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Sixty Eritreans Granted Asylum In Sudan, Fifteen Others Charged In Hijacking - 2004-09-07

Sixty Eritreans have been granted asylum in Sudan, after the Libyan plane they were on was hijacked last week on the way to Eritrea. Fifteen other Eritreans are being charged in connection with the hijacking.

The Eritreans reportedly were refused refugee status in Libya, and the Libyan government chartered a plane to fly them home. Marie-Helene Verney is a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Geneva, spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the Eritrean asylum seekers.

She says, ?Sixty of the seventy-five Eritrean nationals who arrived in Khartoum the last Friday of August (27th) have now received asylum from the Sudanese authorities, the UNHCR was informed. And the Sudanese authorities are processing refugee papers for these sixty people as of today.? She says the Sudanese government determined refugee status on an individual basis.

As for the fifteen other Eritreans, she says, ?They were arrested and have now been charged. The UNHCR has been informed by the Sudanese authorities that they have been charged on several counts of civil law and aviation law and anti-terrorism charges. They are in Khartoum and so far, so far, we have received no information about any of these fifteen asking for asylum in Sudan.?

Ms. Verney says the UNHCR was told by some of the refugees that they would be jailed for political reasons if they returned to Eritrea or for refusing military service.

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