(OPride) – As Oromo refugees protested mistreatment by Egyptian nationals for the second day, some of them camping overnight in front of UNHCR office near Cairo, the UN body called on Egyptian authorities to provide better protection and other guarantees in accordance with its international obligations.
“The UNHCR regional office in Cairo has been receiving several complaints from Ethiopian refugees reporting physical and verbal assaults by Egyptian nationals,” Mohammed Dayri, UNHCR Regional Representative in Cairo, said in a statement.
“UNHCR is concerned about these allegations and calls upon the Egyptian public opinion to protect the physical integrity and other rights of Ethiopian refugees in accordance with international obligations of Egypt and the traditional hospitality of Egyptian people.”
As dispute over diversion of the Nile river flow escalates, the refugees are finding it difficult to receive police support to stop the attacks as well as accessing healthcare and other services because of their nationality, the statement added.
“Some of them were kicked out of their jobs by their employers, or their apartments by their landlords,” said Dayri citing the refugees’ accounts.
Without mentioning Oromo by name, the UN official said, “it is of paramount importance that all differentiate between the political dispute with Ethiopian government and the treatment of Ethiopian refugees, who fled their country to seek sanctuary in Egypt.”
Oromo are Ethiopia’s single largest ethnic group, over 40 million by some estimates. Despite their numerical majority, the Oromo remain highly persecuted and marginalized in Ethiopia. According to UNHCR, there are 2, 608 Ethiopians refugees currently seeking asylum in Egypt.
Meanwhile, in unconfirmed reports, members of the Egyptian senate held discussions about Oromo, including the plight of those demonstrating in Cairo, at the Senate House.
The dispute over Nile water flow took another turn over the weekend as Sudan expressed continued support for Ethiopia’s controversial dam. Sudanese government spokesman Ahmed Bilal called on Egypt to stop “provocations” after an Egyptian opposition leader, Ayman Nour, described Khartoum’s stand on the issue “disgusting.”
Mr. Nour has since apologized for his remarks.
In a televised speech to cheering supporters, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said on Monday, “Egypt does not want war with Ethiopia but will keep ‘all options open,’” further escalating the tension according to Reuters. “We are not calling for war, but we will never permit our water security … to be threatened. If it diminishes by one drop then our blood is the alternative.”
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[Photos]: Oromo Refugees protest in Cairo
Aljazeera Stream: Ethiopian Refugees Caught in Dam Impasse