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UNHCR condemns deportation of Ethiopian refugees by Sudan

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UNHCR condemns deportation of Ethiopian refugees by Sudan

11 October 2007

11 October 2007

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on Thursday condemned the recent deportation by Sudan of at least 15 Ethiopian refugees.

The deportation took place on September 27, but UNHCR only learned of it this week. The refugees were handed over by Sudanese officials to Ethiopian authorities at the border crossing of Metema, about 500 kms south-east of Khartoum.

This refoulement is a breach of Sudan's obligations as a contracting party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention. One of the key principles of all these conventions is the prohibition against refoulement, or forcibly returning individuals to their country of origin where they could face persecution.

UNHCR urges the government to abide by this important principle of international law, which is also an integral part of Sudan's National Interim Constitution. UNHCR also urges authorities to abstain from any further deportations.

Preliminary information suggests that the 15 deportees are part of a group of over 30 Ethiopian refugees who were arrested by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service on July 2 and 3 in Khartoum and in Damazine, the capital of Blue Nile Province. The Sudanese government has not yet responded to repeated appeals by UNHCR to receive information on these refugees and to prevent their refoulement. UNHCR believes that up to 20 refugees in the remaining group are still in jail and fears that they could also face deportation.

After a separate and unrelated instance of refoulement to Ethiopia on August 7, the Sudanese government had assured UNHCR that it would not repeat such violations of international and national law. UNHCR was alarmed to discover that this commitment was not respected.

The refugee agency is asking Sudanese authorities to urgently provide details on the refoulement that took place on September 27, as well as information on the current whereabouts and well-being of the remaining Ethiopian refugees in detention.