Responses to Information Requests

​​​​​​​Responses to Information Requests (RIRs) are research reports on country conditions. They are requested by IRB decision-makers.

The database contains a seven-year archive of English and French RIRs. Earlier RIRs may be found on the European Country of Origin Information Network website.

RIR​s published by the IRB on its website may have attachments that are inaccessible due to technical constraints and may include translations of documents originally written in languages other than English or French. To obtain a copy of such attachments and/or translated version of the RIR attachments, please email us.​

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Responses to Information Requests (RIRs) cite publicly accessible information available at the time of publication and within time constraints. A list of references and additional sources consulted are included in each RIR. Sources cited are considered the most current information available as of the date of the RIR.            

RIRs are not, and do not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Rather, they are intended to support the refugee determination process. More information on the methodology used by the Research Directorate can be found here.          

The assessment and weight to be given to the information in the RIRs are the responsibility of independent IRB members (decision-makers) after considering the evidence and arguments presented by the parties.           

The information presented in RIRs solely reflects the views and perspectives of the sources cited and does not necessarily reflect the position of the IRB or the Government of Canada.          

26 May 2016


Ethiopia: Whether state security agents have distinguishing facial marks or tattoos (2014-May 2016)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

Information on facial markings of state security agents was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Tigrai Online, an online Ethiopian media source, writes that people of the Tigrayan ethnic group use facial scarification as an expression of cultural identity, and this includes cutting small incisions in the person's temple as a child (Tigrai Online 12 Dec. 2012). The same source notes that sometimes, these cuts can also appear on the eyebrows (ibid.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an assistant professor of African Studies at the University of Florida, whose research specializes in ethnic identity, religion, and politics in Ethiopia, explained that state security agents do not have facial markings, but that "Tigrayans often have carved out two short stripes at the side of one of their eyes …, but that is something cultural. The fact that many Tigrayans are in the Agazi – the anti-rioting police –  might have created this misunderstanding" (Assistant Professor 22 May 2016).

Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a researcher for Human Rights Watch explained that "state security agents per se" do not have facial markings; however, "increasingly state security agents belong to the Tigrayan ethnic group" (Researcher 24 May 2016). The same source noted that

[m]any Tigrayan men and women have two parallel scars on their temples [close to their eyes]. In some cases, this [is] on the edge of their eyebrows. This scarification is done when they are very young, sometimes it is very noticeable, sometimes not so much. It is one of the easiest ways to physically identify a Tigrayan [person]. I am not aware of any of the other major ethnic groups of Ethiopia having these scars. Women and men, particularly from rural areas, sometimes also have a tattoo of a small cross on their foreheads. (ibid.)

Tigrai Online similarly writes that "only the Tigrai people […] mark their faces with these small straight incisions side by side on their face" (12 Dec. 2012).

Further information on facial markings of security agents, including on the eyelids, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Assistant Professor, University of Florida. 22 May 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Researcher, Human Rights Watch. 24 May 2016. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Tigrai Online. 12 December 2012. "Face Marks as Expression of Cultural Identity." [Accessed 25 May 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: associate professor of history and anthropology of Eastern Africa, École des hautes études en sciences sociales; professor of development studies, University of London; professor of sociology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Internet sites, including:; Factiva; Minority Rights Group International; UN – Refworld; US – Department of State.