The “Refugees Platform in Egypt – RPE ” monitored and documented that the Egyptian authorities committed the crime of forced deportations against 31 Eritrean asylum-seekers from Egypt to Asmara – the capital of Eritrea – during the past week.
RPE also monitored the transfer of dozens of Eritreans from a detention centre in Aswan Governorate, South of Egypt, to the May,15th Police Station in Helwan, south of Cairo, in preparation for their forcible deportation to Asmara, according to what the detention centre authorities declared to the detainees and their families.
In fact, the first mass deportation took place on March 16, 2022, when the Egyptian authorities deported 24 asylum-seekers, including women and children, some of them from the same family. According to what we have documented from reliable and well-informed sources, the twenty-four detainees were transferred from the airport by the Eritrean security services to an unknown location, and their families cannot know their fate until the moment of writing this piece.
In addition, the deportees were held for varying periods after their arrest on the grounds of entering the country irregularly, some of whom had been arrested about two months ago. They were transferred last February 2022 from their detention centre in Aswan Governorate to the May, 15th Police Station in Helwan, and they were presented to The Eritrean embassy in Cairo to obtain travel documents. At that time, the embassy staff asked their families to pay (30 US dollars for each one of them) in order to extract the documents.
Among the deportees were 5 women, 6 newborn children, and two girls under the age of seventeen – according to what RPE was able to document in light of the blackout and withholding of information from the Egyptian authorities.
Among the women forcibly returned was a disabled woman who could neither speak nor hear – she was deported with her husband and two children. The woman was pregnant at the time of her detention in the police station (Draw) in Aswan Governorate until the time of her birth, and she was transferred to a hospital in Aswan in poor health condition. After the birth, the guards told her that her newborn had health problems and would remain in the nursery and that she should be returned to the detention facility again without being able to see her child. Two days later, she was informed that her baby had died and the officers asked her to identify the newborn, but she explained to them that she could not because she was not allowed to see her baby after birth. Then, the baby was buried.
The second deportation took place on the evening of March 17, 2022, when the authorities deported seven other Eritrean asylum-seekers, including five girls and two boys.
In the same context, the “Refugees Platform in Egypt” monitored the authorities’ transfer of at least fifty Eritrean detainees from detention centres in Aswan Governorate – in the south of the country – to Helwan – south of Cairo – in procedure authorities always follow in order to implement the process of deportation and to present the detainees to The Eritrean embassy to obtain travel documents, which is one of the first steps in deportation process – as RPE documented the methodology used in previous deportations -.
The detainees are being arrested due to undocumented entry into Egypt and remain for varying periods in administrative detention – without legal basis – and are deprived of the right to defence and legal representation. They are detained in inhumane and extremely bad detention conditions in which they are denied the right to medical care, and their families are also deprived of visiting them or knowing any information about their situation, and without any access to the asylum procedures.
Over the past year, RPE documented forced returns carried out by the Egyptian authorities, between October and the end of December 2021, when the authorities forcibly deported 40 Eritrean asylum seekers to Eritrea in three separate deportations, despite local and international condemnations.
UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on Eritrea and on torture, had previously protested against the forced return of 15 Eritreans in October and November 2021, including at least seven asylum seekers, saying that others previously returned were subjected to torture, held in severe punitive conditions, and disappeared.
In the last forced deportation documented by RPE at the end of last year, which was launched from Cairo Airport on December 24, 2021, the Egyptian authorities forcibly deported 24 Eritrean asylum seekers, including children, and the families of the deportees did not receive any news of them since the moment of their deportation.
Last January, the Refugees Platform in Egypt, in cooperation with Human Rights Watch, issued a joint report showing that Egyptian authorities forcibly deport Eritrean asylum seekers – including children – without assessing their asylum claims or other protection needs. These procedures expose the deportees to the risk of arbitrary arrest and torture in their country of origin.
In the joint report, Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Egypt should stop forcing Eritreans to return to a country where they face serious risks of arbitrary detention and torture and allow them full access to asylum procedures. The Egyptian authorities should also immediately halt the immigration detention of children.”
The “Refugee Platform in Egypt” condemns the Forced deportations that the Egyptian authorities continue to carry out, and considers them a violation of Egypt’s international and regional obligations against asylum seekers. We warn that the Egyptian authorities are carrying out the forced deportations of Eritrean asylum seekers regularly in the recent period and recklessly without a real assessment of the danger to the lives of the individuals who are being deported and forcibly returned to the countries from which they fled, fearing for their lives.