The FIDH requests the suspension of the expulsion of several thousand irregular immigrants

03/09/2003
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On 26, 27 and 28 August 2003, a large number of vehicles left the capital of Djibouti for the border countries. Aboard the vehicles were several thousands of so-called "voluntary repatriates," primarily Somalis and Ethiopians. On 26 July 2003, the government decided to allow the "irregular" immigrants 35 days to leave the territory of Djibouti, before "the government started to make general round-ups". The Minister of the Interior, M. Abdulkader Dualeh, has since announced the deadline is 15 September.

The "voluntary" departure of the repatriates, primarily women and children, who in reality, are being expelled by force, could lead to a veritable humanitarian catastrophe. According to the information received from the Ligue djiboutienne des droits de l’Homme (LDDH), member of the FIDH, several hundreds of these "voluntary repatriates" are being detained in a "no man’s land" between the borders of Djibouti and Somaliland, as the Somaliland authorities will not authorize the entry into their territory by anyone but Somalis. Those who cannot cross the border have been gathered in a large refugee camp, without nourishment, or logistical support, and exposed to excessive heat, all of which is likely to lead to dehydration and disease.

According to the government, the eviction decision was motivated by economic and safety reasons. However, the trigger for the decision appears to be pressure from the United States, who recently warned the national authorities of possible terrorist attacks aimed at Western interests in Djibouti. These evictions would therefore appear to be part of a prevention plan. The United States are using Djibouti-with its strategic position in the Horn of Africa-as a investigation base on Al-Qaeda.

Whatever the reason for the step taken by the Djiboutian authorities, it is in obvious violation of Djibouti’s international obligations, as regards the protection of human rights. International and regional law, particularly Article 12 of the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights states that "The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited." The eviction of non-nationals where the individual situation of the persons involved has not been validly examined, or where there is no guarantee of the principle of non-refoulement, according to which states are obliged not to return anyone to a place where their physical or mental integrity might be at risk, are likewise prohibited.

The FIDH and LDDH urges the Djibouti government to adjourn the forced departure of irregular immigrants in order to examine each situation individually with a view to possible regularization. And, in any case, the FIDH and LDDH ask the Djibouti government to help repatriate these persons outside their borders, according to conditions which are in line with the international human rights instruments.

The FIDH considers that while the battle against terrorism is legitimate, it cannot, under any circumstances, be used as a fallacious pretext for expelling several thousands of people, primarily women and children, from Djitbouti, in contempt of the international provisions regarding the protection of human rights;

The FIDH asks the authorities of the neighboring countries to give protection to the Somali nationals so they can return to their families, without worrying about the well-known insecurity in this border area;

The FIDH urgently asks the international community to help the persons being detained in the "no man’s land" between Djibouti and Somaliland, in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe;

The FIDH asks Djibouti’s neighboring countries to facilitate the return of their nationals, but also to authorize the arrival of refugees on their territory, according to the Geneva Convention of 1951 on the protection of refugees and stateless persons.

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