Oromo Refugees trapped in Libya with nowhere to turn
Photo: Oromo women in Harar, Ethiopia. Credit: CharlesFred
More than 230 Oromo people, including pregnant women, young children and elderly people are trapped in Benghazi with time running out to save their lives.
Many of these Oromo refugees, who fled Ethiopia due to political and ethnic persecution are not able to leave their homes, have minimal access to food and other basic supplies, and are living with the constant threat of attack from rebel forces targeting non-Arab Africans.
Gamachu Diqa, an Oromo who is currently in hiding in Benghazi, reports that, “The situation is getting worse and worse as time goes on. In the place where I am living some friends called and have been attacked by Libyans and their houses looted. Now we have lost contact with them and their phones are switched off”
Diqa, who is in the Port Juliana area of Benghazi explained that there are about 230 Oromo living in the city and of this number 2 have been wounded and 40-50 are missing presumed captured or killed. He continued that any non-arab African in Libya is being accused by the rebel forces of being a ‘murtaziqa’ or mercenary, those that have been recruited by Gadaffi to fight the uprising. Diqa described how one of the Oromo were injured.
“One of my friends, Jamal, was travelling in a taxi when the Police stopped him, they made him get out of the car and asked him where he was from and asked him why as a Black African he was travelling the streets. They then shot him in the leg and left him. We tried to get him to the hospital but because he is being called a ‘murtaziqa’ it is too dangerous to take him as he may be killed at the hospital”
The Oromo people, one of the largest people groups in Africa, fled Ethiopia due to political and ethnic persecution and many have settled in North America and Europe, but some only made it as far as Libya. Whilst the majority of Oromo are found in Ethiopia they do not identify themselves as Ethiopians and are fighting for liberation.
The IOM are reported to have told Oromo representatives that unless they register as Ethiopian they are not eligible for evacuation, yet the level of persecution faced by the Oromo in their home country is a situation most are not willing to return to. The UNHCR has likewise provided no assistance, simply collecting details of the numbers of Oromo in Benghazi.
The majority of the Oromo in Libya have no form of identification and therefore cannot leave by the Egyptian or Tunisian borders, as the rebels are demanding of them. ‘We are being told by the rebels we have to leave for Eygpt but they are demanding that we pay for our tickets” said Diqa, “but we don’t have a single penny even for food, let alone to pay for travel. We don’t have a single paper showing who we are in order to travel-this means we are in great danger.’