- Group arrested planned crossing into Libya, according to HRW
- North Africa nation is hub for migrants heading to Europe
Sudan has deported at least 442 Eritreans this month, including six registered refugees, putting them at risk of government abuse in their home country, Human Rights Watch said.
The Eritreans were caught and repatriated in two groups, at least one of which had been planning to cross into Libya, the New York-based rights organization said in a statement on its website. Eritrea requires all citizens younger than 50 to participate in national service, often for an extended period, with those leaving the country without permission risking imprisonment and torture on their return, Human Rights Watch said.
“Sudan is arresting and forcing Eritreans back into the hands of a repressive government without allowing refugees to seek protection,” said Gerry Simpson, the organization’s senior refugee researcher. Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig declined to comment when contacted by phone.
Sudan is a major transit point for Horn of Africa migrants who travel on to Libya and Egypt, with many then trying to cross to Europe by boat. The European Union says it’s working with Sudan and other countries in the region on steps including tightening border controls and improving the lives of potential migrants in their home countries.
Human Rights Watch said it’s concerned over whether Sudan will respect refugees’ rights as it cooperates with the EU. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was denied access by Sudanese authorities to identify the Eritreans and Ethiopians held this month who may have wanted to claim asylum, Human Rights Watch said.
Sixty-four Ethiopians caught with some of the Eritreans seeking to travel to Libya are still detained in Sudan and risk deportation, according to the group. Ethiopia’s restrictions on political rights have spurred citizens to leave and a crackdown that began November in its Oromia region may have led to “thousands” fleeing to neighboring countries, Human Rights Watch said.