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Ethiopia: Information regarding the penalty for illegal departure

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 May 1990
Citation / Document Symbol ETH5785
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ethiopia: Information regarding the penalty for illegal departure, 1 May 1990, ETH5785, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


According to October 1988 statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are nearly 1.5 million Ethiopian refugees who have sought asylum in neighbouring countries. [


 United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, Fact Sheet, April 1989, Vol. 3, No. 1. pp. 1-6.] These major influxes of Ethiopians into the Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya occur almost exclusively through illegal border crossings after long and arduous overland journeys. [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports On Human Rights Practices for 1988, Washington: Government Printers, 1989, p. 116.] Others have used their official travel privileges or study abroad as a means of not returning and, according to one source, 22 ministers, 19 deputy ministers and 29 ambassadors have defected to the West during the past few years. [ Dawit Wolde Giorgis, Red Terror: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, New Jersey: The Red Sea Press, Inc., 1989, p. 357.] In addition, many of the students sent to the Soviet Union and East European countries have made their way to the West.

Foreign travel by Ethiopian citizens is strictly controlled by the government through the issuance of passports and mandatory exit visas. All passport applications require a letter of endorsement from the head of the appropriate local administrative unit, and it can be denied for such simple reasons as failure to attend political meetings or to volunteer for local work activities. [ George Thomas Kurian, ed., Encyclopedia of the Third World, 3rd ed., Vol. 1., New York: Facts On File Inc., 1987, p. 665. Also see U.S. Department of State, Country Reports for 1988, p. 116.] A security clearance is also a prerequisite when applying for a passport. Decisions on the countries which a passport holder may not be allowed to visit are made in an arbitrary fashion. [ Charles Humana, World Human Rights Guide, London: The Economist Publications, 1986, p. 91.] Passports are valid for one to three years.

Emigration from Ethiopia is heavily restricted, except in special cases such as marriage to, or adoption by, a foreign national. Leaving Ethiopia illegally is a serious offence punishable by five to 25 years' imprisonment or, in exceptional cases, by death. [ Kurian, p. 665; Humana, p. 89.] Illegally leaving or attempting to leave the country is considered to be an act of treason against the country, and the 1987 Constitution states that "treason against the Motherland is the gravest crime committed against the people, entailing severe punishment". [Albert P. Blaustein and Gisbert H. Flanz, eds., Constitutions of the Countries of the World: The Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Dodds Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., April 1988, Part 2, Chap. 7, Art. 53(2). ] In its 1988 Report, Amnesty International noted that of the thousands of political prisoners being held in Ethiopian jails, many were reportedly arrested for attempting to flee the country. [ Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1988, London: 1989, p. 38.]

Attached please find a copy of the following document:

Negarit Gazeta, an Ethiopian Government Publication (1981) which contains "The Amended Special Penal Code" of Proclamation No. 214, Article No. 12 Section B.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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