HRCE’s Letter to Rt Hon Theresa May, MP, UK’s Home Secretary

Human Rights Concern EritreaHRCE’s Elizabeth Chyrum sent a letter to Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May, MP,
concerning the gross inaccuracies contained in the recent ‘Home Office Guidelines; Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service’ (2015) and in ‘Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: Illegal Exit’ (2015).Please read the full content of the letter here.

Rt Hon Theresa May, MP
Home Secretary
2 Marsham Street

17 April 2015

Dear Home Secretary,

Re: Letter to Rt Hon Theresa May MP, UK’s Home Secretary

I write concerning the gross inaccuracies contained in the recent ‘Home Office Guidelines; Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service’ (2015)1 and in ‘Country Information and Guidance Eritrea: Illegal Exit’ (2015).2

How can the Home Office ignore the situation in Eritrea which that come to the attention of the international community and which is so well documented in published research and in the objective evidence that has been documented by the Home Office and many other countries? Furthermore, such reports seriously undermine the integrity of the Home Office Country of Information reports and bring your officials into disrepute.

It appears that, regardless of the facts, that the Home Office has adopted a different and much lower standard with regard to its policy on assessing asylum claims, which are based in part or in their entirety on evading national service. You should note that the two reports undermine the work of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Human Rights in Eritrea. It should not be necessary to remind you of that the UK government is bound by Resolutions of the Human Rights Council, which has condemned indefinite national service.

Furthermore, in its reports on Eritrea the Home Office states that,

  1. “The most up-to-date information available from inside Eritrea – notably the Danish Immigration Service 2014 Fact-Finding Mission Report (‘the Danish FFM Report’) – indicates that those who refuse to undertake or abscond from military/national service are not viewed as traitors or political opponents (see Penalties for Leaving Illegally and Treatment on Return in the country information section). As a result, Eritreans who left illegally are no longer considered per se to be at risk of harm or mistreatment amounting to persecution on return”.
  2. “Evaders and deserters are unlikely to be considered traitors”.
    I categorically reject the above conclusions, which are unsubstantiated. Indeed the information comes from a disputed report published by the Danish Fact Finding Mission whose findings were disputed by the individuals it met with, including the UNHCR. Furthermore two Danish officials on the fact-finding mission have resigned because the report does not concur with their findings.

When a person leaves Eritrea illegally or fails to return, the form that is sent to them by the Ministry of Defence is called “NOTICE OF TREASON” (NAY KDAAT MEHEBERI). This form means that the Ministry of Defence will treat the case as an act of treason and it will apply the ultimate penalty.

Moreover, the Repentance Form filled in at Eritrean embassies does not say that the person will be given amnesty, it says: “I regret having committed an offence by not completing the national service and am ready to accept appropriate punishment in due course”. In short the government will take action for the illegal act of leaving the country and for not completing the indefinite National Service imposed on the citizens. This puts the person in danger because if they return they will be tried under the Martial Code by a military court or a quasi-judicial tribunal in the Ministry of Defence.

Given the evidence about human rights abuses in Eritrea, I ask what has changed since 2014 to allow the Home Office to conclude that it is categorically the case that individuals who fled/evaded military/national service and/or left the country without permission can now return safely? What is the source of the information from inside Eritrea that your reports rely upon?

In view of the fact that the two recent reports are clearly unreliable, and that attempts by the British government to return individuals will put these asylum seekers at risk of persecution for a Convention reason, I ask you instruct your officials to withdraw the two reports immediately.

Yours sincerely

Elizabeth Chyrum
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea