Testimony of Eritreans Deported from Malta Jailed in Dahlak

In 2002-2003, Elsa Chyrum, an Eritrean human rights activist, was actively involved in assisting Eritreans who were held in captivity in Malta. Due to her efforts (and other human rights activists), many Eritreans were spared deportation to Eritrea. The following testimony was provided to her by those who, despite the appeals of many human rights organizations and contrary to the UNHCR charter, were deported to Eritrea in 2002. The testimony, provided by Elsa, is published in Tigrigna. Here below is Awate’s translation into English, as literal as possible. For ease of reading we have inserted sub-headings. We ask everyone to ensure that every human rights organization in the world receives a copy.

On the 29th of September 2002, at 9:00 AM, a plane carrying nearly 55 individuals who were deported from Malta landed at Asmara airport. Handcuffed and each one of us watched over by two guards (Special Force), we started untying ourselves when we landed. Save for plainclothes security and immigration officers, there were no travelers at the airport. It is our observation that there wasn?t even airport staff or crew there.

A dramatic development we observed while the plane was landing was that the airport was surrounded by armed soldiers. Once the plane landed and took off, the plainclothes security officers ordered us to ?move!? In the lobby area, we registered our names and addresses and then stepped outside and walked to the military bus that was waiting for us. The armed soldiers escorting us ordered: ?keep your heads down! Do not talk to one another! Anyone who is caught moving one?s head?.you will see!? We passed though the heart of Asmara, this same city that we shed blood and sweat for, now with our head bent, like prisoners of war, as we headed to our destination.