I have never heard of Eritrea until I read this report here from Human Rights Watch. According to Wikipedia, Eritrea is a country located on the eastern part of Africa right along the Red Sea and is part of the Horn of Africa. It’s also a country that is known to require its citizens to serve in the military up to age 50.
Believe it or not, there are some, or many, Eritreans who don’t want to serve in the military, so what are their options? Those people brave enough to flee the country, seek asylum in other African countries, one which happens to be Egypt.
The Eritrean refugees aren’t looking to rush back to Eritrea any time soon–not because they don’t want to see their families or return to their homeland. If you are “of draft age” and leave the country without permission, you will be considered a deserter and risk “five years in prison, often in inhumane conditions” and be subjected to “forced labor and torture.”
The article focuses on how the Eritrean refugees refuse to sign documents for their voluntary return to Eritrea. Who can blame them? I don’t know too many people who want to be tortured or mistreated by a repressive government.
So what happens if the refugees refuse to sign the document that expedites their return to their home land? That’s right; their benevolent Egyptian hosts subject them to a beating, via the guards, as a way of encouraging them to sign the documents.
According to Human Rights Watch:
Under Egypt’s 1954 memorandum of understanding with the UN refugee agency, the agency is supposed to carry out all refugee status determination in Egypt. This means Egyptian officials are obliged to give UNHCR access to all detained migrants to identify those who want to claim their right to seek asylum from persecution.
It doesn’t seem like the refugees have been given a chance to meet with any UNHCR representatives, which, to me, seems like a violation of the 1954 memorandum. Nor do I think it’s written anywhere that it’s okay to beat any of the detainees.
Sadly, no one has been able to monitor the status of deported Eritreans, so who knows what has happened to them since their returns.