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Sudan: Hundreds of Eritreans Denied the Right to Seek Asylum

FILE - Refugees are seen during a visit by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to the Shagarab Eritrean Refugees camp at Kassala in East Sudan.

Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, in May of 2016, a Human Rights Watch report said Monday.

"Sudan is arresting and forcing Eritreans back into the hands of a repressive government without allowing refugees to seek protection," said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. "Sudan should be working with the UN refugee agency to protect these people, not send them back to face abuse."

International law says asylum seekers must be granted the right to apply for asylum and have their cases considered before deportation. It also forbids countries from deporting asylum seekers to anywhere where they face a real threat of torture, ill-treatment, or risk to their life.

The United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been repeatedly denied access to groups of asylum seekers in Sudan facing deportation.

Eritrea's government mandates that all citizens under the age of 50 must serve in the military indefinitely. Fleeing the country is considered desertion, punishable by forced labor, and inhumane conditions including possible torture in prison, according to Human Rights Watch.

"UNHCR considers the punishment so severe and disproportionate that it constitutes persecution and a basis on which to grant refugee status," the report said.

The EU has begun working with Sudan and other African nations to better secure their borders and prevent migrant smuggling. Though Sudan has said it welcomes the effort, Human Rights Watch is skeptical that it will respect refugee rights.