Kassala — On Sunday, the authorities in Sudan's Kassala state deported 36 Eritreans who were convicted of illegal entry into Sudan, to their country of origin after spending two months in prison.
This latest deportation follows the forced return of 104 Eritrean refugees in August. Those deported to Eritrea on Sunday were among 66 people, including 30 minors, who were arrested by a Sudanese military force in early July, during a raid on a site for smugglers at Wad Baw Forest of Wad El Hihlio locality.
The Eritreans deported on Sunday via El Laffa border crossing had served two-month prison sentences for charges of 'illegal infiltration into the Sudanese territory'.
Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a confidential source at the time explained that 'the court did not allow these refugees any lawyers to defend their case. On Monday, a source revealed to El Taghyeer independent electronic newspaper that the deportation was carried out through El Laffa border crossing between Sudan and Eritrea.
Legal activists have condemned the refugee and asylum-seekers' trial by the Passport Act rather than the Refugee Law, that guarantees the rights of refugees. They called on the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to intervene urgently to stop the mass deportations.
In a written statement to Radio Dabanga on September 6 following reports of the deportation of the 30 minors, 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 pointed out: "The forcible return of refugees to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law."
The UK-based Eritrean organisation Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HTCE) also expressed its deep concern about the fate of the 30 young Eritrean asylum-seekers who were deported from Sudan to Eritrea on August 29. HTCE pointed out that "the return of refugees to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law".
"Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13.2, everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own. The Sudanese authorities however, have made emigration from Eritrea illegal," the statement reads.
"These deportations are taking place at the same time as alarming reports are circulating of a European Union plan to pay millions of Euros to undemocratic governments such as Sudan to stop refugees from reaching Europe via North Africa. According to one report, £35million would be used over three years to train border police and set up detention camps, mainly in Sudan," according to HRCE.
"The illegal forcible repatriation of Eritrean asylum-seekers by Sudan in violation of international refugee law sets an extremely disturbing precedent," Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of HRCE, stated.
"It has almost certainly condemned the returnees to incarceration and severe punishment for exercising their inherent right to leave a country in which they experience grave danger and injustice. It is essential that all UN member states declare their opposition to the flouting of international law by Sudan, and we strongly recommend that member states support the
UNHCR in highlighting Sudan's illegal refusal to give a fair hearing to applications for asylum from endangered Eritreans.
"It is high time European leaders stopped offering bribes and technology to human rights violating countries in order to prevent refugees from fleeing other human rights violating countries and started to concern themselves more actively with ending the appalling abuses of human rights within these countries."
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".
According to the US-activist think-tank Enough Project, the EU-Khartoum migration cooperation legitimises the Sudanese militia state.