We are concerned about the human rights situation in Ethiopia and take every opportunity to stress to the transitional government the importance of making progress in this area.
Is the Minister aware that Amnesty International says that there is an emerging problem of disappearances among Government opponents in Ethiopia? Has he seen the statement issued in London on 15 March by the Ethiopian asylum support group expressing its concern that human rights violations are spreading from the political to the religious, social and cultural spheres? What representations will the British Government make to the transitional Government in Ethiopia about those matters?
I am aware of Amnesty Internationals concerns and I have seen the report. I know that a large number of Ethiopians live in the hon. Gentlemans constituency. Due to the Ethiopian civil war, we operated an exceptional leave policy from late 1980 to April 1993. We think that the situation in Ethiopia has now improved to the point where the policy of granting exceptional leave to remain can be discontinued.
Of course, the Home Office will deal with all applications on their individual merits, but it may assist the hon. Gentlemans constituents to know that no Ethiopians who have benefited already from the exceptional leave policy will be required to leave the country when their existing leave expires, unless there are particular reasons in individual cases for asking them to do so.