www.sudantribune.com | Nov 17, 2018

November 16, 2018 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Commission of Refugees (SCR) said 400 Ethiopian refugees have arrived in the eastern state of Gedaref following ethnic clashes between Amhara and Tigray.


Sudan’s commissioner of refugees Hamad al-Gizouli said the Ethiopian refugees have entered Sudan through Gallabat and Metemma border crossing points between the two countries.


He expected that further influx of Ethiopian refugees would arrive in Sudan during the next days, saying among the 400 refugees there were 181 children and 100 women including pregnant and breastfeeding women.


Al-Gizouli added they have agreed with the UNHCR and UNICEF to provide the Ethiopian refugees with ready-made meals and medical assistance.


He pointed out that the 400 refugees have expressed a desire to stay in Sudan and apply for asylum because they are afraid to return to Ethiopia for their own safety.



Sudan: the Impact of the Suspension of the UNHCR Resettlement Programme on Refugees

November 17, 2018

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resettlement programme in Sudan has been suspended leaving applicants in limbo following the fraud scandal investigation which started in May 2018.

The UNHCR office has not yet resumed its resettlement services to the needy refugees.

It has been closed since May 2018 due to the fraudulent practices of the office which was exposed by IRIN journalist. [See original report below]

Refugees alleged that the UNHCR staff upon receiving bribes have tried to reverse decisions made based on standard eligibility.

This has resulted in the delays of the resettlement process of applicants to third countries.

Following the corruption report to which some of the applicants provided information, the informants feel that their security is at risky because they warned by the UNHCR for reporting the alleged corruption crimes.

Particularly some refugees are in limbo because the suspension came a few days before their scheduled flights.

As the result they have been subjected to a tremendous anxieties and worries sudan-causes-and-effects-of-the-temporary-suspension-of-unhcr-resettlement-program/.

It is to be noted a journalist from IRIN in April this year Refugees in Sudan allege chronic corruption in UN resettlement process conducted an investigative research on the UNHCR resettlement programme by interviewing refugees in Sudan.

In her report, she revealed that staff from the UNHCR office are involved in widespread corruptions jeopardizing the resettlement process.

Following the report, investigation into the corruption allegation was initiated by the UNHCR, Geneva office.

EXCLUSIVE: Refugees in Sudan allege chronic corruption in UN resettlement process

Source: IRIN

Refugees in Khartoum, interviewed by IRIN over a 10 month period, say that individuals working with the Sudanese branch of the UN agency responsible for resettlement engage in corrupt practices, and that life-changing decisions are often made based on bribes rather than eligibility. That agency, UNHCR, says it has now mounted an investigation.

More than a dozen people told IRIN of experiences in which individuals claiming to be affiliated with UNHCR solicited money in exchange for advancing refugees a few rungs up the long ladder to resettlement, in a kind of “pay-to-play” scheme.

A recent staff list obtained by IRIN indicates that several individuals named in interviews with refugees as engaging in corrupt practices were still employed there as of February 2018.

“We call it the mafia – they’re supposed to be caring for refugees, but here, they think of themselves,” said one Ethiopian man in Khartoum, sitting on a bed donated by another refugee he said had paid to be resettled in Australia. The man asked not to be named because he fears arbitrary arrest and deportation by Sudanese security agents, a common concern among Khartoum’s refugees.

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch confirmed that the agency’s independent, Geneva-based Inspector General’s Office (IGO), which is mandated to look into allegations of misconduct, is carrying out the investigation.

“UNHCR does everything to ensure the integrity of the resettlement programme as it is absolutely vital to maintain the confidence of refugees and the states involved,” Baloch said. “UNHCR investigations are led by professional investigators.”

An entrenched problem

When IRIN first raised refugees’ allegations of corruption with UNHCR Khartoum office in September 2017, the then spokesperson in Khartoum said they were unaware of such claims. IRIN contacted the office with additional information in February, by which time a new spokesperson was in place. She passed on the allegations to the IGO, which later asked IRIN for further details.

The IGO appears to have opened its investigation in March, although UNHCR would not confirm the timing, or whether it was the result of IRIN’s reporting. Some refugees say their cases are now being re-assessed, although IRIN again could not confirm if this was prompted by these allegations and the investigation.

Since July 2017, IRIN has been in frequent contact with refugees in Khartoum and others now living in Europe. Many described an entrenched system of bribery and exploitative practices associated with the UNHCR resettlement programme in Khartoum.

“We call it the mafia – they’re supposed to be caring for refugees, but here, they think of themselves.”

These complaints were echoed by a UNHCR staff member formerly posted to the Sudanese capital, who asked to remain anonymous because of fears of professional retribution.

“The magnitude of corruption in the office… is (on) an unprecedented scale… This operation is the worst in terms of corruption [and] mismanagement,” the staff member said.

The UNHCR employee said the alleged corruption had been going on for a long time, but had become significantly worse over the past four years, with no apparent action being taken to address it.

“If they [staff] talk they will lose their job. They will be attacked and harassed. I believe lots of people in UNHCR know about this but no one wants to talk about it. That’s a problem,” the staff member said. “They know talking about it will not do anything… Even IGO. The IGO takes a long time and nothing happens… Everybody prefers to be quiet.”

59 global probes

Migration in the Horn of Africa is complex and constantly evolving. Lying on a crossroads of these movements, Sudan is both a temporary and long-term host to large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers who mostly come from South Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, but also from Syria, Yemen, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Many migrants pass through Sudan on their way to Europe via Libya.

For many of the 1.2 million refugees in Sudan and the 22.5 million worldwide, resettlement – the opportunity to start life anew, typically in a Western country – is coveted. But with fewer than one percent of registered refugees resettled each year, the process has been susceptible to abuse and exploitation.

Baloch said that globally, since 2015, the IGO’s Investigation Service has carried out 59 probes related to fraud in resettlement and refugee status determination, and that the allegations were proven in 25 of these investigations.

In 2017, the service received almost 400 complaints about misconduct by UNHCR staff around the world, most of which related to fraud, as well as to sexual exploitation and abuse, according to a recent overview of the IGO’s work. Allegations in half of the cases concluded last year were substantiated, it said.

“Fraud and corruption are not tolerated at UNHCR and would constitute a serious breach of the trust placed in us by the vulnerable people we serve and those who support us,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s head of communications and public information, told IRIN when asked for comment about the Khartoum allegations.

“If it exists, it must be rooted out. UNHCR policy strongly encourages staff, partners and refugees to report any exploitation or abuse that comes to their attention. We are committed to do our utmost to support and protect victims and witnesses of misconduct and to foster an environment in which every person feels safe and free to come forward and speak up.”

In a statement issued last year in relation to allegations of corruption by government officials responsible for refugees in Uganda, UNHCR said: “Every allegation is thoroughly assessed and, if substantiated, leads to sanctions against the concerned staff member, including summary dismissal.”

“What is written is contrary to what’s happening”

Resettlement is a complicated process taking anywhere from several days (in emergency cases) to several years. More than 2,000 people were resettled from Sudan in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

People arriving in Sudan seeking asylum are supposed to head first to Shagarab camp in the east of the country to be registered as refugees. But many skip this step and head straight to the capital because the area around the camp is a notorious haunt of kidnappers-for-ransom.

Refugees in Khartoum said the going rate to speed up the refugee registration and resettlement process for unregistered asylum seekers in Khartoum is about $15,000. Resettling a whole family boosts the price to $35,000-$40,000 – money usually raised by relatives in Europe or elsewhere. The refugees said bribes were being paid to a network that includes middlemen and UNHCR protection staff.

Similar allegations of corrupt practices have been made elsewhere and in some cases confirmed. In 2001 Frank Montil, a former narcotics detective and senior UNHCR investigator, uncovered a refugee extortion racket in Kenya. At the time, he said, profits from exploiting refugees amounted to millions of dollars, with unofficial fees on migrants starting at $25 to enter a local UNHCR compound and escalating to between $1,000 and $4,000 for resettlement.

When told last autumn about allegations by refugees in Sudan – months before IGO got involved – Montil said he was astounded at the similarities with the schemes he had revealed in Kenya. It was as if someone had read his 2002 report and decided to replicate it, he said.

“It needs to be investigated,” he continued. “If I heard [as a responsible official] what you said now, I would already be in Sudan and looking at it… I would have already sent a team on the ground.”

Jumping the queue

In interviews, refugees recounted being approached by Eritrean or Ethiopian individuals who claimed to have contacts within UNHCR and suggested that money could advance their cases.

These middlemen seemed to have a good sense of their market. “They know which ones are the houses they should go to,” said one man who fled to Sudan in the 1990s from Ethiopia and now lives with his family in a small stone room in a run-down area of Khartoum, having given up on resettlement.

“I believe lots of people in UNHCR know about this but no one wants to talk about it.”

Refugees who raised the requested cash were handed a paper confirming an appointment at the UNHCR offices, where the resettlement process begins with a series of interviews and background checks. Refugees and the former UNHCR Khartoum staff member said a lot of power rests with a small group of UNHCR protection staff, who decide which cases should be promoted for resettlement.

But such payment did not guarantee resettlement. Refugees put forward for resettlement often go through extensive security screenings before they are accepted by a host country.

A number of the interviewed refugees said they believe some UNHCR staff work with outside individuals to obtain money without the knowledge of their colleagues.

Some refugees in Sudan who had applied for resettlement told IRIN their documents had mysteriously disappeared, their case numbers had changed without explanation, or people they knew who lacked refugee status were nonetheless allowed to leave the country after paying money to UNHCR staff.

Many refugees said they and others now avoid the UNHCR in Sudan altogether because of perceived corruption and unfairness in the system. Instead, they turn to smugglers to make the hazardous journey to Libya, the Mediterranean and, eventually, Europe. It’s common for asylum seekers in similar situations to avoid official channels, as they attempt to find the fastest way to a country they consider safe.

The close relationship between UNHCR and Sudanese government officials, and the systemic abuse and discrimination refugees face as “second-class citizens” inside Sudan, were additional reasons refugees cited for avoiding formal channels.

Paying for a fake wife and a UNHCR meeting

One refugee in Khartoum, a construction worker who did not want his name used because of fears of retribution, told IRIN he had been asked by a Sudanese man of Eritrean origin, who identified himself as ‘Saleh’, to pay about $4,500 for resettlement. The man had approached him after the Sudanese government’s Commission for Refugees denied his request for an identity card without explanation. All refugees in Khartoum are supposed to have such cards.

The construction worker, who earns just $50 a month, said Saleh had told him a UNHCR official was willing to help him in return for payment.

The refugee said he paid a portion of the money in 2011, and that Saleh gave him a UNHCR appointment form to meet the official and start the resettlement process.

Saleh also set him up with a “fake wife” to increase his chances of success. The woman in question was another refugee desperate to leave Sudan and had to pay $12,000 for the opportunity. The larger sum is consistent with gender-discrepant smuggling fees throughout Sudan, where Eritrean families are typically charged three times more to keep women safe.

The process went on for three years and included meetings in the UNHCR compound, the refugee said. Then Saleh disappeared, followed by the supposed UNHCR official.

The pair had collected money from many others, the refugee said. The fake wife eventually left, he said, hiring a smuggler to help her travel to Libya and later Germany.

Less well-off refugees, meanwhile, alleged the corruption involved theft of their identities.

Bisirat Tesfamariam, a 53-year-old Eritrean widower who arrived in Sudan in 1981 and now has three children – one a teenager, the other two in their twenties – said UNHCR had twice told him he would be resettled, most recently in 2014, to Canada. But his case was eventually rejected, he said.

He told IRIN that one former UNHCR staff member in Sudan later told him one of his daughters – who was still living with him in Khartoum at the time – had already been resettled abroad. Bisirat concluded that his family’s files must have been given to other refugees in a case of identity theft.

When contacted by IRIN, this person said that they had no immediate memory of the man or his case and declined to comment further.

In April 2017, Bisirat, together with 38 other Eritreans and Ethiopians – all with official refugee status – signed a letter complaining of rampant corruption in UNHCR’s Khartoum office.

The refugees say they gave physical or digital copies to UNHCR’s Geneva and Kenyan headquarters. In September, UNHCR said it had no knowledge of the letter, which named four people the refugees accused of being involved in exploitation. The letter ended by stating: “Please bear with us because we have no alternative possibility but you.”

Bisirat is one of the refugees whose case is now being reassessed.

In a phone call with IRIN in March, hours after he was unexpectedly called and asked to bring his family in for an interview with UNHCR, Bisirat said he felt hopeful for the first time in years. But two months later, after seeing little evidence of any further progression, he sounded despondent again. “Sudan now is very hard,” he said. “Sudan is not changing.”

(Additional reporting by Temesghen Debesai in London)

This story was produced with support from the non-profit 100Reporters, a Washington, DC-based investigative reporting organisation; and Journalists for Transparency, a project of Transparency International.

(TOP PHOTO: Teenagers sit in a dormitory in the unaccompanied minors section of Shagarab refugee camp, eastern Sudan, where many refugees who’ve fled Eritrea first go to get registered. CREDIT: Sally Hayden/IRIN)


እንዳርጋችው ጽገ

ሎሚ ኢሳያስ ኣፈወርቂ ኣብ ኤርትራ: ዝኣስርን ዝሓንቕን ዘፍርስን ዘዕኑን: ኤርትራ ዘግነት ዝህብን: ንደቂ ሃገር ኣብ ሃገሮም ክመላለሱ: ክነብሩን: ኣንተደለየ ዘፍቅድ: እንተጸልኤ ዝኸልእ: ሓደ ንሱ እዩ።   ኤርትራ ክትነብር: ክትድምሰስ: ምስ ካሎኦት ሃገራት ክሕውስ: ደቂ ሃገር እውን ክበልዑ: ጾሞም ክሓድሩ: ክሰርሑ: ኮፍ ክብሉ፣ ክምርዓው: ክጸንቱ ክነብሩ: ክመቱ :ዝውስን ናይ ኤርትራ ናይ ምድሪ ኣምልኽ ኮይኑ ምህላው ከኣ ዘጣያይቕ ኣይኮነን።

ስለዚ ኢሳያስ: እቲ ናይ ነዊሕ ኣጀንድኡ ከተግብር: ንህዝቢ ኤርትራ ብ ናይ ወያነ ምስምስ ገይሩ : ኢትዮጵያውያን ተቃወምቲ ሽዱሽተ ውድባት ዝኾና: ኣብ ኤርትራ ዓስኪሩ: ሓንቲ ካብ ኣተን ትኹን ልዕላዊነት ኤርትራ ዘይኣምና: ካብ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ብሚስጢር ሕዝካ: በቲ ሕቡእ ኣጀንድኡ ክምልምለንን: ክጥውረንን: ድሕሪ ምጽናሕ: ሎሚ እተን ውድባት ኣብ ኢትዮጵያ ክኣትዋ ዕድል ብምርካበን: ብ ገለ ፍሉያት ብሄራት ኢትዮጵያ ዓቢ ዝና ሪኺቡ ላዕልን ታሕትን ይብል ኣሎ።

ንኣብነት ካብኣቶም ኣንጻር መንግስቲ ኢትዮጵያ ሰራዊት ሒዙ:ንነዊሕ ዓመታት ዝጸንሔ ካብ ኤርትራ : ብመጸዋዕታ ዶክተር ኣብይ: ሎሚ ኣብ ኢትዮጵያ ዝርከብ፣ ምክትል ኣቦ መንበር ጉንበት 7 ኣንዳርካቸው ጽገ፣ ኣብ ዝሓለፈ ቅንያት ቓል መጠየቅ ኣብ ዝገበሮ: ከምዚ ይብል። ኤርትራ ድሕሪ ናጽነት ኣብ ሓጺር ግዜ ረፈረንዶም ንኽትገብር ሃዊኾም ከምዝካየድ ዝገበሩ ወያነ እዮም ።

ረፈረንዶም ሓደ 5ዓመት ዶንጉዩ ተኻይዱ እንተ ዝነብር: ህዝቢ ኤርትራ 99.8 ንናጽነት ኣይምመረጸን ነይሩ : ልክዕ ከምዚ ሕጂ ሰላም ምስ ኮነ ንሪኦ ዘሎና ሲሚዒት ማለት እዩ። ደርጊ ምስ ወደቀ: ብወገን ህዝባዊ ግንባር: ሓቢርካ ናይ መሳጋገሪ መንግስቲ ምስቶም ኣብ ኢትዮጵያ ዝነበሩ ሓይልታት ምምስራት እዩ ነይሩ ዕላምኦም ። ብወገን ወያነ ግን: ንሱኹም ኤርትራ ናጻ ኣውጺእኩማ ኣለኹም: ኪዱ ኣብኡ ኣማሓድሩ ኢሎም ፣ ኤርትራ ካብ ኢትዮጵያ ከም ትንጸል ዝገበሩ ናይ ወያነ መደብ እዩ ነይሩ በለ። ወይ ጉድ ንኽትበልዓ ዝደለኻ ኣባ ጎብየ ዛግራ ይብሉዋ ኮይኑ ነገራቱ።

ከም ትፈልጥዎ ኣንዳርካቸው ጽገ: ምቅማጡ ኣብ ሎንደን ዓዲንግሊዝ ኮይኑ፣ ዘግነቱ ኢትዮጵያዊ እንግሊዛዊ እዩ: ካብ ሎንዶን ንኤርትራ ናብ ጎይቱኡ ኢሰያስ ኣፈወርቂ ንኽከይድ ኣብ የመን ትራንዚት ክገብር፣ ናይ ወያነ ጸጥታ ጠሊፎም ናብ ኣዲስ ኣበባ ብምውሳድ ሓሙሽተ ዓመት ኣብ ኢትዮጵያ ድሕሪ ምእሳሩ፣ ትማሊ ብዶክተር ኣቢይ: ካብ እስርቤት ናጻ ድሕሪ ምልቃቁ፣ ኣብ ሎንዶን ስድርኡ ድሕሪ ምብጻሕ፣ እንደገና ናብ ጎይትኡ ኢሳያስ ናብ ኤርትራ ብምኻድ፣ ምስ ኢሳያስ ድሕሪ ምምኻሩ ናብ ኢትዮጵያ ዝኣተወ ሰብ እዩ።

ስለዚ እዞም ኩሎም ኣብ ኤርትራ ተቃወምቲ ኢትዮጵያውያን ዝነበሩ: ሽዱሽተ ውድባት ዝኾኑ: ኤርትራ ሓንቲ ክልል ኢትዮጵያ ንምግባር እዩ ክስራሓሉ ዝጸንሔ : ሕጂ ብጉሁድ ንሪኦን ንምልኮተ ዘሎና ጉዳይ ኣዩ።

ኢንዳርካጨው ጽገ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ንዓመታት ንናጽነት ከም ዝተቃለሰ ዝፈልጥ እውን ኣይመስለንን፣ ምስ ኢትዮጵያ ሓቢርካ ዝድለ ተዝነብር ድኣ፣ እንታይ እዚ ኹሉ ሽግርን መከራን መስዋእቲ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ኣድለየ፣ ስለዚ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ድሕሪ ናጽነት ንሓሙሽተ ዓመት ክጽበ ይትረፈ: ነተን ንምቅርራብ ሪፈረንዶም ዝተበልዓ ዓመታት እውን ደንጉይዎ ከም ዝነበረ ክንገልጸልካ ንፈቱ፣ ኣብቲ ግዜ እቲ ድሕሪ ናጽነት: ህዝቢ ኤርትራ እንካይዶ ምስ ኢትዮጵያ ሓደ ኮይኑ ክቅጽል: ስም ኢትዮጵያ ትባሃል እውን ክሰምዕ ኣይደልን እዩ ዝነበረ።

ስለዚ እዚ ኩሉ ኣብ ላዕሊ ተጠቂሱ ዘሎ: ኢሳያስ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ብዱቁሱ: ብገንዘብ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ: ይሰርሓሉ የውጻኣሉን ነይሩ እዩ። ኢሳያስ ናይ መጨረሽታ ታርገቱ እዚ ሎሚ ብዓይንና ንሪኦ ዘለና እዩ: ድሕሪ ናጽነት እውን ፈቲኑ ነይሩ እዩ: ክሰልጦ ኣይካኣለን። ዓሌቱ ትግራዋይ: በዲኡን በቡኡን: ከም ምኻኑ: ብዙሓት ኤርትራውያን ኢትዮጵያውያን ብጹሑፍ ይኹን ብቃል ተዳጋጋሚ ይሕበሩ ነይሮም እዮም: መብዛሕቲኡ ኤርትራውያን ግን ከኣምን ኣይካለን።

ስለ ዝኾነ ሎሚ እነሄለ ንሃገሩ ይሰርሕ: ኢሳያስ ንምንታይ ሂወት ታሪኹ ዘይጽሕፍ: ዝብል ጥዑይ ሓታታይ ምስ ዝርከብ: ዝብእስ ስጋዕ ዝደልዎ ይሕንክስ ከም ዝባሃል ፣ ድሕሪ ናጽነት ኤርትራዊ ጋዘጠኛ ቃለ መጠየቅ ምስ ገበረሉ: ከምዚ ኢሉ እውን ሓተቶ : ክቡር ፕረሲደንት ኢሳያስ: ማኣስ ኢኻ ሂወት ታሪኽካ ትጽሕፍ ምስ በሎ: መልሲ ናይ ኢሳያስ: ኣብ ሳሕል ከለና ጀሚረ ነይረ፣ ናጽነት ምስ መጸ ካብቲ ዝነበርናዩ ነስመራ ክንቅይር ከለና: ኣብቲ ምቅያር ጠፊኣ: ግን ድሕሪ ሕጂ ክጽሕፍ ኢየ በለ። ናይ ሎሚ 27 ዓመት ። ሕጂ ግን ታሪኽ ሂወቱ ኣብ ወረቀት ምጽሓፍ ዘይኮነ ብተግባር ንሪኢ ኣሎና።

ስለዚ ኩቡር ህዝቢ ኤርትራ እቶም ኣብ ደገ ንነብር: ናይ ውሽጢ ዝርከብ ህዝብና ገዲፍና፣ ብጉዳይና ቡዙሕ ተዛሪብና ንዛረብ እውን ኣሎና : ብዘረባ ዝኽውን ነገር ግን የለን : ሎሚ ክሳድ ማሓዝ እዩ፣ እዚ ማለት ካኣ ሎሚ ኣብ ዝኾነ ኩርና ዓለምና ዘሎና ደለይቲ ፍትሒ ብሓደ ንስራሕ ዝብል መርሆ ተላዒሉ ስለ ዘሎ: ኣብ ዘዘለናዮ:ዞባ ድዩ ወረዳ ከመይ ንጥርነፍ ቀዳምንት ክንህበሉ ዘለና ጉዳይ እዩ።

ሰለዚ ጉዳይና ኣብቲ ዝኸፍኤ ናይ ሓደጋ ጥርዚ በጺሑ ከም ዘሎ: ነዚ ሓደጋ እዚ ዓጺፍካ ዝሓሸ ለውጢ ንምምጻእ ልባዊ ድልውነት እንተድኣ ኣሎ ኮይኑ:ብቕሉዕ ኣንፈት ናይ እዚ ገጢሙ ዘሎ ጸገም: እዝን ብኸምዝን እዩ መፍቲሒኡ ኢልካ፣ ብድሕሪት ሕቱኽቱኽ ምባልን ከምዘይዋጽእ ካብ ሕሉፍ ተሞክሮ ተማሂርና: ነፍስወከፍ ነፍሱ ፈቲሹ ንሓቀኛ ዘተ ድልዋት ምኻን እዩ ኣንኮ መፍቲሒና። ኣታሃላልዋና ሩጉእ ከምዘየለ ዘመልክት እዩ: ሃለዋትና ዘይሩጉ ጥራይ ዘይኮነ ኣዝዩ ኣሻቓሊ እዩ: ገሌና ኤርትራውያን ክንድቲ ንሻቐሎ ዝግባኣና ንሻቐል ዘይምህላውና ከአ ዘታዓዛዝብ እዩ። ነዚ ዘለናዩ ህሞት ኣብ ክንዲ ክንቅይሮ ንቃለስ ለሚድናዮን ርዒምናዮን ከይነራጥጥ ኣውን ዘሰክፍ እዩ፣ ስለዚ ጉዳይ ጉዳይ ኩልና እዩ: ደጋፊ ዘይብሉ: ተቃዋሚ ዘይብሉ: ሃገር ኣድሕን እዩ መልእኽቱ፣ ኣብ ዝሓለፈ ሓምሳታት ዝተገብረ ገጋታት: እቲ ኣደራዕ ዝወረደ መንእሰይ ኤርትራ እዩ: ኩላህና ንፈልጦ ሓቂ እዩ: ብኡ ስለ ዝሓለፍና፣ ሕጂ እውን ነዚ ዝመጽእ ወለዶ ንሕሰበሉ: ምሉእ ሂወቱ ውግእ ወረ ውግእ ኮይኑ ከይተርፍ። ንዝሓለፉ ሰማእታትና ክንድብስ፣ ንዝተኣስሩ ክነፍትሕ፣ ስደት ከብቕዕ ሓቢርና ብሳላም ናይ ምንባር ዕድል ከየምልጠና፣ብስሙር መኸተ ንህግደፍ ይኣክል ንበል።

     ዓወት ንሓድነትና !!

ሰላምን ቅሳነትን ንህዝብና !!

  ብሚካኤል ኣጎስቲኖ ጀርመን



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Eritrea-Ethiopia peace leads to a refugee surge

Written by
MEKELLE/Ethiopia, 15 November 2018
Source: IRIN

A group of Eritreans lines up outside a small, green army tent surrounded by yellow scrubland at the top of a ridge marking the Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

After having their details jotted down by bored-looking Eritrean soldiers they get back into the white minibus taking them from the city of Mekelle in Ethiopia’s Tigray region to the Eritrean capital, Asmara. As they set off, another minibus passes them going the other way.

A short time ago, such scenes were unthinkable.

After being sealed for 20 years – following growing tensions at the end of the 1990s and then a two-year war – the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea finally re-opened in September.

To escape the realities of life under President Isaias Afwerki – enforced military conscription, indefinite national service, lack of freedom of speech and movement, and the potential for imprisonment for opposing the regime – Eritreans used to have to risk everything, including a border patrolled by guards with a shoot-to-kill policy.

With the historic peace agreement signed in July, they can now cross without a passport or permit, and they don’t even have to confirm if or when they will return.

This lack of restrictions is being embraced by people on both sides, but the sudden freedom of movement has also seen a surge in asylum seekers crossing in search of new lives, placing an additional burden on Ethiopia’s Tigray region and beyond.

James Jeffrey/IRIN
For some Eritreans, crossing into Ethiopia is the start of a journey that will take them to the Mediterranean and towards the dream of Europe.

While arrivals have since stabilised, the unrestricted opening of the border initially led to a fourfold daily increase in Eritreans crossing and applying for refugee status. There are now around 175,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Despite this, the Ethiopian government appears to be sticking with its open-door policy for refugees – although there are fears it could change its mind and close the border again if it struggles to cope with the influx.

“Ethiopia is a signatory to the Geneva Convention on refugees, so for now there is no change in their refugee status,” said Tekie Gebreyesas, regional coordinator in Tigray for the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, known as ARRA.

“The relationship between the two countries has improved, but the internal situation in Eritrea is still the same,” Tekie explained.

Growing burden

More than 15,000 Eritreans have crossed since the September border opening, according to local Ethiopian authorities. Most have claimed refugee status: around 10,000 by the middle of October, according to UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.

Ethiopia was already hosting just over 900,000 refugees from various countries, of whom Eritreans are the third largest group.

The Ethiopian government also has just under three million internally displaced persons to contend with – a number that has swollen this year due to unrest in its eastern Somali region as well as in the Guji and West Gedeo zones.

Previous rises in numbers of Eritrean refugees coming into Ethiopia occurred between 2004 and 2014 as the Isaias regime hardened and became more oppressive, while UN sanctions against Eritrea – lifted on Wednesday – came into effect in 2009 and made life harder for ordinary Eritreans, spurring even more to try and leave.

The drop-off from 2014 may be partly down to the EU launching the Khartoum Process, which essentially gave money to Eritrea’s government to help stem migration into Europe.

“There’s no way I’m going back”

Since the border opening, buses have reportedly been sweeping in to the small Ethiopian border town of Zalambessa, just beyond the Eritrean checkpoint, to collect hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers who muster there over the course of a few days.

Map of Ethiopia showing Eritrea, Tigray, and refugee camps

In Mekelle, first stop for many en route to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, or other urban centres, IRIN found Yohannes* relaxing with some Eritrean friends.

An Eritrean of mixed parentage, Yohannes was conscripted at age 16 and served for 18 years, including fighting in the 1998–2000 border war, which pitted Eritrean soldiers with an Ethiopian parent (like Yohannes) against Ethiopian soldiers with an Eritrean parent.

“There’s no way I am going back to Eritrea,” he said. “I didn’t want to fight. We are the same people. But I had no choice than to fight for my country. If you refused to fight, the government could arrest your family.”

Yohannes and his friends said they planned to make a living in Ethiopia, and if that didn’t work out they would move to another country.

For some Eritreans, crossing the border is the start of a journey that will take them to the Mediterranean via Sudan and then onto Libya, and the dream of Europe.

But many, like Yohannes and his friends, first try to settle in Ethiopia.

After being registered close to the point of arrival, they are supposed to reside in camps unless they have an exemption. But the majority of Eritrean refugees soon move outside the camps and head to the cities in search of work – they make up 79 percent of the urban refugee population in Addis Ababa, where whole residential areas in the city have a notably Eritrean feel.

“A key challenge to providing protection and assistance to Eritrean refugees is the high number of persons leaving the camps to pursue onward movements,” notes UNHCR’s most recent Ethiopia response plan.

“In 2016, approximately 80 percent of the Eritrean refugees left the camps in Tigray within the first 12 months after arriving in Ethiopia,” it said. “Motivated by the desire to access better educational services, reunite with relatives abroad, and earn an income to support their families in Eritrea, many children and young adults consider that their sole option is to reach Europe.”

Ethiopia has committed itself to the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, or CRRF, which came from the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and involves affording refugees more opportunities to leave camps and better access to jobs and education.

How strong that commitment will remain in light of recent events remains an open question.

“The CRRF was a natural fit in Tigray,” said the head of programmes with a foreign refugee organisation based in Addis Ababa, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the issue. “But now that the situation has changed significantly no one knows if and how the government might rethink its policy to Eritrean refugees. Will they be awarded the same privileges accorded to refugees through the CRRF?”

Reunited after decades

Eritreans used to sneak across the border in search of asylum or a better life. Now, they travel for a variety of reasons. Some are even going the other way too.

“I went from Addis Ababa to Asmara after the border opened to see my father for the first time in 26 years – he died 10 days after I arrived,” said Senait*, one of the Eritreans lined up outside the army tent on the border.

Senait moved to the Ethiopian capital after marrying an Ethiopian but wasn’t able to visit her family after war broke out in 1998, and the borders closed. She’s now taking her uncle back to Asmara to live with relatives, but plans to return to her family in Addis Ababa after the visit.

Many Eritreans are also crossing the border to reunite with family members not seen for decades. Others simply go to shop, or to enjoy the more vibrant social life before returning to Eritrea of their own accord.

“We’ve been here two weeks seeing our families and will head back to Asmara in three days,” said 24-year-old Qemer, speaking in Mekelle alongside her sister and another friend who was visiting long-separated family members. “We were small children when we last saw them properly, though we stayed in touch via Facebook.”

Hotels in Mekelle that used to struggle for business are now fully booked. Tired-looking cars with the distinctive Eritrean registration plate beginning ER1 are parked all over the city and can be seen with the minibuses shooting along the road between Asmara and Mekelle.

James Jeffrey/IRIN
Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region, is enjoying something of a boom.

Once known for hosting convoys of camels carrying salt from the Danakil desert, Mekelle’s bustling market is seeing a booming trade in cereals, construction materials, and petrol.

“In Eritrea they are limited to how much they can take out of the bank each month, but here they can get money sent by relatives abroad,” explained Teberhe, a Mekelle businesswoman who runs clothing and cosmetic shops and a khat house. “They are taking back construction materials in case building restrictions are reduced at home.”

Doubts remain over the peace deal and over Ethiopia’s capacity to take in so many new refugees, but for now there is genuine joy among ordinary Eritreans and Ethiopians, especially Tigrayans, about reuniting and having a chance to finally reconcile.

“I am really looking forward to visiting Asmara. We belong together. I have family there too,” Teberhe said. “I don’t think there is any way back now for the Eritrean government; Eritreans are experiencing freedom, socialising, and business – the genie is out of the bottle.”

(*Note: Names changed for security reasons)

ሰልፊ ዲሞክራሲ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ (ሰዲህኤ) ናብ ኮሚሽነር ላዕለዋይ ኮሚሽን ጉዳይ ስደተኛታትን ወጻኢ ጉዳይ ሚኒስተር ዒራቕን ኣብ ዝለኣኾ መዘክር ፡ ኣብ ከተማ ባግዳድ ናይ ዘለዉ ውሑዳት ኤርትራውያን ስደተኛታት ናይ ሰነድ ጸገም ንምፍታሕ ኣብ ሓጺር ግዜ ስጉምቲ ንክወስዱ ሓቲቱ።

እቲ ናይ 15 ሕዳር 2018 መዘክር ሰዲህኤ፡ ናብ ወጻኢ ጉዳይ ሚኒስተር ዒራቕ፡ ሞሓመድ ኣልሓኪምን ላዕለዋይ ኮሚሽነር ኮሚሽን ጉዳይ ስደተኛታት ፊሊፖ ግራንዲን እዩ ተላኢኹ። ብዘይካዚ ቅዳሕ ናይቲ መልእኽቲ ኣብ ኮሚሽ ጉዳይ ስደተኛታት ናብ ዝምልከቶም ሓገዝቲ ኣካላት እውን ተላኢኹ። ሰዲህኤ ኣብዚ መልእኽቱ ካብ ከተማ ባግዳድ ብዝረኸቦ ሓበሬታ፡ ኣብዚ እዋንዚ ንነዊሕ ግዜ ኣብ ዒራቕ ዝጸንሑ ኤርትራውያን ላዕለዋይ ኮሚሽን ጉዳይ ስደተኛታት ሰነዳቶም ምሕዳስ ስለ ዝደንጐዮም፡ እሞ እቲ ጉዳይ ዝምልከቶም ሰብ መዚ ዒራቕ ናይ ስደተኛ መሰሎም ንክሕሎ ሰነዳቶም ግድን ክሕደስ ኣለዎ ይብልዎም ስለ ዘለዉ ኣብ ጸገም ከም ዝወደቑ ኣስፊሩ።

እዞም ኤርትራውያን ስደተኛታት ነባራት ተቓለስቲ ናጽነት ኮይኖም፡ ድሕሪ ናጽነት እውን ናብ ኤርትራ ክምለሱ ዘይከኣሉ እዮም። ላዕለዋይ ኮሚሽን ጉዳይ ስደተኛታት ንዘይምሕዳስ ሰነዳቶም ዝህቦ ምኽንያት ኣብ ኤርትራ ኩነታት ስለ ዝተቐየረ ኣብ ሓጺር ግዜ ናብ ሃገርኩም ክትምለሱ ትኽእሉ ኢኹም ዝብል እዩ።

መዘክር ሰዲህኤ፡ ኣብ ኤርትራ ዘሎ ኩነታት ለውጢ ከምዘየብሉ ኣትሪሩ ገሊጹ፡ ላዕለዋይ ኮሚሽን ጉዳይ ስደተኛታትን መንግስቲ ዒራቕን ነቲ ነዊሕ ግዜ ዝጸንሐ ጉዳይ ሰነድ ኤርትራውያን ስደተኛታት ብግቡእ ክሕዝዎ ተማሕጺኑ።

In a memorandum sent to the UNHCR chief and to the Foreign Minister of Iraq, the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) requested for an urgent attention and action to solve the documentation problems of the small Eritrean community in Baghdad.

The EPDP memorandum, dated 15 November, was addressed both to Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Alhakim and to UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, with copies to his legal protection aides. In it, the EPDP noted that, according to information it obtained from Baghdad, long-time resident Eritreans are currently facing documentation problems because the local UNHCR office delayed to renew their expired papers while Iraqi authorities are asking for renewed refugee documents in order to let them have refugee status in the country.

The Eritrean refugees, most of them veterans of the liberation struggle who could not return home after 1991, say that the UNHCR office in Iraq is not renewing their refugee documents alleging that “the situation is changing in Eritrea” and that they “may go home soon.”

The EPDP memo stressed that the situation in Eritrea is not changing and strongly appealed to the UNHCR and the Government of Iraq to address the documentation problems being faced by the old caseload of Eritrean refugees in Iraq.

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