Appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [Archives:2007/1021/Letters to the Editor]

February 1 2007

Ibsa N. Gurmu
President, Oromo Community
Toronto, Canada

We are writing this urgent appeal letter on behalf of several thousand Oromo refugees who fled from persecution of the Ethiopian government to Somalia for the last few decades. The presence of the Ethiopian military forces in Somalia has severely comprised the shelter of these refugees within Somalia. As a result, since December 2006, we have been informed that several thousands of Oromo political refugees have been arrested and forcefully deported to Ethiopia where they face severe punishments and in many instances, summary executions. We have also learned that Oromo refugees are held in the Ethiopian military camps within Somalia where their fate remain in the hands of the very regime they were forced to flee. It should be noted that most of these refugees have a record of prior arrest and torture before fleeing to Somalia. Most of these detainees are also political refugees with UNHCR's protection, living for many decades in Somalia. It is well known and documented that there are prevalent human rights violations in Ethiopia, including large scale of arbitrary detentions, disappearance, torture and extra judicial killings. Considering the record of human rights violations of the Ethiopian government, we are very concerned for the safety of these political refugees, in the past those who were forcefully deported were either tortured or killed. The deportation of Oromo refugees to Ethiopia and their arrest by the Ethiopian army in Somali territory constitutes a grave violation of international law.

Unless quick action is taken by the Somali Transitional Government, the UNHCR and other concerned International Organizations, more and more refugees will be sent to Ethiopia where they would face the ultimate penalty for being refugees. We therefore appeal to immediately stop deportation of Oromo refugees to Ethiopia. We also ask all concerned governments, human rights organizations and the international community to give this matter their utmost attention it deserves and step in to protect helpless and innocent lives.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Somali people and also to the good office of the UNHCR for helping thousands of Oromo refugees over the last several years. Many of these refugees have indeed considered Somalia their second homeland.