19 June 2008 The top United Nations human rights official said she was “alarmed” by reports that Egypt has deported some 700 Eritrean-asylum seekers in the past few days, and called on authorities to halt any further forced returns.
“People who could well be at risk in their home country should never be sent back before their asylum claims have been properly addressed,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement.
“Egypt should respect its international obligations not to send home anyone who could face torture or other serious forms of ill treatment, as People who could well be at risk in their home country should never be sent back before their asylum claims have been properly addressedmay well be the case with those who have apparently been deported in recent days,” she added.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Egypt has seen a surge of Eritreans entering the country illegally in recent months by land from Sudan or directly from Eritrea via the Red Sea.
On 15 June, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to High Commissioner António Guterres reaffirming Egypt’s commitment to uphold its international obligations relating to the protection of refugees and to grant UNHCR in Cairo access to Eritrean citizens who have entered Egypt illegally.
Ms. Arbour welcomed the Egyptian Government’s decision to grant UNHCR staff limited access to the asylum-seekers in order to determine their refugee status.
She urged authorities to immediately stop any further deportation of Eritreans until their asylum status has been properly clarified.
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