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August 31, 10

NEWS / UN urges proper treatment of migrants after reported deaths in Saudi Arabia

31 August 2010 – The reported deaths of five Ethiopian migrants in a deportation facility in Saudi Arabia has refocused attention on the way asylum-seekers are treated, with the United Nations refugees agency recalling its appeal last month for the kingdom’s authorities to stop sending people back strife-torn to Somalia.

“These two cases were not necessarily linked, but certainly, the five deaths in detention were deplorable,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva.

Asked if an investigation will be carried out with regard to the alleged deaths of the five Ethiopians earlier this week, Mr. Edwards said he believed that the “competent authorities” were looking into the matter.

He said UNHCR had no access to any detention or deportation facilities in Saudi Arabia, adding that the agency was exploring the possibility of being allowed to screen the people in those centres to ensure that those being deported were not in the category of people in need of international protection.

In its statement on 30 July, UNHCR said that in June alone, more than 1,000 Somalis were deported from Saudi Arabia, according to reports from Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. A similar number of Somalis were returned to their country in July.

Monitoring reports indicated that most deportees said they fled Somalia due to conflict, indiscriminate violence and human rights abuses, with most coming from southern and central Somalia, which includes Mogadishu.

UNCHR considers such deportations to be incompatible with agency’s guidelines on international protection needs of Somali refugees and asylum-seekers. A majority of those being sent back from Saudi Arabia are women.

In its July statement, UNHCR said that many of the people who had been sent back to Somalia from Saudi Arabia had probably come through Yemen, where most of them were immediately recognized as refugees.




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