Egypt forcibly deports dozens of Eritrean asylum seekers, report

Egyptian authorities have forcibly deported at least 70 Eritrean asylum seekers since October 2021 in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, according to a recent report.

A new report on refugees published by the Refugees Platform in Egypt, confirmed that the Egyptian authorities have forcibly deported at least 70 Eritrean asylum seekers in violation of the principle of non-refoulement since October 2021.

The report says that authorities had arrested the asylum seekers in cooperation with the Eritrean embassy before arbitrarily detaining them in inhumane conditions for as long as two years.

While in detention, the asylum seekers were prevented from accessing legal defense or asylum procedures.

Egyptian authorities then deported them on five separate flights despite knowledge of the dangers they faced in Eritrea.

According to their families, some were subsequently sent to compulsory military service upon return, others were forced to flee again, and others disappeared.

UN human rights experts and other rights organizations have condemned Egypt’s arbitrary detentions and forced expulsions of Eritrean asylum seekers.

The Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE) has since October 31, 2021, documented the “Egyptian authorities’ violation of the principle of non-refoulement and the forcible deportation of at least 70 Eritrean asylum seekers to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, including women, children and patients. 

The report said the Egyptian authorities deported asylum seekers to Asmara on five separate flights despite the confirmed danger to their lives.

According to families’ testimonies about the fate of their children since the time of their deportation, some of them were sent to compulsory military service after their return, while some fled again from Eritrea to Sudan, and no news came of others and disappeared without a trace.

It is to be mentioned that Eritrea, like Egypt, continues to suffer from a horrific human rights crisis, where returnees face inhuman treatment, persecution, torture and forced conscription for life.

The report stated that “The forcible returns of Eritrean asylum seekers were carried out after they were arbitrarily detained in Egypt for periods ranging from a few months to two years in poor detention conditions unsuitable for pregnant women, children, or the sick.”

Eritreans were detained and deported after they attempted to irregularly enter Egypt with the aim of seeking asylum.

Deported former detainees faced a lack of adequate medical care, inadequate and poor quality food for children, denial of legal defense and no access to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asylum procedures in the country.

Currently detained asylum seekers face the same illegal and inhumane detention conditions, in addition to the threat of forcible deportation.

The report provided documented forced deportations of Eritrean asylum seekers between October 2021 and May 2022.

The report included an explanation of the pattern/methodology of the Egyptian authorities in cooperation with the Eritrean Embassy in Cairo followed in the deportations, the number of deportees in each process, and their age and gender classifications (in those deportations where age classifications were documented).

The report also provided a description of the violations that occurred against asylum seekers during their detention in Egypt until the time of their deportation, and the attempts of Egyptian authorities to conceal the facts about their forced deportations.

The report ended with providing recommendations for the Egyptian government and authorities.

The report included an introduction, eleven topics, and recommendations. The topics that the report addressed included: Detention of asylum seekers for entering Egypt irregularly; arbitrary detention in bad and inhuman conditions; exposure to health risks with restricted access to medical assistance; denied access to asylum procedures or family reunification; and in light of the denial of asylum, continued cooperation between the Egyptian authorities and the Eritrean embassy in Cairo to obtain travel documents.

The topics addressed by the report also included: Forced to sign documents of voluntary return without having them translated and without informing detainees of their contents; violation of regional and international obligations towards asylum seekers; deliberate blackout and withholding of information about forced deportations by the Egyptian and Eritrean authorities; dozens of detainees are at risk of forcible deportation; fate of people forcibly deported to Eritrea … “sent into a human hell”.