ICRC blocked in repatriation of Ethiopians from Eritrea

Eritrean authorities have stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from involvement in the repatriation of Ethiopians from the territory, the ICRC said.

More than 43,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans wanting to return home have been repatriated to their respective countries under ICRC auspices since 2000.

"As a neutral intermediary, the ICRC made the necessary logistical arrangements on both sides of the border and placed the repatriated individuals in the care of their home country's authorities," said ICRC spokeswoman Anna Schaaf.

Discussions had gone on for weeks between the ICRC in Asmara and Eritrean authorities over the matter before the decision was announced, Umesh Kadam, ICRC’s communication delegate in Ethiopia, told IRIN in Addis Ababa.

The decision, however, does not affect the right of Ethiopian nationals to leave Eritrea if they wish, ICRC said. It also does not relieve Eritrea of its obligation to ensure that future repatriation is carried out satisfactorily.

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a bloody two-and-a-half-year war over a 1,000km border, ending in a peace accord signed in 2000. The war claimed up to 70,000 lives and separated thousands of people from their families and friends.