in their statement released on July 14, 2023, affirming that the deported group consisted of both registered and unregistered individuals seeking protection.
Given the urgency of the situation, these UN experts are now calling on organizations, particularly the UNHCR, which is responsible for safeguarding refugee rights, to actively collaborate with Ethiopian authorities in addressing the barriers that hinder asylum-seekers and refugees from accessing the asylum system and obtaining necessary documentation.