Eritrean organisations concerned over Eritrea repatriation policy developments

A statement published on The America Team for Displaced Eritreans’ web page foresees the imminent deportation of 700 Eritrean refugees from the United States to Eritrea and furthermore it warns of the concrete possibility of torture and executions awaiting the refugees once deported. Under US pressure, the Eritrean regime has agreed to issue travel documents that make deportation possible. The first case is currently being processed, and the outcome of this process might have wider implications if other countries take example, including in Europe.

The statement by the organisation says that “the America Team has received information from multiple sources that the ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has begun to redetain Eritreans apparently for immediate deportation.”

Last month, Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) already criticised the directive of the United States Department of Homeland Security – dated September 2017, which put 700 Eritrean refugees in immediate danger of forced return. The organisation described such deportations as illegal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Measures taken by the US to reject (Eritrean) refugees also include rejection of any visa applications coming from the American embassy in Asmara, and the recent withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations agreement on international rights for migrants (the so-called New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants).

Similar proposals to deter the flow of refugees are being implemented and created in Europe. Humanitarian Campaign Manager of OXFAM stated, in relation to EU migration policies: “Europe is turning its back on people in need and on the foundation of the European project [..] To regain respect and trust, European governments should immediately change their approach to respect basic human rights, protect migrants and refugees and work with countries to overcome poverty”. Deals by the EU and its member states to ‘outsource’ its migration problems could cause serious human rights issues in Libya, and other countries such as Sudan. If the EU observes how pressure from the US makes returns of Eritrean refugees, a large group in Europe, possible, fears are that they may follow suit – despite the allegation of ongoing crimes against humanity in the country. 

Deals such as the US deal with Eritrea and EU’s deals with various countries like Turkey and Libya illustrate the growing tactics of closing borders to deal with the influx of people. Countries could take example from the strategies of one another. In a recent article in The Conversation, a refugee illustrates this in relation to the looming deportation of Eritreans from the US: “The USA was for us always a country of refuge. People looked to the USA for moral leadership. Now my brother is facing deportation and torture. Who is there to look up to?”

Many human rights activists argue that increased attention for solving the issues that refugees flee from, as well as sufficient legal pathways for refugees, are needed. On this topic, the UN secretary-general, Mr. Antonio Guterres stated: “we will not put an end to the tragedy in the Mediterranean if we do not create significant, legal migration opportunities. We must also ensure that people can find a dignified future in their home countries.”

  • Read The America Team for Displaced Eritreans full statement here