How Much More Mistreatment Before Mr. Tesfagaber Haile Desta Can be Reunited with His Daughter?

A 52-year-old Eritrean former political prisoner, who fled his country after being tortured systematically, and who subsequently endured several beatings at the hands officers at the immigration and detention Centre in Brussels after seeking asylum there is currently sitting in a cold metal chair in an Ethiopian airport, resisting attempts to deport him to either South Sudan, Uganda or Eritrea. 

Mr Tesfagaber Haile Desta, who had been detained since arriving in Belgium on 10th October 2015, was deported on 2nd February 2016, despite his well-founded case. Mr Desta was placed on an at 8pm Ethiopian Airlines ET- 705 flight from Brussels to Addis Ababa, where flight number ET- 356 was meant to transport him to Juba in South Sudan on 3rd February at 9.30am. However, he was stopped by Ethiopian immigration officials who started enquiring how he ended up in Addis Ababa without any form of documentation.  Mr Desta is still in Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, with insufficient clothes to keep him warm. His first-born, a daughter, now living in Norway, who was herself a victim of abuse and torture by the Eritrean government, also suffers from ill health, which is exacerbated by worry over the mistreatment of her father.

Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of HRCE said: “Human Rights Concern Eritrea condemns the treatment of this innocent man, whose ‘political’ crime is to want to leave a dictatorship whose human rights record ranks among the world’s worst. Mr Desta is one of hundreds of thousands who have been forced to escape from what has been called in the free press, of which there is none in Eritrea, “Africa’s North Korea”. Brussels, where the European Court of Human Rights resides, is a supposedly free country where refugees seeking asylum from human rights abuses are expected to be treated with dignity. Instead Mr Desta was assaulted even to the point of unconsciousness to compel him to agree to sign a white paper for deportation; his passport was taken away along any
other form of ID, and he was unable to take part in a process initiated by his daughter to bring him to Norway. Worse still, after beating him up, and taking his money and his clothes, officers handcuffed him and let him be escorted to a plane by two Ethiopian Airlines staff.

Mr Desta must be handed over to the UNHCR by the airline that transported him illegally without a passport or visa, or permission from the South Sudanese government that they would take him.

HRCE has been in contact with Ethiopian immigration, Ethiopian government and UNHCR’s Addis Ababa and Norway offices. It is up to the Ethiopian government to authorise the UNHCR to take over Mr Desta’s case. However, instead of assisting Mr Desta, the authorities have been phoning his daughter and threatening to deport her father to South Sudan or Uganda or even Eritrea.

Mr Desta is in distress and in danger of catching pneumonia. He remains alone in an airport without international protection. We appeal to the Ethiopian government to intervene by handing this man over to UNHCR for international protection. He only has the clothes he is wearing, no documentation, no medicine, no money, nothing. We don’t even know that he has the basic necessities beyond being fed by well-wishers.

How can such an inhumane situation continue?”

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Chyrum: +44 (0)7958 005 637