News: Ethiopian rights commission says Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers subjected to arbitrary arrest in Addis Abeba

Busy street in Bole neighborhood, Addis Abeba City (Photo:Addis Standard)

Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said following complaints filed to the commission by Eritrean refugees and Asylum seekers in Addis Abeba, it observed that hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Eritreans have been imprisoned in several sub-cities in the capital on the basis of failing to present documents revealing their immigration status.

The commission said in a statement on 02 June, the refugees and Asylum seekers were arrested arbitrarily and without court warrant, adding that while many are still behind bars without being charged, the majority were released after being detained at various times.

EHRC said, while visiting refugees and asylum-seekers who were detained at the police stations of Akaki Kality sub-city, it noticed that there were individuals imprisoned for 10 days without appearing before the court.

According to the commission, the prisoners were told that the reason for their imprisonment is getting to the city without permit to leave the refugee camp, and engaging in work without permit.

The commission also said it realized that there are refugees with unrenewed identity cards to show their immigration status among the prisoners, adding that some of them have language barriers to properly explain their cases. It however noted that those who have documents are being released while their cases are being investigated.

“Unlawful detention of refugees and asylum seekers not only restricts their right to freedom of movement, but also jeopardizes refugees’ protection, and the efforts to provide lasting solutions to the problems they face,” EHRC noted.

Furthermore, the commission said upon discussing the matter with senior officials of the Immigration and Returnees Service and the Federal Judiciary, it has learned that document verification and consultation work is being done between the relevant Federal Police and the Refugees and Returnees Service, and that a procedure has been established for refugees imprisoned with unrenewed documents to be released from prison. 

Regarding renewal or issuance of new ID for refugees and asylum seekers, which has been suspended for the past two years, the commission stated that it has been assured that a new registration system will be put in place soon.

In May 2022, UNHCR said that the number of migrants into cities has surged as a result of the war in north Ethiopia, adding that the number of refugees in Addis Abeba surged from 30,000 to 80,000 after the onset of the conflict. AS

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