Tuesday, November 26, 2013

North American Oromo’s Appeal Letter about Oromo Refugees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The following is an appeal letter from the Oromo Studies Association, the Oromo Community Association of Chicago, the Oromo Community Association of Ohio, the Oromo Community Association of Michigan, the Oromo Community Association of Kentucky, the Oromo Community of Minnesota, the Minnesota Oromo Elders Council, and the Oromo Community of South Dakota.
November 25, 2013
Mr. Antonio Guterres
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt Suisse
Email: InfoDesk@ohchr.org; guterres @unhcr.org
Subject: North American Oromo’s Appeal Letter about Oromo Refugees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Dear Mr. Guterres,
We, the Oromo community associations in North America and the Oromo Studies Association, write this letter in relation to the situation of the Oromo refugees and asylum seekers from Ethiopia. We heard and observed with disbelief and a profound sense of grief the awful news coming from Saudi Arabia. The graphic images and videos of indiscriminate beatings of defenseless immigrant workers, ostensibly by Saudi Arabian law enforcement officials and vigilantes, clearly shocked and enraged us. Law enforcement officials have randomly rounded up, kept tens of thousands of the immigrants in concentration camp-type facilities, and deported many thousands more to Ethiopia without regard to individual cases and needs. While we have sympathy for all Ethiopians who have been subjected to untold suffering in Saudi Arabia, we like to call your attention to the unique case of Oromo immigrants who are lumped together with all Ethiopians and subject to arbitrary measures.
The Oromo people, the single largest nation in the Horn of Africa, constitute about 40 percent of the population of Ethiopia. The ruling Ethiopian regime, dominated by the former rebel group Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), came to power in 1991, following the collapse of the military dictatorship of Mengistu Hailemariam. The TPLF hails from the Tigray people of North Ethiopia that approximately constitutes about 6 percent of the Ethiopian population. The Oromo country, the largest and richest region in Ethiopia, is often considered the breadbasket and the economic backbones of Ethiopia. Therefore, in Ethiopia, despite their numeric superiority and richness of their land, the Oromo have always been treated as a minority group, perpetually subjected to political, economic, and cultural depredations and dispossession. Because of their preponderant number, the Tigrayan minority considers the Oromos an existential threat to its political hegemony. For this reason, the TPLF regime is hell-bent on weakening the human, economic, and intellectual capacity of the Oromo people. Political killings, abductions and disappearances, unlawful imprisonments and torture against the Oromo people have been widespread for over two decades. To escape from such gross human rights violations, many Oromo refugees have been forced to flee their homeland and are dispersed all over Africa and the world. Oromo Refugees are experiencing a multitude of human right violations including violent attacks, torture and rape, and falling prey to human traffickers and body organ harvesters. Notwithstanding the fact that the Ethiopian government is hunting them in refugee camps to kill them, or forcefully taking them back to Ethiopia by either pressuring host countries or bribing security officers.
Unfortunately, in several hosting countries, the local people see these refugees as job stealers and criminals, and are hostile to them. Out of thousands of refugees and immigrant workers, indeed, it is unavoidable to have a few trouble-makers. Reports obtained from refugees suggest strongly that the majority of individuals who are involved in illegal activities are, in fact, agents of the Ethiopia government and want to tarnish the image of the immigrants.
The Oromo Support Group (OSG), the Human Rights League of Horn of Africa (HRLHA), and the Human Rights Watch (HRW), have documented numerous cases of rapes, abduction, tortures and killings of UNHCR recognized Oromo refugees in the neighboring countries of Ethiopia. In this connection, the report of the Danish Refugee Council and Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (DRCRMMS) noted: “The [Ethiopian] regime had made alliances with neighboring countries. Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen, Kenya committed a crime on refugees and also immigrants. The refugees, even those who are living with [the protection of the UNHCR] mandate are not safe.”
For instance, Engineer Tasfahun Chamada, a UNHCR recognized political refugee, died in prison, in August 2013, after refoulement from Kenya. In light of this fact, we believe and have a concern that the same fate awaits some of refugees and asylum seekers indiscriminately deported, under the banal of the illegal immigrants, to Ethiopia.
Given this reality, the wholesale roundups and deportations of Oromo refugees and asylum seekers to Ethiopia, along with immigrant workers, will lead to their further victimization. We urge the UNHCR to work with and encourage the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to respect the basic human rights and refugee protections under the international law.
We believe that the Saudi Arabian government has right to promulgate and enforce suzerain laws within its territories. But the Saudi government should not enforce its laws in the manner that undermines international laws and norms. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Although we know that the majority of the refugees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are migrant domestic workers looking for better opportunities, a sizable number of the Oromo are refugees and asylum seekers who fled political and religious persecutions in Ethiopia. We believe that grouping refugees together with the so-called immigrant workers and deporting in the indiscriminate manner violates the cardinal principle of international law, non-refoulement.
As the UNCHR makes status determination for refugees on behalf of the Kingdom, we, therefore, kindly request and urge your good office the followings:
Gadaa.comconvince the government of Saudi Arabia to reconsider the status of Oromo refugees and asylum seekers in the process of the haphazard roundups and deportations;
Gadaa.commaking proper screenings before the deportations of people who are rounded up randomly;
Gadaa.comfacilitate the resettlement of Oromo refugees and asylum seekers to a third country if Saudi Arabia no longer want to host them;
Gadaa.comconvince the government of Saudi Arabia to respect basic human rights and afford them refugee protections under the international and Saudi laws;
Gadaa.comprovide basic needs such as food, shelter, and medical attention to the refugee and asylum seekers.
Ibrahim Elemo, M.D., M.P.H
President, Oromo Studies Association
P.O.Box: 6541, Minneapolis, MN, 55406-0541
E-mail: ielemo@weisshospital.com

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