Geneva Council strongly denounces the mass deportation of Eritrean refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Ethiopia. The Council expresses deep concern over the hostile conditions and alarming practices impacting this vulnerable group, including targeted arrests, prolonged arbitrary detention, and summary deportations.
In line with international law, the United Nations-appointed independent human rights experts have also raised grave concerns regarding these distressing conditions. The experts, including Mohamed Babiker, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, issued a news release through the UN human rights office (OHCHR), highlighting that collective expulsions are strictly prohibited under international law.
According to the experts, hundreds of Eritreans have been subjected to summary deportations since the end of June, leaving them exposed to potential human rights violations, including torture and enforced disappearance upon return to Eritrea. The principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in the Convention against Torture and other international human rights treaties, guarantees protection against all forms of expulsion, irrespective of nationality or migration status. Geneva Council joins the experts in strongly emphasizing the importance of conducting individual and objective risk assessments for migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers before deportation, in order to ensure compliance with this fundamental principle.
Geneva Council stresses that immigration detention should only be used as a last resort, exclusively for adults, and for the shortest possible duration, with a legitimate purpose. The Council further condemns the discriminatory practice of specifically targeting Eritreans by the authorities, which exacerbates the already dire situation. Data from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) indicates that as of the end of May, approximately 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers sought safety in Ethiopia, escaping violence and hardship in their home country.
The independent human rights experts have also brought attention to the heart-wrenching cases of children being separated from their parents due to these mass deportations. Parents are being forcefully returned to Eritrea while their children are left behind in Ethiopia. Geneva Council calls on Eritrean officials to ensure the protection of those forcibly deported, as reports have emerged regarding serious rights violations against them, including torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, trafficking, and arbitrary detention. The Council urges the Eritrean authorities to provide vital information on the fate and whereabouts of the affected individuals and grant them access to their relatives, lawyers, or chosen representatives.
In light of these alarming developments, Geneva Council appeals to refugee protection organizations in Ethiopia to actively engage with the Ethiopian authorities. The goal is to facilitate access to the asylum system and provide necessary documentation for individuals on the move, ensuring their rights are respected and protected.
The experts joining the call for action include Mohamed Babiker, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea; 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.
Geneva Council vehemently denounces the mass deportation of Eritreans and calls on the international community, governments, and relevant stakeholders to take immediate and decisive action to protect the human rights of these vulnerable individuals. It is imperative that steps are taken to halt these violations and ensure that justice and dignity prevail for all.