By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 20, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – An exiled Eritrean opposition alliance has called on the governments of Egypt and Sudan to provide legal protection to the tens and thousands of Eritrean refugees.
- Eritrean refugees arriving at Kilo 26 refugee camp in eastern Sudan (UNHCR website)
The Addis Ababa-based Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC) called on Cairo and Khartoum to refrain from forcibly returning the refugees to Eritrea where they say they could be subjected to prosecution or possible death up on return.
The group called on the Egyptian new government to release some 600 Eritrean refugees who are currently languishing at detention facilities inside the North African country.
The ENCDC said it denounced "the brutalization and killings of Eritrean refugees in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula by murderous Bedouin organ traffickers”. The group also urged the United Nations to intervene for the rescue of the refugees in Egypt.
According to Eritrean opposition groups, Sudanese traffickers collaborate with the Eritrean officials and intelligence services in deporting Eritreans. In this human trafficking business, Eritrean refugees are handed over to Eritrean government agents if their relatives fail to bribe traffickers.
Last year, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) accused Sudan of deporting Eritrean asylum-seekers without having their claims reviewed. UNHCR said such deportations are a serious violation to both international and Sudanese law. It also called upon Khartoum to immediately allow detained refugees access to asylum procedures and to halt forcible return.
UNHCR has repeatedly called on Sudan to respect its obligations under international and Sudanese law.
The opposition group said it would work with the UN and the governments involved to help UNHCR resettle the refugees to a third country.
Last November, Human Rights Watch accused Egyptian government agents of forcing detained Eritreans to sign repatriation forms.
HRW said Egypt’s renewed deportations signals Cairo’s return to mass deportations of Eritreans in 2008 and 2009.
The North African country has forcibly returned over 1,200 Eritrean refugees to the Horn of Africa country where they await a serious risk of persecution or torture.
Earlier this month in New Year remarks, Eritrean president, Isias Afewerki, pledged not to harm the thousands of young Eritreans who fled country’s mandatory military service, if they returned home.
However, an Eritrean opposition group based in Addis Ababa has told Sudan Tribune that president’s pledges are not genuine.
“This is only psychological games targeted the youth in fear of the North African and Arab style uprising in Eritrea” Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization official Nessredin Ahmed Ali said.
The opposition official further said Eritreans at home and in the Diaspora have started movements to stage an uprising against Afewerki’s dictatorial regime.
In 2000, the Eritrean government made similar calls upon Eritreans in Sudan but most of them were prosecuted upon return; the whereabouts of many remain unknown, according to Nessredin.
The Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC) is an umbrella organisation of 34 Eritrean resistance groups struggling to bring about democratic change in the Red Sea nation.