Tigrayans Deported From Saudi Abused in Ethiopia, HRW Says
(Bloomberg) -- Thousands of Tigrayans deported from Saudi Arabia after months of inhumane detention have on their return to Ethiopia been arbitrarily detained, mistreated and have forcibly disappeared, according to a Human Rights Watch investigation.
Ethiopia started repatriating some of the hundreds of thousands of its nationals that had fled to Saudi Arabia due to drought, human-rights abuses and seeking better economic conditions. About 40% of those deported between November 2020 and June 2021 were Tigrayan, most of whom were later transferred to detention facilities in the Afar region and southern Ethiopia.
“Tigrayan migrants who have experienced horrific abuse in Saudi custody are being locked up in detention facilities upon returning to Ethiopia,” Nadia Hardman, refugee- and migrant-rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Wednesday.
Ethiopia has been engulfed by a civil war that’s killed thousands of people and displaced millions more. Conflict broke out 14 months ago when forces allied to the Tigray regional administration attacked a military base following months of tension with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Saudi Arabia deported more than 30,000 Ethiopians between June and mid-July of 2021, coinciding with an increase in profiling, arbitrary detentions and forcible disappearances of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 23 Tigrayans for the report; some said they had been beaten with rubber and wooden rods and denied travel to their families. Tigrayans account for about 6% of Ethiopia’s population of more than 100 million people.
The rights group called for an end to deportation of Tigrayans to Ethiopia because of the risk of persecution and asked the Ethiopian government to release Tigrayans in detention that have not been charged.
The Ethiopian government spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Human Rights Watch’s report.
Detained Minors, Bribes
Meanwhile, there are reports of detaining minors with adults in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and officers demanding bribes to potentially release those held, Human Rights Watch’s Horn of Africa director, Laetitia Bader, confirmed in an emailed response to questions.
The Ministry of Justice said it’s aware of the reports and is taking action, including the charging of seven police officers for bribery, Awel Sultan, the ministry’s communications head said in an interview. “They don’t represent the majority, as there are so many committed and ethical police officers,” Awel said.
Awel said, however, Ethiopia is in a state of emergency and some police posts may have detained young offenders with adults because of “space limitations.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.