The group said to be 22 in total, 15 men, 5 women and 2 children under the age of two, were handed over to Ethiopian authorities in the border town of Tog-Wajale.The refugees blamed their deportation on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) saying Somaliland authorities acted in consultation with the Rights UN agency. They added it was the UNHCR’s responsibility to guarantee refugee safety in the first place and suggested that the UN agency had abandoned them.
The government in Somaliland recently said it was cracking down on illegal economic migrants because it did not have the capacity to host them. It stated that there were more than 80,000, mainly Ethiopians, illegal migrants in the country and further revealed it only recognized 1,772 Ethiopians as genuine refugees. In 2006 Somaliland informed UNHCR that it was no longer open to refugees or asylum seekers.
Ethiopian refugees in the country deny that they are economic migrants. They argue that they are instead fleeing starvation,forced labor, torture and political persecution in their native land.
Since the government announced its crack down on “illegal economic migrants” in early September, many Ethiopian refugees complained of discrimination, social isolation and living conditions. There have been widespread reports that many were been fired from their jobs and were forced on the streets.
Somaliland authorities say they plan to repatriate some 570 Ethiopians with the help of International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2012. Ethiopian officials are believed to be on the ground screening these deportees to determine whether or not they are Ethiopians.
Somaliland is also struggling with huge number of refugees from neighboring war-ravaged Somalia. Hargeisa claims it’s hosting over 90,000 refugees from mainly southern Somalia where TFG and AU troops are battling insurgents.