October 23, 2018
When you see and hear that Eritreans are fleeing to Ethiopia in mass, you may think that they seek asylum in Ethiopia. Many of those who cross to Ethiopia do not seek asylum. In the past couple of weeks, the number of Eritreans fleeing to Ethiopia has rapidly increased. But when you think of Eritreans you thought as they were living as refugee. There some Eritreans who managed to hold Ethiopian passport and able to live as Ethiopians. We explore how that is possible.
How do Eritreans who flee to Ethiopia manage to hold Ethiopian Passport? Is that legal?
To give me insights into the matter, I had a conversation with an Eritrean who have an Ethiopian passport. Here is the full conversation.
Self: First please introduce yourself and how you fled to Ethiopia?
Senay: Okay, my name is Senay (name changed for his safety). I was born and raised in Asmara, and I came to Ethiopia before two years via the Humera Border.
Self: Alright Senay, as you mentioned you came from Eritrea and you used to live as citizen there, and now you an Ethiopian citizen and you hold a valid Ethiopian passport. How is that possible? Are you eligible to have it?
Senay: first of all I have no any blood heritage that can make me eligible to be an Ethiopian passport holder. As you know the Ethiopian immigration law requires that to qualify for Ethiopian citizenship at least one of the parents must be an Ethiopian citizen. And since I am not in this category I am not eligible to be an Ethiopian citizen.
Self: So, how is then possible that you hold an Ethiopian passport?
Senay: The process of having passport in Ethiopia is very different from the way it is administered in Eritrea. What I mean is, in Eritrea the national Identification (ID) card is the same for everyone. And every Eritrean citizen must get it from the immigration office. But here in Ethiopia the ID card is being issued by the local administration office commonly known as “kebele”. And it can be classified as “the genuine” and “the fake or fabricated”.
Self: Sorry for my interruption, what do you mean by saying the genuine and the fake ones?
Senay: Yea, the genuine one is the ID card which a citizen could get it directly from the local administration office (kebele office), and it is registered in the database of the local administration office which is valid. And the other one which is known as “the fake” is the ID card which everyone could get it from non-authorized brokers and it is invalid and unregistered in the database.
Self: What purpose do the two types of IDs serve?
Senay: Mostly the fake one is used for the purpose of bank transactions and for movement within Ethiopia. The genuine ID card is used for the authorized and valid purposes like business operations and accessing passport and immigration services. But bear in mind that I am making references of these IDs and service in relation to Eritreans.
Self: Okay, let’s discuss about the passport issue, in this way can every Eritrean can get an Ethiopian passport?
Senay: No, one thing I want you to know is, most people (Eritrean) tried to get the passport by paying a lot of money. The first step in order to apply to have a passport is you must not be registered as a refuge. This is because during the process of getting passport you will be obliged to have finger prints. As we know during a refuge registration process, refugees’ bio data are being taken. So if you are a refugee and tried to have an Ethiopian passport you can be easily be caught. And it is a crime for refugees to possess Ethiopian passports.
Self: Would you mind if you give detailed accounts as to what procedures are involved in the application process for an Ethiopian passport?
Senay: Firstly you must have the genuine ID card from the Kebele that identifies you as a legal resident. To get the genuine ID card through illegal means it costs about 5000 to 8000 Ethiopian Birr (1 USD = 27 Birr). As Eritreans are not legal citizens of Ethiopia, they cannot apply for genuine ID card legally because they are not in a position to answer the questions posed to them by the authorities when they apply for the ID card. Hence they get the IDs by paying bribes through the facilitation of local brokers who deal with such cases. After getting the ID card one needs to go y to the Immigration office and apply for passport by filling different forms. Biodata of anyone who applies for passport and you are taken. After filling the forms, answering the questions and bio data are being taken, appointment slip is being issued to the applicant. Here, the application forms can be filled by the applicant himself/herself. But it is hard for illegal person like me to answer the questions asked by the immigration officials. Therefore applicants have to pay a large sum of money to the brokers (most of them work in the immigration office) and they will allow you pass through the process without any complications. On average about 10,000 – 25,000 Birr is enough to complete this process and get your desired passport.
Self: How much did you pay, for your passport?
Senay: I paid 18,000 birr for the whole process.
Self: Can you tell me the real idea behind having an Ethiopian passport? Why did Eritreans desire to have it?
Senay: The main reason is the inaccessibility of Eritrean passport. Here in Ethiopia the Eritrean Embassy was closed for the last twenty years and even now it has not resumed its operations. So when you plan or want to move to other country you need a passport, and that’s the reason why Eritreans want to have [Ethiopian] passport.
Self: Do you know some Eritrean refugees who applied for Ethiopian passport?
Senay: You know, here in Ethiopia everything is possible. There is nothing that cannot be done. Brokers do a lot of illegal things. They have even collaborators from the immigration and security offices who can commit themselves to delete the bio data of the refugees when they apply for passports. And with the help of the brokers I know many Eritrean refugees who managed to possess Ethiopian passport. But they paid huge sums of money to get the passports. They paid a minimum 100,000 Birr.
Self: As you mentioned earlier getting Ethiopian passport is possible only through illegal process. Do you know anyone who got caught in this act? And what measures were taken against them if any?
Senay: Of course there were, as I told you the last step in the process of getting passport is vital as the applicants are required to answer difficult questions. There were Eritreans who got caught as they failed to answer the questions such as failing to know places. Once you get caught you will serve a two or three month of sentence and finally they will transfer you to the Refugee camps.
Self: Okay Senay, I really appreciate and thank you for your timely and useful information.
ጉዳይ ፓስፖርት ኢትዮጵያ ኣብ መኣዲ ኤርትራውያን ብኸምዚ መስርሕ፡ዩ ዝካየድ። ኣብዚ ግዜ’ዚ ምስ’ዚ ዘሎ ዋሕዚ ኤርትራውያን ቁጽሪ ምውጻእ ፓስፖርት ብመንገዲ ደላሎ ኣዝዩ በርኪቱ ይርከብ። ብፍላይ ብ ኤርትራ ዝመጹ ቁጽሮም ብርክት ዝበሉ ዜጋታት ናብ ከም ኡጋንዳን ዱባይን ንምኻድ ብደላሎ ተሓጊዞም ፓስፖርት ናይ ኢትዮጵያ ኣብ ምውጻእ ተጸሚዶም ይርከቡ። ኣምሳያ ናይ ክቱር ድሌታቶም ድማ ፣ መጠን ገንዘብ ምስላጥ ናይቲ መስርሕ ብልዑል መጠን ይንህር ኣሎ። ኣብ’ዚ ሕጂ እዋን ገምጋዊ መጠን ዋጋ ምውጻእ ፓስፖርት ካብ 25 ሽሕ ክሳብ 40 ሽሕ ኣቢሉ ይበጽሕ።
Now with the mass exodus of Eritreans to Ethiopia, the number of Eritreans getting Ethiopian passport through the facilitation of brokers has increased significantly. With the need to travel to Uganda and Dubai, many Eritreans are busy in getting Ethiopian passport. As the result of high demand the price for getting a passport has increased reaching between 25,000 and 40,000 Birr.