Monthly Archives: November 2013

US slams agencies failing to assist Saudi Arabia returnees

The US government has criticized agencies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for shirking their responsibility to offer assistance to thousands of Ethiopian citizens deported by the Saudi Arabian government a week ago.

According to reports, many of the refugees returning from the Middle East country did not receive adequate support from frontier organizations like the IOM, on account of a “lack of finances”. The US, however, did not buy into this explanation.

Anne Richard, assistant secretary at the bureau of population, refugees, and migration, said at a press conference held on Wednesday at the embassy of the United States in Addis Ababa that the US provides an enormous amount of funding to the United Nations Higher Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) annually. And her government cannot accept the explanation that the agencies do not have the money to assist returnees, as it is one of the priority areas. The US provides some USD 30 million every year to the UNHCR to ensure the safety of refugees.

However, the agencies approached by returnees for assistance were told that they do not have the budget for such emergencies.

The incidents taking place in Saudi Arabia involve violence, and that concerns the US very much, according to Anne, although she did not dare condemn the Saudi government. “The bus was stuffed with luggage and the belongings of repatriated refugees from Saudi Arabia,” Anne said, explaining the situation that she saw while visiting one of the transit centers in the capital.

The assistant secretary also expressed concern about the situation in Ethiopian refugee camps. Following the cases of abuse, rape and murder in some places, where women and children refugees are targeted, Anne said it is a big concern for the US government. She visited the Shire refugee camps in the Tigray Regional State, where the number of refugees has increased alarmingly in the past three years, Anne noted. Most of the women and children traveled to these camps by themselves from Eritrea, all the while risking abuse.

Anne was in Ethiopia to participate in the Third International Family Planning Conference, which was held last week. She traveled to visit reproductive health projects in addition to the refugee camps.


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