In Djibouti UN refugee agency increasingly concerned about Ethiopian defectors

The United Nations refugee agency today voiced increasing concern that three Ethiopian airmen who reportedly defected to Djibouti in a helicopter last month may have been forcibly returned to Ethiopia despite repeated agency requests for access to them to determine whether they wanted to seek asylum.UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane has written to the Government of Djibouti expressing “deep preoccupation” over their fate, agency spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva. “We are increasingly concerned that the men may have been forcibly returned to Ethiopia,” he said, noting contradictory information on their fate, with some officials saying they were returned to Ethiopia and others saying at least two of them remain in Djibouti.Mr. Redmond stressed that the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, which Djibouti has signed, clearly prohibits expulsion or return of a refugee to a country where his or her life or freedom may be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group or political opinion.The principle of non-refoulement (non-return) applies by definition to any person requesting asylum, pending full examination of his or her refugee claim, he added.

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