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UNHCR Concerned For Missing Ethiopian Pilots

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, says it’s concerned about three Ethiopian pilots who reportedly defected to Djibouti last month. It’s asking the Djibouti government to release information on their whereabouts.

Ron Redmond is a spokesman for the UNHCR. From Geneva, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the incident.

He says, “The UNHCR began receiving unconfirmed, sort of sketchy reports in the third week of June that three Ethiopians had flown a military helicopter to Djibouti. And we then began seeking information from the Djibouti government and basically we’ve been trying ever since to find out what we can about these people. What we know is that they did land there. Now, whether they’re still there we don’t know. We suspect these people were defecting and we believe they may have been seeking asylum. We hope they’re still there and we’re asking for access to them.”

Another Ethiopian air force member defected in Belarus in June and is currently seeking asylum. The reported defections coincided with unrest in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in early May, which resulted in a government crackdown.

The Assistant High Commissioner for the UNHCR, Kamel Morjane, has written to the Djibouti government requesting information on the missing Ethiopians. So, far, there’s been no official response.