“We believe that among the thousands of Eritrean migrants in Europe, 30 – 40 percent are Ethiopians,” – Andreas Melan, Austrian Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Austrian ambassador in Ethiopia, Andreas Melan, in an interview with APA explained that as thousands of Ethiopians continue to illegally migrate to Saudi Arabia and South Africa, those who fled to Europe usually claim they are from Eritrea as that has a better chance of recognition for asylum.
The “mass exodus” of Ethiopians that no one speaks about attracts about 100,000 Ethiopians annually Eastwards, said Ambassador Melan. The official figures of course not known as Ethiopians mostly migrate illegally as legal migration has been prohibited by the government.
“As Ethiopians, the only chance to get asylum in Europe is for opposition politician or a homosexual or anyone who can demonstrate persecution,” said Ambassador Melan. “Critical journalists also often flee the country.”
Ambassador Melan went on to say that, the Eritrean Community in Austria is very small while traditionally the number of asylum applications from Eritrea in Switzerland is relatively high.
However, “We believe that among the thousands of Eritrean migrants in Europe, 30 to 40 percent are Ethiopians,” said the ambassador.
The 2013 and 2014 European migration statistics Eurostat also confirms Ambassador Melan’s assertion. Among the top countries of origin for asylum seekers, Ethiopia is not listed even among the top 20 origins as thousands of its illegal migrants already claimed they are from Eritrea. For such simple fact and error, Eritrea has been singled out as the second most refugee-producing country next to Syria.
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But Ethiopia is also the destination country for many people from the region. At present, the East African country is home to a population of over 94 million people on top of around 750,000 refugees from Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia.
However, Ethiopia itself is one of the poorest countries in the world – 30 percent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day – and many of its citizens often have no prospects in their homeland, and for that many of them leave their homes.
In 2013, only 20 Ethiopians and 59 Eritreans have applied for asylum in Austria. In 2014, Ethiopia was counted as not even among the 15 countries of origin as they all start registering as Eritreans upon arrival.
In addition to Europe and the Middle East, the route to South Africa is so popular among Ethiopian immigrants. This, however, is the least explored, so Maria Temesvari of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Addis Ababa said it is the least explored route by Ethiopians so far.
No matter in which direction, the Ethiopian government wants its citizens to migrate legally and for that, it introduced a front against traffickers to curb illegal migration. In July, legislation was passed that will penalize.
“This goes back to the death penalty,” said Temesvari. [TN]
* The above story was first published by APA under the title “Refugees – Legal emigration is taboo for Ethiopians“