Fears for Lancaster man after ‘unlawful’ deportation to Ethiopia

Solomon Yitbarek.
Solomon Yitbarek.

A Lancaster man has been deported to his home country despite his bid to claim asylum in the UK on safety grounds.

Solomon Yitbarek’s friends and partner now fear for his safety having not heard from him since he was taken in handcuffs to the airport on Sunday afternoon.

Solomon had been living in Lancaster since 2016, having arrived in the UK legally on a spouse visa from Ethiopia in 2013.

However, his subsequent separation from his partner prompted him to consider returning to Ethiopia in 2016.

He was warned against doing so by his aunt in Ethiopia, who said an arrest warrant had been issued for him for his peaceful democracy activities, and that his brother had been arrested and imprisoned for his political opposition activities.

Solomon had since applied for asylum in the UK, but the Home Office dismissed his case.

He was arrested last Wednesday and taken to a detention centre in Gatwick.

Despite his lawyer claiming the arrest was unlawful and asking for a judicial review, Soloman was handcuffed and put on a flight to Addis Abbaba from Heathrow on Sunday evening.

He has not been heard of since, and his friends and partner now fear he has been arrested by the authorities on arrival in Ethiopia.

Gisela Renolds, the manager of the Global Link charity where Solomon had been volunteering, said: “The Home Office decided they wanted to deport him as soon as possible. It looks like they rejected his claim on Friday or Saturday when his lawyer wasn’t available.

“They told him at 10am on Sunday that he was going to be deported. I got a call from him at 5pm saying he had been handcuffed and put in a van to the airport.

“We haven’t heard from him since. We are very concerned that he was taken at the airport by the Ethiopian authorities.

“We don’t know what has happened to him. It’s very distressing, our biggest concern is for his safety.”

Lancaster MP Cat Smith has appealed to the Home Office to ask them to guarantee his safety in Ethiopia, and his lawyer has raised an action in the Court of Sessions to ask for the Home Office to return him.

An urgent hearing has been set for Wednesday in Edinburgh.

Solomon’s lawyer maintains that Solomon’s deportation was unlawful because she wasn’t told about the removal process.

It is feared Solomon will have been arrested due to his previous political opposition.

Since late 2015, security forces in Ethiopia have killed more than 1,000 people and detained tens of thousands during widespread protests against government policies.

Gisela said: “The authorities regularly use arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions to silence journalists, activists, and perceived opposition party members, including people like Solomon.

“Solomon is an activist in a pro-democracy opposition group called Patriotic Ginbot 7, who have been labelled a terrorist group by the Ethiopian government.

“Solomon’s family has a history of political activism. His father was tortured so badly by the Ethiopian regime 18 years ago that he died almost immediately on release.

“His mother then fled to Sudan as a refugee, with her young son Solomon.

“Solomon’s brother, who had remained in Ethiopia, was also arrested in 2016, was sent to prison for his opposition activities, and hasn’t been seen or heard of since.”

Solomon was moved to Lancaster by the Home Office following the breakdown of his marriage.

Gisela said in March the Home Office attempted to deport him, but his lawyer put in a new claim for asylum.

This was rejected but his lawyer claims the Home Office failed to take new evidence into account and a judicial review was applied for.

However, Gisela said the Home Office acted swiftly over the weekend when Solomon’s lawyer was not available.