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Sudanese deportation of Ethiopian refugees draws criticism from UN agency

Sudanese deportation of Ethiopian refugees draws criticism from UN agency

The United Nations refugee agency today condemned the recent deportation of at least 15 Ethiopian refugees by the authorities in Sudan, calling it a breach of the country’s international legal obligations.

Sudanese officials handed over the refugees to Ethiopian authorities at the Metema border crossing, about 500 kilometres southeast of Khartoum, on 27 September, but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement issued in Geneva that it had only learned of the deportations this week.

UNHCR said information it had received so far indicated that the deportees are part of a group of more than 30 Ethiopian refugees arrested by Sudanese authorities in early July in Khartoum and in Damazine, the capital of Blue Nile state.

The Sudanese Government has not responded yet to UNHCR’s repeated appeals on the refugees, and UNHCR said it fears the remaining Ethiopians in the group are in jail and could also face deportation.

Under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, refoulement – or forcibly returning individuals to their country of origin where they could face persecution – is prohibited.

“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,” the agency said. “UNHCR also urges authorities to abstain from any further deportations.”

After a separate case of refoulement to Ethiopia in early August, the Sudanese Government had assured UNHCR that it would not do this again.