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Ethiopia: no more automatic status for pre-1991 flight

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: no more automatic status for pre-1991 flight

29 February 2000

From tomorrow, March 1, UNHCR will no longer confer automatic refugee status on Ethiopians who fled their country before 1991 under the Mengistu regime.

Ethiopians in all countries of asylum will be affected by this change of status.

UNHCR will assist them if they choose to repatriate. Others will go through a screening process and will continue to be protected under the refugee law only if they can still claim valid fear of persecution in Ethiopia.

In the eighties, Sudan had hosted more than 500,000 Ethiopian refugees. An estimated 12,000 are still living in camps in the eastern part of the country.

After having been informed of their options through an information campaign in December last year, 3,800 of them have already applied for voluntary return. In co-operation with the Sudanese authorities, the screening process for those who are reluctant to return will start in the camps in mid-March in order to find alternative solutions in accordance with Sudanese immigration laws.

Since democratic elections in 1995, the Ethiopian Government has declared its willingness to welcome home all refugees who fled under the Mengistu regime and has committed itself to assisting them in their reintegration.

During the coming weeks, a similar registration exercise for return will be carried out in Kenya, which hosts 3,600 Ethiopians who are mainly integrated in urban areas.

Almost one million Ethiopians have returned home from Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya in the past 10 years.