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» 09.03.2011 - Leaks: "Mubarak behind 2005 terror attack"
» 15.10.2010 - Copts in Egypt "intimidated" by Muslim majority
» 10.03.2010 - "Egypt uses torture in terror fight"
» 03.03.2010 - UN deplores lethal force by Egyptian security
» 13.01.2010 - Egypt varsity bans surgical masks in exams hall
» 04.01.2010 - Egyptian women to appeal niqab ban
» 16.12.2009 - Speaker calls for law to protect women against harassment
» 09.12.2009 - Arab states slammed for using excessive force

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Egypt | Eritrea
Human rights | Society

UN: "Don't send Eritreans back to torture"

afrol News, 19 June - The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has urged Egypt to immediately stop the forced return of asylum seekers to Eritrea. Many returnees have been submitted to heavy torture once in Eritrea.

Ms Arbour said she was "alarmed" by reports that Egypt has deported some 700 Eritrean asylum seekers in the past few days, and called on Cairo authorities to halt any further forced returns. "People who could well be at risk in their home country should never be sent back before their asylum claims have been properly addressed," she said in a statement today.

Ms Arbour added to earlier criticism by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which urged Egypt to follow international law when considering the return of Eritreans. "Egypt should respect its international obligations not to send home anyone who could face torture or other serious forms of ill treatment, as may well be the case with those who have apparently been deported in recent days," she said in today's statement.

The statement is the clearest message delivered yet by the rather toothless UN human rights body regarding Eritrea, Africa's fiercest dictatorship. Ms Arbour for the first time refers to the high risk of torture and ill-treatment in Eritrea, based on documentation earlier presented by human rights organisations clearly showing many returnees have been through directly into jail or "disappeared".

According to UNHCR, Egypt has seen a surge of Eritreans entering the country illegally in recent months by land from Sudan or directly from Eritrea via the Red Sea. Eritreans are fleeing political and religious persecution of citizens not agreeing to government views, in addition to heavy plights in the compulsory military service. Such refugees, upon return can expect heavy reactions and ill-treatment.

Egypt's mass deportation of Eritreans has caused more international reactions than expected by Cairo authorities, now causing the government to soften its stance. On 15 June, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to UNHCR chief António Guterres reaffirming Egypt's commitment to uphold its international obligations relating to the protection of refugees and to grant UNHCR in Cairo access to Eritrean citizens who have entered Egypt illegally.

Ms Arbour welcomed the Egyptian Government’s decision to grant UNHCR staff limited access to the asylum-seekers in order to determine their refugee status. But she urged authorities to immediately stop any further deportation of Eritreans until their asylum status has been properly clarified.

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