July 10, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – Hundreds of Eritrean refugees in Libya, who fled their country to escape oppression, are currently facing an inhuman treatment by Libyan authorities. This is because they refuse to fill out a bio-data form in the Eritrean Tigrinya language provided by Eritrean embassy officials and to be photographed, an exiled Eritrean rights group said.
The Italy-based Solidarity Association for Justice and Democracy in Eritrea, in a press release it sent to Sudan Tribune said that the Libyan authorities have decided to deport - inside completely sealed containers - some 250 to 300 Eritrean refugees to the prison of Al-Biraq in the province of Sabha because they refused to fill out a preprinted form of "volunteer "expatriation scheme prepared by the Embassy of Eritrea in Tripoli.
It said these refugees are detained in deplorable conditions and face regular abuse from Libyan authorities. They all face imminent deportation to Eritrea where they may be arrested, tortured or risk their lives.
“We strongly denounce these inhuman actions against our Eritrean brothers and sisters,” the group said, urging for immediate release and urgent solution that will give them the opportunity to transfer them to a third country willing to accept them and allow them to live with dignity.
“These new actions by the Libyan authorities alarm Eritreans living abroad. Forced repatriation of these refugees to Eritrea will seriously jeopardize their lives. It opens the door to further torture and imprisonment of innocent people forced to seek refuge to escape the ruthless dictatorship in their country,” it further said.
The group appealed upon the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to once again commit itself in finding an appropriate resolution of the case, and further called on the Italian political, humanitarian associations, labor organizations and the Italian people to join the plight to take urgent action in defense of Eritrean refugees.
“Italy, as initiator of the treaty on refugees with Libya, has a moral and political responsibility in finding a solution to the situation of these refugees”
According to the rights group, in January of this year, the Libyan authorities tried to force the Eritrean refugees, by blackmail and brute force, to fill a form complete with photos, following the demands of the Eritrean dictatorship to identify and catalogue the refugees and blackmail their families back home.
“Their refusal to comply resulted in forms of torture that included electroshock and heavy beating by the Libyan police leading to a wide outrage and condemnation by many international organizations for human rights,” it revealed.
The group added that the brutality the Eritrean refugees who were deported from Malta in 2002, Libya in 2004 and finally Egypt in 2008 were subjected to, are still fresh in the memory of the Eritrean people. Disembarking at the airport of Asmara, they were loaded into military trucks and literally disappeared. No one has seen or heard of them since.
The Libyan authorities have already deported many of these refugees to their countries of origin where they may have faced ill-treatment. By doing so, Libya is in breach of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Organization of African Unity Convention to which it is a state party.
Both the Convention against Torture and the African Refugee Convention forbid Libya from sending individuals to countries where they face a serious risk of persecution or torture.
Libya is also a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which, under article 13, prohibits arbitrary expulsion and entitles foreigners to an individual decision on their removal/expulsion.
Reports indicate that increasing numbers of Eritreans are fleeing the indefinite national military service imposed by the Eritrean government and pervasive arbitrary detention and torture.
Eritrean government routinely imprisons individuals caught trying to flee the country and has "shoot to kill" orders for anyone crossing the border without permission. If the government identifies someone who has successfully crossed into Ethiopia or Sudan, it subjects their family members to large fines and sometimes imprisonment.