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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
'Student ban' on Ethiopian planes
Hijacked Ethiopian Antonov
An Ethiopian plane was hijacked in April
By Nita Bhalla In Addis Ababa

University and college students studying in the northern Ethiopian towns of Bahr Dar and Mekelle have been banned from boarding Ethiopian Airlines planes, according to a local newspaper.

Hijacker Bagemberman Tebegne
The hijackers in April were trainee pilots
The Ethiopian Reporter said hundreds of students who wish to return home by air for their summer vacation, have been told to find other means of transport. The airline said students are being turned away because there are passengers who can pay more for the seats.

The reported ban follows the hijacking of a military Antonov aircraft in April, when trainee pilots held over 50 people hostage and forced the crew to divert the plane from Bahr Dar to Khartoum.

Although the situation was resolved, this ban is considered to be an attempt to step up security. The newspaper said the order comes directly from Ethiopia's Security and Immigration authority.

Some students I spoke to on Monday said this was unfair. They said the ban was issued in May, but they were not told anything about it until last month.


They are treating us like we are criminals and hijackers

Ethiopian student
They also complained that they are being discriminated against. One student I spoke to on the phone from Bahr Dar said: "They are treating us like we are criminals and hijackers.

"All we want to do is get home for the holidays. If we have the money to pay, then why stop us?"

Students in Addis Ababa claim this is an attempt by the government to intimidate students throughout the country, who have been speaking out against the government in recent months.

'Danger'

In April protests for students' academic rights to be respected led to a virtual standstill of higher education in the country when tens of thousands of students boycotted classes.

Ethiopian Airlines denied they had received orders to refuse permission for student to board flights.

Chief of Public Affairs at Ethiopian Airlines Aba Milki said: "We board anyone who has a ticket and we have not been ordered by the government to prevent students travelling. We don't discriminate against any of our passengers."

Mr Milki however added that in busy periods, like at the moment, other passengers who pay full fares would be given priority over, students who are entitled to student discounts.

Mr Milki said that in some situations it would result in students being stranded.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Africa
Ethiopia seeks hijackers' return
21 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ethiopia
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