28 August 2009, BBC — A fourth member of an Ethiopian exchange programme has gone missing from Hartlepool. Police have launched a missing persons inquiry following the disappearance of Konjit Assefa, 22, who was last seen in the town centre on Tuesday.
Three other members of the nine-strong group, all men in their 20s, vanished while visiting London, though one later made contact and has since left the UK.
Organisers Global Xchange said the incidents were damaging to its work.
The programme is designed to give young people from different countries an opportunity to work on community development projects and promote cross cultural understanding.
A team of 18 young people, nine from Hartlepool and nine from Ethiopia, have been working together for three months in each country.
Phil Hudson, head of Global Xchange, said: “Our primary concern is for the safety of Konjit and we are helping the police with their inquiries.
“However, we take very seriously any actions that damage the reputation of the programme, which over the past 10 years has had a significant impact on community development and enhanced the skills and perspectives of thousands of young people.”
The organisation will review its security procedures, and give “serious consideration” to which countries it works with in the future, he added.
The remainder of the Ethiopian group are due to fly home on Monday, and are said to be distressed and disappointed.
Those still missing are not yet being treated as illegal immigrants, as they still have visas until mid-September.
Anyone who knows the whereabouts of Ms Assefa should contact Cleveland Police.