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Ethiopians rally in Bern to protest deportation deal

The Ethiopian government bowed to EU demands to repatriate failed asylum seekers. Switzerland has piggy-backed on the deal. Keystone

Several hundred Ethiopians demonstrated in the Swiss capital on Friday against a deal made by the European Union (EU) which would also allow Switzerland to repatriate asylum seekers to the Horn of Africa nation.

This content was published on June 8, 2018 - 16:13

In April, for the first time in five years, Ethiopia announced it was ready to receive back citizens whose asylum applications in Switzerland had been rejected. This policy change is an outcome of an agreement between the African state and the EU.

To be readmitted, the persons concerned must be recognised as Ethiopian nationals. If they do not have any documents, they will have to be identified by the authorities. That task would be the responsibility of the Ethiopian intelligence services. 

Advocacy group Amnesty International in April criticised Switzerland for moving to return Ethiopian asylum seekers to their homeland, which it characterised as ”undoubtedly an extremely oppressive state”. The involvement of Ethiopian intelligence services was also a chief concern of demonstrators gathered in Bern on Friday.

The protestors said that by returning Ethiopians home, Switzerland would be "putting victims in the hands of the very people they had been fleeing." They urged the Swiss government to pull out from this agreement.

The Ethiopian diaspora in Switzerland says it is fighting for democracy in their country of origin. The Ethiopian Human Rights and Democracy Task Force in Switzerland External linkbelieves there has been no progress on that front and casts the situation in their native nation as negative.

US-based Freedom House classes Ethiopia as an "authoritarian state". In its Freedom in the World 2017 report, it pointed to the Ethiopian "security forces’ disproportionate and often violent response to massive, primarily peaceful anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions, as well as an emergency declaration in October that gave the military sweeping powers."

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