To: Our Oromo Brothers and Sisters, UNHCR, and International Community
We Oromo refugees in Libya appeal to our Oromo brothers all over the world, the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations, and the international community at large to reach for our lives and save us from being killed by ISIS. We are currently living in a life and death situation. Since the 28 or so immigrants from Ethiopia have been beheaded(or shot) by the ISIS on April 19, a lot of refugees are taken away to unknown location every day. We don’t know if they are dead or alive. On April 22, 2015, many Oromo refugees have been abducted from their houses by unknown armed people. The situation is getting worse by the day. It seems that the whole Libyan society, including children as young as a ten year old, is armed to the teeth. A ten year old would kill any immigrant person anywhere. Thieves kill refugees for a small amount of money and property they may possess. The killing by the ISIS is well known because it is video-taped. However, the number of those refugees who are being killed by the day on the streets is much larger. We are fearful to get out of our houses. We are also unable to live in our homes.Apart from those who have been beheaded or shot, 50 other immigrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea are still held in the hands of the ISIS waiting for their death. We know many of these are our Oromo brothers.
From hundreds of thousands of refugees stranded in Libya and now looking how to get out of the country, at least 20,000 are Oromo refugees.We have now identified that at least three of those who have been beheaded or shot on April 19, 2015 are Oromo refugees. Jamal Rahman, an Oromo, a Muslim faith follower was killed because he refused to be separated from his Christian friends. Two other Oromos who have been killed are Mengistu Gashu and Aweke Gemechu, both from Oromia, Eastern Wollega zone.
Most immigrants from Ethiopia are advised to change their nationality and identity in order to be accepted by the UNHCR. Whenever they tell the UNHCR officials that they are from Ethiopia, they are usually rejected and are told to go back to the country they escaped from. Oromo refugees usually tell that they are Somalis to be accepted as refugees. Amhara and other Amharic speaking Ethiopian refugees are advised to tell that they are Eritreans. Hence, the number of Ethiopian refugees in Libya appears to be smaller than it actually is. Some key UNHCR officials tell the immigrants that their country Ethiopia is a democratic country and that they should go back to Ethiopia and shouldn’t seek refuge. They tell the refugees that they do not satisfy the criterion and will not be registered under UNHCR. Usually they intimidate to call the police and arrest them unless they go back to Ethiopia. In fact many have been deported back to Ethiopia from Sudan on several occasions. For example, a UNHCR senior protection officer Birane Tekku Nega is a Tigrean, the minority ethno-national group dominating the Ethiopian politics, Employed by the US and sent to Khartoum, Sudan. He is one of those UNHCR officials who denies the application of most Oromo refugees and tell them to go back to Ethiopia. There are many other high level officials affiliated with the Ethiopian government who intimidate refugees from Ethiopia.
On the other hand, it is widely known among the Ethiopian refugee community that the military and intelligence officers of both Sudan and Ethiopia are involved in the human trafficking business of transferring refugees and immigrants from one country to another. They get a huge amount of money from this ‘business’. Both countries have been doing this business in a coordinated manner as a huge source of income over the past ten or so years. We knew about this because we got information from our brothers and sisters who paid the ransom money and who were involved and who were not in the smuggling business of refugees. Many of us have been in contact with the authorities both countries of Sudan and Ethiopia who were involved in such criminal activities. We urge the international community to investigate this criminal act perpetrated at a government level”.
Adding to the wound, the government of Sudan is worsening the situation by denying protection and settlement in its country. The UNHCR office in Khartoum is filled by officials of the Sudanese government who in turn work closely with the Ethiopian government. When a person has escaped from his/her country and is denied protection in a country he/she is seeking refuge, he/she will have no other choice but to blindly taking a risk of crossing to the Saharan desert and face the danger that comes with it. That is what the Oromo and other refugees from Ethiopia are facing at the moment.
What is even more disturbing is that Oromo women are transferred (sold) to Arab Countries by security forces of the Sudanese. The Sudanese security forces serve as ‘brokers’, selling young Oromo women for cheap labor that amounts to slavery. In return they get the first year full salary of these women. These young Oromo women do not have any guarantee for their lives. No government knows them. The UNHCR doesn’t know them. They are raped and beaten to death and no one is accountable since arrangement has been made in such a way that nobody takes responsibility for their lives.
It is under such circumstances that most immigrants left Sudan and now stranded in Libya. Libya is now the most dangerous place for human beings killed not only by ISIS but by anyone too. Not only that we do not have a means to survive, but now our lives are in danger. We ask our Oromo brothers and sisters to appeal to human rights, humanitarian organizations, the UNHCR and the international community to save our lives. In addition, we would like to call upon the UNHCR to investigate the practices of its officers in Khartoum and elsewhere to stop unfair treatment of Oromo refugees.
Uncertain about what will be next, the only hope we remained with is, might the international community save us from perishing one by one at the hands of ISIL and other death risking volatile situations in Libya.
Stranded Oromo Refugees in Libya