Khartoum — The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that it is deeply concerned about reports of the deportation of some 30 young asylum-seekers from Sudan to Eritrea.
In a written press statement to Radio Dabanga today, UNHCR Deputy Representative for Sudan, Elizabeth Tan, said: "UNHCR is concerned that these asylum-seekers do not appear to have had their claims adequately heard, and they were deported on charges of illegal entry into Sudan which is not supported under international refugee law.
"Charges of illegal entry are waived in the case of refugees," Tan said. "UNHCR is in contact with the authorities to seek further information on what occurred. We have also requested the Government of Sudan to refrain from any further removals until it is clear on what basis these deportations are taking place."
Tan's statement points out: "The forcible return of refugees to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law."
As reported by Radio Dabanga this week, Sudanese courts deported 104 Eritrean refugees in August, and sentenced others to imprisonment for their 'illegal infiltration into the Sudanese territory'.
The 30 young asylum-seekers Tan refers to were deported according to a ruling by the Kassala city court on Monday August 28. They were brought to the immigration police and returned to Eritrea through El Laffa crossing the next day.
Human trafficking gangs in eastern Sudan have freed 22 Eritrean refugees, including three girls, who were kidnapped in mid-August after reportedly receiving a ransom ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 per person. Human trafficking is a perennial problem in the area, but residents of Red Sea state in eastern Sudan last week reported an increase in crimes concerning refugees and asylum seekers, including kidnappings, in the region.
According to the UNHCR, Sudan is one of the main transit countries of eastern Africans who want to travel to Europe by sea. Funding by the European Commission to the Sudanese government earlier this year, to be implemented under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, contains a development aid package of €155 million, "to tackle the root causes of irregular migration in the country" and "improve migration management processes".