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Rights Group Accuses Sudan, Eritrea of Deporting Eritrean Refugees From Sudan


An Eritrean human rights group is accusing the governments of Sudan and Eritrea of working together to round up and deport Eritreans who have sought refuge from Eritrea's authoritarian government. Nick Wadhams has the story from Nairobi.

The Netherlands-based Eritrean Research and Documentation Center says Eritrean security forces are illegally monitoring Eritrean refugees, many of whom it says defected from the Eritrean Air Defense forces.

In a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, the group says Sudan has allowed Eritrean intelligence agents to kidnap some of the refugees and return them to Eritrea. It listed 22 people with refugee status who it said were in imminent danger, and one may have already been deported.

Negasi Tsegai is the secretary general of the Eritrean Research and Documentation Center. He was once an Eritrean government official but fled five years ago after he was imprisoned for opposing the policies of President Isaias Afwerki.

He says his group has sources deep within the Eritrean government, and that the country's intelligence agents kidnap political refugees around the world.

"We work inside the government because our source is on the ground of the Eritrean government," said Tsegai. "The sources are told for us the Eritrean government to kidnap these people in Sudan. The Eritrean government not only kidnap in Sudan. The Eritrean security, we see them inside Eritrea and outside Eritrea.

Spokesmen for the Eritrean and Sudanese governments did not return phone calls seeking comment about the case. But if the allegation is true, it would not be the first time that Sudan has been accused of forcibly returning refugees back to their home countries in violation of international law.

In October, the U.N. Refugee Agency filed a protest after it learned that Sudan had handed over 15 Ethiopian refugees to Ethiopian authorities. UNHCR said the 15 refugees have been arrested by Sudanese security forces in July.

The UNHCR spokeswoman in Sudan, Fatoumata Kaba, said her office was investigating the claims spelled out in the latest letter but that she could not comment on individual refugee cases.

There are about 134,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan, some living in miserable conditions. Most fled their nation's successive wars with Ethiopia over the last 30 years. Many say they are fearful of returning because of the increasingly authoritarian policies imposed by Mr. Afwerki since the most recent border war ended in 2000.

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