Sudan deports Eritreans back into the hands of their oppressors

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/03/16, 08:57 am

Sudanese authorities have violated international law by deporting hundreds of Eritrean refugees back to their home country, which is still under a repressive rule, Human Rights Watch reported this week. The allegation follows leaked reports of a meeting during which European Union ambassadors discussed working with Sudan to stifle the flow of refugees into Europe.

Refugee experts have warned the deal will only further equip Sudan to violate the rights of vulnerable people fleeing terrible violence.

According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan arrested and deported at least 442 Eritreans, including 14 children and six registered refugees, in May. Security officials also arrested 64 Ethiopians who remain at risk of deportation.

“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 at HRW, in a written statement.

In Eritrea, the government requires all citizens between ages 18 and 50 to partake in military or national service for 18 months. But in many cases, the service extends indefinitely. Anyone within the age range who leaves the country without permission could face inhumane imprisonment, forced labor, and torture.

International law prohibits Sudan from deporting refugees back to places where their safety is at risk. It also mandates Sudan allow foreigners to file asylum claims, which the country must fairly review.

“It is despicable that Sudan is deporting them back,” said Mukesh Kapila, a former United Nations coordinator for Sudan. “I think this reflects the genocidal regime.”

Sudan serves as a major cross point for refugees traveling toward Libya to board boats leaving for Europe. Reports from a secret March meeting between the 28 European Union ambassadors revealed the coalition planned to give eight African countries, including Sudan, 40 million euros from the Emergency Trust Fund to train border police and set up refugee camps with detention rooms. But the Sudanese regime’s history of crimes against humanity makes it difficult to believe the cooperation would not lead to more human rights violations, Kapila said.

The International Crimes Court in The Hague has issued a warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. The United States also has accused his regime of financially supporting terror groups.

 As a safer solution to the migration crisis, Kapila said world leaders should focus on the issues that trigger such mass migration.

“The reason citizens leave their own land is because they are in fear for their lives, for their security, for their wellbeing, and obviously for their families,” he said. “So tackling the root causes of that is extremely important.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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