Controversial return agreement with Ethiopia

Norway has signed a return agreement with Ethiopia. The agreement makes it possible for both voluntary and forced returns of Ethiopian citizens who have been denied asylum.

"Ethiopian citizens have been a large group of asylum seekers in Norway for many years, and we are very pleased that we have now come to an agreement that will help facilitate returns to Ethiopia of those who have not been granted asylum, says Pål K. Lønseth, State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice.

The agreement helps facilitate the returns of Ethiopian citizens to their home country in a safe and dignified way, according to a Norwegian government press release. Through this agreement, the citizens that choose voluntary returns will receive a lump sum upon arrival in Ethiopia. They will also be offered support in order to successfully integrate back home.

However, not everyone agrees that the new agreement will have a positive effect. Ann-Magrit Austenå, Secretary General in the Norwegian Association for Asylum Seekers, is worried about what will happen to the children. "Some of the kids have stayed in Norway for a long period of time, and we feel that their needs should be taken into account," she told NRK.

Austenå is also worried that the Ethiopians may face imprisonment, torture and the harassment of people and families. "Several of those who will be sent home have been politically active while in Norway, which will have consequences for some of them", she explains.

For the Ethiopians that do not want to return voluntarily, the agreement opens up for forced returns.

- In order to ensure that as many as possible choose voluntary returns and have sufficient time to apply, we will wait until March 15 before the forced returns take effect, Lønseth explains.

(Press release)

Julie Ryland

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