Amnesty International issued a harsh warning to Egypt on March 26, calling for an immediate halt to the forced repatriation of Eritreans to their country of origin, where they may face detention and human rights violations.
Egypt is thus accused of violating the principle of non-refoulement under international law with regard to those who come from countries where the practice of arbitrary detention and systematic violation of human rights is a real risk.
In particular, according to the humanitarian organization, most of the Eritreans who flee from their country are motivated by the desire to escape the long military service – often indefinite in time – which removes young Eritreans from their families and sends them to training facilities from which they are often then sent to fight in neighboring Ethiopia. Those who evade military service by leaving the country, according to the humanitarian organization, are considered traitors and usually suffer detention upon repatriation in conditions of serious hardship and systematic violation of human rights.
There are more than 20,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers present in Egypt and registered by UNHCR, although Amnesty International believes that the number is higher, as a result of the frequent practice of arrest by Egyptian officials of Eritreans who cross the southern borders of the country.
According to Amnesty International, at least 31 Eritreans have been forcibly repatriated in the past two weeks, and 40 have been sent back to Eritrea between October and December 2021, while another 50 or so are currently under arrest in the city of Aswan, at risk of imminent repatriation.
The humanitarian organization argues that these have not had access to asylum procedures or the opportunity to challenge their deportation orders, placing Egypt in a situation of serious violation of international law.
Philip Luther, research director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, called on Egypt to cease the practice of arbitrary detention of Eritreans and to take immediate steps so that they can enjoy the provisions of international law in terms of shelter, medical care, hygiene, food and access to officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).