Stop forced returns to Ethiopia, UN urges Somalia

GENEVA, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The United Nations refugee agency urged Somali authorities on Tuesday to stop forced returns of migrants to Ethiopia until it could set up screening to determine whether asylum-seekers were amongst them.
It said it had reports 1,300 Ethiopian migrants were handed over on Sunday to Ethiopian authorities at a border town, while another 500 migrants were being held at a mosque in the northeastern Somali port city of Bosaso prior to deportation.
"We have asked the authorities to temporarily suspend forced returns until we have had a chance to check that there are no asylum-seekers amongst those being deported, mainly back to Ethiopia," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told a briefing.
The deportations followed a presidential decree in the semi-autonomous province of Puntland in late September aimed at halting human smuggling across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, which UNHCR said had claimed 54 lives since September.
"It seems that the migrants or the asylum-seekers who are trying to get across are bearing the brunt of this action more than the people who are doing the smuggling," Pagonis said.
On Monday, Somalia's powerful Islamists declared holy war against Horn of Africa rival Ethiopia, which they accused of invading Somalia to help the interim government briefly seize the town of Buur Hakaba, controlled by pro-Islamist fighters.
UNHCR spokeswoman Helene Caux saw "no link" between the deportations from the northeastern area and the "jihad" ordered by the Islamists, who captured the capital Mogadishu in June and went on to grab much of southern Somalia.
The UNHCR also said another 2,000 Somali refugees had fled to Kenya since the weekend, seeking safety from the fighting over Buur Hakaba, a strategic town located between Mogadishu and Baidoa.
On Friday, it reported 2,000 Somali refugees had fled over the previous two days to Kenya, where more than 30,000 Somali refugees have sought asylum since the beginning of the year.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at9:20 PM


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