31/08/03 (B210) Djibouti repousse l’ultimatum pour les étrangers (BBC en anglais)

Djibouti extends refugee
deadline

Djibouti has extended the deadline for illegal immigrants to leave the country
by two weeks.

The news came as thousands of immigrants used any means of transport to try
to get out of the country before the previous deadline of Sunday.

The immigrants, mainly
Ethiopians and Somalis, have been told by authorities they must leave the
country for “security” and “economic” reasons.

The United States has
been using Djibouti – strategically located on the Horn of Africa – as a base
to collect intelligence on the al-Qaeda network.

No further time limit
will be granted after 15 September

War on terror Africa-style

Warnings by
Washington of possible attacks on Western interests in the country are thought
to have led the government to clamp down on the foreigners.

“No further time
limit will be granted after 15 September,” Interior Minister Abdulkader
Dualeh Wais told journalists.

Illegal immigrants wishing
to apply for asylum have been streaming into a camp set up by the United Nations
refugee agency at Aour-Aoussa, in the south of the country.

“The asylum seekers
are largely Somalis who can’t go back to their home territory because of the
conflict and instability there,” a Djiboutian official said.

Economic impact
Illegal immigrants who did not leave would be deported,

government spokesman Ali Ahmed Koulet told the BBC.

On Saturday, 1,000 Ethiopians
– of the 30,000 expected by the Ethiopian authorities – arrived in Dire Dawa.

“Both young and old
Ethiopians arrived carrying small possessions,” a Dire Dawa official
said.

Thousands of refugees
are also passing through the town of Lowya-ado to reach the self-proclaimed
republic of Somaliland.

The economic impact
of the departure of so many immigrants is already being felt.

Maids,
cooks, cleaners, security guards and car washers are now impossible to find
while shops and bakeries are short staffed. Street food vendors have lost
much of their clientele.

The interior ministry
is urging Djibouti nationals to take up the jobs vacated by the foreigners
but they are demanding double the wages.

There are 1,500 United
States soldiers in Djibouti as part of regional counter-terrorism efforts.
The country also hosts 2,700 French military personnel, as well as 800 German
and 50 Spanish troops.