On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Agency No. A096-146-985.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: D.W. Nelson, Senior Circuit Judge:
Argued and Submitted February 12, 2009 -- San Francisco, California
Before: Dorothy W. Nelson, William A. Fletcher and Richard C. Tallman, Circuit Judges.
Petitioner Ruth Aynom Mengtsu petitions this court for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' denial of her application for asylum. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(1). We grant the petition for review, remanding for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Ruth Aynom Mengtsu is an Ethiopian national of Eritrean descent. She was born in 1976 in Asmara, Ethiopia.*fn1 When she was five years old, she moved to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, with her family. Mengtsu completed high school and studied at a technical school for two years, graduating in 1995. She married, and, in 1999, sought employment because she felt that she "should leave the house and be productive." She was hired as a secretary in a glass work store. The owner, Robel Berhe, was also Eritrean, as were several of his employees.
In May 1998, armed conflict erupted between Ethiopia and Eritrea. During the war, approximately 75,000 Ethiopians of Eritrean origin were forcibly expelled and bused to Eritrea. The justification for these expulsions was simply suspect status as "Eritreans." People in urban areas were frequently arrested in their homes or workplaces. Arrestees were typically interned, often under very harsh conditions, prior to deportation.
In February 1999, Mengstu's husband was deported. According to Mengtsu's testimony, the Ethiopian police "just picked him up and took him away." He was in the business district at the time, and the police were deporting Eritreans in the vicinity.
On March 10, 2000, over a year later, seven or eight members of the Ethiopian police came to Mengtsu's store and stated that all of the Eritreans in the store had to leave the country. The police spoke to Berhe, the owner, who relayed the officers' statements to the employees. Berhe confirmed that there were Eritreans working in the store, identifying them on a list. The police further stated that the Eritreans should get their identity papers from the Immigration Office.
Mengtsu obtained the identity paper from the Immigration Office on March 15, 2000. She provided the Immigration Judge ("IJ") with a copy of the paper, explaining that it was issued in lieu of a passport and served as "the identity paper to non-Ethiopians, which they considered non-Ethiopians. It's an emergency paper issued to people who had to leave from Ethiopia to go out of the country." The document was titled "Emergency Document of Identity to a non-Ethiopian National who cannot Obtain, or owing to Emergent Circumstances, has no time to Obtain a National Passport or renew an Expired one." (emphasis added). It identified Mengstu as "proceeding to Sudan," and was not valid for re-entry to Ethiopia. Her nationality was listed as "Eritrean."
Mengtsu flew from Addis Ababa with Berhe to Khartoum, the capital of the Sudan, on March 25, 2000. Mengtsu showed the Sudanese officials her Ethiopian identity paper and entered the country. There was no Sudanese stamp on her visa, and she was not interviewed by immigration officials.
Shortly after she arrived in the Sudan, Mengtsu went to Abba Kansa, a refugee camp operated by the Red Cross, located outside of Khartoum. She was not directed to the camp by Sudanese officials; she simply believed that she ...