Ethiopian asylum seekers are not safe in Kenya and other host countries where Ethiopian authorities hunt them down and force them to return, the Human Rights Watch organization said Thursday.
HRW says it has documented such cases in Kenya since 2010, and in May sent a letter to Kenyan police that has not been answered. The letter described the experiences of an Oromo activist and other asylum seekers who were “assaulted, detained, and interrogated before Ethiopian officials in Nairobi, and forced to return to Ethiopia,” HRW’s Felix Horne said. “Many also received threatening phone calls and text messages from Kenyan and Ethiopian phone numbers.”
HRW says that Kenyan police privately say Ethiopian Embassy officials in Nairobi offered cash to have Ethiopians arrested, while the refugees themselves are recruited as informants and promised land, money and other rewards. Similar patterns have been documented in Uganda, Sudan and Djibouti, and HRW recently spoke with eight of a total 10 asylum seekers who were forced to return from Somaliland and tortured when they returned.
“Community leaders, social media activists, opposition politicians, and refugee protection workers have been harassed in other countries,” the human rights organization said. “High-profile opposition figures with foreign citizenship have also been handed to Ethiopian authorities without a legal process, including a British citizen detained in Yemen, a Norwegian citizen in South Sudan, and a Somali national handed over last month by Somalia’s government.”
HRW calls on the UN refugee agency and host countries to work harder, to ensure Ethiopians fleeing persecution can seek asylum and be safe from Ethiopian officials they say are relentlessly pursuing them.