Djibouti Hands 267 Eritrean Detainees Over to UNHCR

The detainees are mostly deserters from the military service in Eritrea. However, because there is a border dispute with Djibouti, and these deserters have military training, they are treated as a security risk. They have been detained out of a misplaced fear – though none of them were caught doing anything to harm the host country.” – Elsa Chyrum from Human Rights Concern Eritrea

The 19 Eritrean Prisoners of War (POW) that has are detained at the Negad detention center in Djibouti during the short border skirmish between Eritrea and Djibouti from 10 - 13 June 2008
The 19 Eritrean Prisoners of War (POW) that are detained at the Negad detention center in Djibouti since the 10 – 13 June 2008 short border skirmish between Eritrea and Djibouti

By World Bulletin,

THE Djiboutian government has handed 267 Eritreans over to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), presidential adviser Najib Ali Tahir said Monday.

“Some of them are military deserters and prisoners of the Djibouti-Eritrea war, which broke out on June 10, 2008,” Tahir told Anadolu Agency.

Tahir said the Eritreans were technically under Djibouti’s protection, going on to note that “there are [another] 19 prisoners of war (POWs) temporarily under our protection.” 

“We have made them talk to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to facilitate their return to their country, and we’re doing this despite the fact that we never heard of Djibouti’s POWs,” Tahir said.

Djibouti and neighboring Eritrea have twice engaged in border conflicts. In April 1996, they almost went to war after a Djiboutian official accused Eritrea of shelling the town of Ras Doumeira.

Three years later in 1999, Eritrea accused Djibouti of siding with its longstanding rival, Ethiopia, while Djibouti counter-accused Eritrea of supporting rebels fighting against its government.

As a result, Djibouti recalled its ambassador and broke off relations with Eritrea, which weren’t fully restored until 2001.

The two countries clashed again for three days in June of 2008, leading to another deterioration of ties and a U.N. embargo on Eritrea.

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NOTE:  UNHCR will now transfer these 267 Eritreans to the Ali Adhee refugee camp located at the border between Ethiopia and Djibouti so that they will be considered as refugees.

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