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Ethiopia Stops Automatic Asylum to Eritreans

Eritrean refugees wait to get registered on arrival at the Indabaguna refugee reception and screening center in Tigrai region near the Eritrean border in Ethiopia, February 9, 2016. Eritrea expects to have four operating mines in 2018 producing gold, copper, zinc and potash, part of a bid by the poor nation to build an industry on what is almost virgin mining territory, a top mining official told Reuters. To match text ERITREA-MINING/ Picture taken February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

For years, Ethiopia had an “open-door” policy towards refugees from countries such as South Sudan and Eritrea, earning it widespread acclaim among international donors. But according to the United Nations and humanitarian aid groups, Ethiopia changed its policy in late January without making an official announcement. The government no longer offers automatic asylum for Eritreans trying to flee their home country. The Ethiopian Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs told donors and aid groups earlier this month that the previous approach resulted in a “high influx of unaccompanied minors, illegal migrants and others who do not fulfill the criteria laid [out] for refugee status determination under the international instruments,” according to a letter seen by VOA dated April 9. Activists and aid groups say the new policy limits options for Eritreans trying to avoid forced conscription into Eritrea’s national service program.


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