Date: 8 September 2017
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea is seriously troubled by reports that 30 young Eritrean asylum-seekers were deported from Sudan to Eritrea on August 29th2017, on the grounds of illegal entry into Sudan. HRCE is deeply concerned that they were returned despite grave danger of imprisonment, torture and serious maltreatment.
UNHCR officials in Sudan have pointed out that “The return of refugees to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law”. UNHCR Spokesperson added that “Charges of illegal entry are waived in the case of refugees”.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13.2, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own”. Yet emigration from Eritrea has been made illegal by the present government. About 5,000 Eritreans flee their country every month, primarily because of the compulsory National Service which has no time limit and traps them in virtual slave labour, often for the rest of their lives. According to the Eritrean authorities, those who flee have committed the crime of leaving their county illegally, and are liable for severe punishment.
The forcible return of the 30 Eritrean asylum-seekers is believed not to have been the first such breech of refugee law by Sudan. According to Radio Dabanga, Sudanese courts deported 104 Eritrean refugees earlier in August, and sentenced others to imprisonment for their ‘illegal infiltration into the Sudanese territory. According to HRCE’s sources from Eritrea, those forcibly returned face prison terms that ranges from six months to three years and are later sent to the army, usually to border trenches, as a continuation of their punishment. Prior to the recent deportation, over 120 returnees were detained in Adersesr Prison, a military prison and concentration camp close to the Eritrea-Sudan border, and many more are detained in Adi-abeto and Adi-Nefas prisons near to the capital Asmara.
A UNHCR spokesperson commented: “UNHCR is concerned that these asylum-seekers do not appear to have had their claims adequately heard, and they were deported on charges of illegal entry into Sudan which is not supported under international refugee law.”
These deportations are taking place at the same time as alarming reports are circulating of a European Union plan to pay millions of Euros to undemocratic governments such as Sudan to stop refugees from reaching Europe via North Africa. According to one report, £35million would be used over three years to train border police and set up detention camps, mainly in Sudan.
Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of HRCE, stated: “The illegal forcible repatriation of Eritrean asylum-seekers by Sudan in violation of international refugee law sets an extremely disturbing precedent. It has almost certainly condemned the returnees to incarceration and severe punishment for exercising their inherent right to leave a country in which they experience grave danger and injustice. It is essential that all UN member states declare their opposition to the flouting of international law by Sudan, and we strongly recommend that member states support the UNHCR in highlighting Sudan’s illegal refusal to give a fair hearing to applications for asylum from endangered Eritreans.
It is high time European leaders stopped offering bribes and technology to human rights violating countries in order to prevent refugees from fleeing other human rights violating countries and started to concern themselves more actively with ending the appalling abuses of human rights within these countries.”
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)