Saturday, November 17, 2012

Norway refuses to grant Ethiopia’s fingerprint request of over 400 refugees


By Merga Yonas
The Norwegian government has disagreed with Ethiopia on the latter's request for fingerprints of the over 400 Ethiopian refugees residing in Norway, who were expected to be deported, as it is not in their repatriation agreement. On January 26, Torgeir Larsen, Secretary of state with Norwegian government and Ambassador Berhane Gebrekristos, Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to repatriate back Ethiopian citizens in Norway. Since March 15, the Norwegian government was in the process of sending back over 400 Ethiopian refugees living in the country without legal documents or resident permits.

Sources told the The Reporter that though the Ethiopian government requested as a precondition  fingerprints of the Ethiopians who are set to be deported, the Norwegian government refused to get engaged as the request was not in their repatriation agreement.

The agreement was signed between the two countries to let citizens repatriate voluntarily, Ambassador Dina Mufti, spokesperson with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Reporter. According to the agreement, the repatriation is going to be carred out by the Norwegian government.

“Thus, we don’t follow up the status and I don’t have any information regarding the fingerprint request,” Dina told The Reporter.

“In the first place there was no one who could voluntarily return back to Ethiopia, as many are political refuges and that is why the demonstration has kept on here in Norway,” an Ethiopian who resides in Norway told The Reporter in a telephone interview.

The agreement stipulates that Ethiopian citizens, who choose to return voluntarily, are entitled to receive a lump sum upon arrival and will be offered support to reintegrate, which paves the way for a new start in Ethiopia. For Ethiopians, who do not want to go voluntarily, the Norwegian government will resort to the option of enforced return.

A recent report from Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) shows that before the repatriation agreement was signed, the deportation of Ethiopians was very complicated. The number of deportations of Ethiopians from Norway and other Western countries in the past few years has been minimal. There have also been relatively few voluntary returns to Ethiopia.