(Oromocentre, Melbourne, 27 February 2012) According to Oromia Support Group official report a high proportion of refugees from Ethiopia give histories of torture.
Refugees from Ethiopia and officials of NGOs and governments were interviewed in Somaliland and Djibouti in November and December 2011. Formal interviews with 43 refugees, including 17 in Hargeisa, confirmed other reports that a high proportion of refugees from Ethiopia give histories of torture. Twenty one of the 43 interviewees (49%), including 13 of the 17 interviewed in Hargeisa (76%), had been tortured. Many instances of killing and rape by Ethiopian government forces were reported.
Somaliland officials and journalists claim that refugees from Ethiopia are at best economic migrants; at worst criminals and terrorists. Simplistic portrayal of immigrants as economic migrants ignores life-threatening destitution which is a direct result of Ethiopian government policies and the deliberate targeting of government critics for economic sanctions.
Because of the cooperation between Somaliland and Ethiopia, perceived critics and opponents of the Ethiopian regime are not given safe haven as refugees in Somaliland. Refoulement of refugees and asylum-seekers continues and UNHCR has proved ineffective in preventing this. Seven individuals were taken back to Ethiopia by combined units of Ethiopian and Somaliland forces between 25 October 2011 and 3 January 2012.
Refugee status determination and registration of asylum-seekers has been stalled since 2008. UNHCR recognises 1660 refugees and several thousand asylum-seekers. Recognised refugees were given monthly allowances of $40-80 per family by UNHCR and were given access to supplementary feeding, primary education and limited medical help at the Social Welfare Centre, provided by Save the Children under contract to UNHCR.
The EPRDF regime, now in its 21st year, has labelled the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), with which it shared power from 1991-1992, as a terrorist organisation. Any opposition or lack of compliance shown by members of the Oromo majority (40% of Ethiopia’s 83 million people) is met with accusations of involvement with the OLF. Members and leaders of legally registered Oromo opposition parties are tarred with the same brush.
Resistance to complete EPRDF control of resources, economy and political space in all regions of Ethiopia is confronted with violence and coercion. Political opposition, given unprecedented opportunity to express itself before the 2005 election, was crushed when CUD and other party members and leaders were detained and charged with treason. Reverting to type in the 2010 elections, the EPRDF claimed 99.6% of the votes.