- Human rights groups are outraged as Egyptian authorities forcibly have returned a group of around 200 asylum-seekers to Eritrea this week and further are to be sent. Eritrean returnees in many cases have been submitted to severe torture.
Amnesty International today called for "urgent action" to stop Egyptian authorities from forcibly returning even more Eritreans to the brutal Horn of Africa dictatorship. The human rights group has learned that some 1,400 Eritrean may be sent some within a short timeframe.
"In Eritrea they will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment," Amnesty's Eliane Drakopoulos said in a statement to afrol News. Experience tells that many of those returned to the dictatorship are met with great suspicion by Eritrean authorities, who do not hesitate to submit potential opponents to torture and ill-treatment.
"Most asylum-seekers returned to Eritrea are likely to be arbitrarily detained incommunicado in inhumane conditions from weeks to years," according to Amnesty. "They will be at serious risk of torture or other ill-treatment, particularly those who have fled from compulsory military service."
According to Amnesty, 200 Eritrean asylum-seekers were taken by surprise in the night of 11 June and forcibly shipped back to Eritrea. Further, Egyptian authorities "are preparing to forcibly return a further 1.400," the group says.
A group of 169 Eritrean asylum-seekers could be returned as early as this very evening, Amnesty fears. "They were moved from Nasr al Nuba police station near Aswan city, where they had been detained, to Central Security Forces camp in Shallal, south of Aswan."
However, hundreds of Eritrean asylum-seekers are detained in several police stations near Aswan city. Dozens of others are detained in Al-Qanater prison near the capital, Cairo. Around 700 are detained near the Red Sea cities of Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Lawyers representing the asylum-seekers held in Aswan believe that 200 of those held in Hurghada are being transported to Aswan, in preparation for forcible return.
Since the end of February, flows of Eritrean asylum-seekers have reached Egypt either via its southern border with Sudan or by sea, south of the city of Hurghada. Others are recognised as refugees by the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Sudan, and are fleeing Sudan to avoid being forcibly returned to Eritrea by the Sudanese authorities.
The UNHCR office in Egypt says it has not been consulted before the forced return. UNHCR further has not been granted access to any of the Eritreans to assess their asylum claims, despite repeated requests. UNHCR earlier issued guidelines to all governments, opposing return to Eritrea of rejected Eritrean asylum seekers on the grounds of the record of serious human rights violations in Eritrea.
Thousands of people are detained incommunicado in Eritrea, in secret and indefinitely, without charge or trial. They have been arrested for suspected opposition to the government, practicing their religious beliefs as members of banned evangelical or other churches, evading military conscription or only for trying to flee the country.
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