CAIRO (20-10-2011) : Authorities in Egypt have over the last few days deported 150 Eritrean refugees back to Eritrea. A group of 70 was deported on Thursday 13th of October, followed by another group of 52 soon after that date. On the 19th of October a group comprising 31 was forcibly returned to Eritrea.
The refugees are rounded up from various prisons around the country where they had been held for periods ranging from few moths to several years, after they were caught attempting to cross the boarder over to Israel via Sinai. Many would have paid thousands of dollars to traffickers and smugglers.
Release Eritrea’s; Prison Support Ministry workers currently trying to assist prisoners on the ground fear that Egypt will push through plans to deport many more; yesterday a group of 34 men and 5 women prisoners were transferred from a prison in Aswan to a detention facility in Cairo from where previous deportations took place. Although this group are still said to be in Egypt, it is evident that they too have been identified for deportation unless international organisations intervene against the forced return.
Release Eritrea is appealing to UNHCR and other organisations, with particular concern over the fact that the refugees are not being given their rights under the Refugee Convention and are being maltreated in Egypt when they resist deportation. Those who protest preparations for deportation are being beaten by prison guards in a bid to subdue them.
Dr Berhane Asmelash Director of Release Eritrea calls on Egyptian authorities to refrain from deporting refugees who are only fleeing because of the deteriorating human rights in their country and calls on UNHCR to intervene in this clear contravention of the Refugee Convention to allow Eritrean refugees a right to make asylum claims on the basis of the abject human rights abuse in Eritrea.
It is estimated that currently there are around 700 Eritrean prisoners in Egyptian prisons; many have sustained injuries, including bullet wounds when they were captured at the Egypt/Israeli boarder. Some have experienced severe beatings and harassment at the hands of traffickers.
Notes to the editor