Your Excellency, Minister Habib Ibrahim El Adly,
We are writing to express our concern about the ongoing mass deportations of Eritrean asylum-seekers from Egypt back to Eritrea. While we welcome the June 15 decision by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to the Eritrean asylum-seekers held in Shallal Military Camp, we remain concerned about the Egyptian government’s decision to forcibly repatriate Eritreans who face significant risk of torture and ill-treatment in Eritrea.
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (Art. 3), the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Art. 33) and the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (Art. 2), Egypt is legally obliged to respect the principle of non-refoulement and has pledged never to return refugees back to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. The Organization of African Unity Convention, ratified by Egypt in 1980, states: “No person shall be subjected by a Member State to measures such as rejection at the frontier, return or expulsion, which would compel him to return to or remain in a territory where his life, physical integrity or liberty would be threatened” (Art. 2.3).
The persecution of Eritreans by the Eritrean government has been widely documented by foreign governments and human rights organizations. Numerous Eritreans are being held incommunicado by the Eritrean government, where they are tortured and ill-treated. These individuals are arrested by the Eritrean government for practicing their religious beliefs, for evading military service and for their suspected opposition to the government. The human rights violations in Eritrea are so severe that the UNHCR has issued guidelines to all governments which state that rejected Eritrean asylum seekers should not be returned to Eritrea.
We therefore urge the Egyptian government to respect its commitment to the principle of non-refoulement and to cease forcibly returning Eritrean asylum-seekers who face a significant risk of torture and ill-treatment. We encourage the further involvement of the UNHCR, and a careful consideration of every asylum application filed by Eritrean individuals.
We thank you for taking note of our concerns.
1. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Non-Violent Studies.
2. Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
3. Arab Organization for Penal Reform.
4. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
5. Al- Intima Al-Watani Association for Human Rights
6. Awlad Al-Ard Foundation for Human Rights
7. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
8. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
9. Egyptian Association for Enhancement of Community Participation.
10. Egyptian Center for Housing Rights
11. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
12. Egyptian Center for Human Rights
13. Group for Human Rights Legal Aid
14. Hisham Mubarak Law Center.
15. Land Center for Human Rights.
16. Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.
17. New Woman Foundation.
18. One World Foundation for Development and Civil Society Care
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