Eritrean Opposition Calls Upon Yemen to Halt Deporting Refugees

Addis Ababa — An exiled Eritrean political organisation, the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) on Friday called on Yemeni authorities to stop deporting Eritrean political refugees.

Hundreds of Eritrean refugees, who most are from Afar ethnic minority, are detained at Yemeni prison facility and are at imminent danger of deportation, according to Eritrean activists.

"We call up on Yemeni government to avoid deportation of Eritrean Asylum seekers and instead to provides them legal protection," said Abdu Sheik, head of RSADO's political department.

The opposition official told Sudan Tribune that if the refugees are returned they could be punished by death or sent to prison were they will be subjected to regular torture and molestation.

He alleged that dozens have died in prisons over the past few years as a result of torture and inhuman treatment by prison guards.

The group called on Yemeni authorities, particularly the gulf nation's security officials, to refrain from cooperating with the Eritrean embassy in Sana, which the group alleged was behind a conspiracy to deport Eritreans.

The group argued that resettling the refugees to a third country is the best solution.

Eritreans who flee the Horn of Africa nation are considered as traitors by the regime in Asmara and forcibly deporting them would mean "handing the refugees to a brutal dictatorial regime to be subjected for a cruel and inhuman treatment," said the opposition official.

Every month thousands of young Eritreans flee to neighbouring countries to escape political repression and also to avoid national military service, which is mandatory for all adults.

National service officially lasts for 18 months but refugees in Ethiopia say that in practice it can be extended indefinitely.

Human rights groups say that forcibly returning the Eritrean asylum seekers contravenes the principle of non-refoulement and the UN's Refugee Convention.

Among those slated for deportation are 13 children, the group alleged.

The group called upon the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the international community to intervene to avoid their forced expulsion.

The Eritrean government is among the worst human rights violators in the world.

President Isaias Afeworki who has led the country since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 has no tolerance for dissent.

If any citizen is suspected of being a political threat to the regime the individual is thrown in jail indefinitely.

Following the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia over border dispute, Eritrean authorities have arbitrarily detained thousands who most remain held without charge.

The flashpoint own of Badme was awarded to Eritrea by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission but Ethiopia refused to implement what was supposed to be a "final and binding."

Eritrea, which is described as "a giant prison" by Human Rights Watch (HRW), currently has an estimated 10,000 political prisoners locked at the country's appalling secret detention centers.

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