Refugee News:

July 2018

This update covers main human rights activities and developments related to human rights migration.

Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia are Safe

On the 15th of July 2018, a Paris based Eritrean radio, Radio Erena reported ኣብ ኢትዮጵያ ዝርከቡ ኤርትራውያን ስደተኛታት፣ ሻቕሎቶም ይገልጹ that Refugees in Ethiopia are worried that they may be deported by the Ethiopian government to Eritrea as the result of rapprochement between the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments. Quoting its sources, the radio reported that the Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), the authority concerned with refugees, informed Eritrea refugees in Addis Ababa, that from now onwards Eritrean refugees need to make use of the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa and fill the regret forms required by the Eritrean government to be able to return to their country. The radio reported that the information was communicated by the authorities to the refugees in meetings called by the authorities in Addis Ababa conducted on the 11th, 12th and 13th of July 2018 in areas of Gofa, Mebrat Haili and Jamo.

However, all that has been said with regard to the regret forms was all a lie. The meetings were all about the refugees to stay calm and not be concerned with the new developments. The main agenda of the meetings were

1. Camps will be closed within the coming 10 years within the context of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) launched in November 2018.

2. Refugees will be integrated in the society.

3. Refugees will be offered with rehabilitation and job creation opportunities

4. No Policy changes: Refugees should stay calm and nothing was to be changed that may affect the refugees negatively in relation to the ongoing peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

5. Committees members were elected

6. Questions were asked by the refugees in relation to the new developments such as using the services of the Eritrean Embassy.

But the authorities responded that the embassy and the peace process has nothing to do with the refugees stressing seeking the services of the Eritrean embassy by the refugees is risky because it undermines their position as refugees and for authorities to protect them.

Regional Conference on Combating Human Trafficking was Conducted in Khartoum

Khartoum- A regional conference on combating human trafficking phenomenon was conducted in Khartoum from the 16th to the 18th of July 2018 with the participation of the European Union and funded by the German government.
The “first conference of national committees on combating human trafficking” is attended by representatives of the countries of the Horn of Africa, including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia. The only country not represented in this conference from the region was Eritrea. It was not clear why Eritrea was absent. But it could be due to the tense diplomatic relations between the countries (between Eritrea and Sudan) Regional Conference on Combating Human Trafficking Kicks off in Khartoum.
Undersecretary of the Sudanese Ministry of Justice Ahmed Abbas, who chairs the committee on combating human trafficking, said Sudan has exerted strenuous efforts for combating human trafficking as it undermines human dignity, saying that the conference avails an opportunity for boosting partnership with states and regional and international organizations to totally uproot the phenomenon.
He affirmed that Sudan is keen on combating the human trafficking phenomenon and setting up a national strategy for the purpose.
Representative of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), on his part, indicated that the conference aims at protection of the victims of migrants and keeping them away from dangers. The conference was conducted from the 16th to the 18th of July 2018.

Sudan: 139 Eritrean Refugees Freed from Human Traffickers

On Sunday, the 15th of July 2018, 139 Eritrean refugees who were held hostage by human traffickers in Kassala region, Sudan were freed in an operation by the Sudanese security forces. The hostages include mothers and underage.  In the occasion of freeing of the refugees, the governor of the state of Kassala, Mr. Adem Jimie, gave a statement. In his statement, he stressed that the Sudanese government is determined to fight human traffickers and will continue to launch similar successful operations against human traffickers. He further revealed that children, mothers and minors were freed in the operation from the ruthless criminals. Affirming that all government parts will work to prevent crimes, he called members of parliament to vote in favor of extending the state of emergency in the state of Kassala which is holding since January 2018. It is well known that one of the objective of closing the border with Eritrea in Kassala state is to combat human trafficking. The 139 Eritrean refugees will not sent to Shagarab refugee camp.

Sudan: Special Court Hearings on the Cases of Victims of Underage Eritrean Girls

 North Khartoum special court has started presenting court hearings into the cases of rape crimes committed against 66 Eritrean underage girls by Human traffickers. The rapes and other crimes were committed by human traffickers against the 66 Eritrean underage girls when the girls were held hostage in a warehouse in East Nile by the human traffickers before they were freed four months ago. The court hearings started in the month of July 2018.  One of the victims who is 14 years was given court hearings in the special court. For privacy reasons her name is not disclosed here. In her case senior, state attorney, Moetesem Mahmoud quoting article 83 of the law requested the magistrate to order people to vacate the court room so that the girl could talk in private to the court what happened to her. Respecting the request of the state attorney, the magistrate order people to vacate the room and people vacated the room. Article 83 is related to the cases of children where children are guaranteed to present their cases and speak freely without fear and pressure. The underage girl spoke freely to the courts. According to the statement she gave to the court, the 14 year old girl came to Sudan through the help of human smugglers but she was demanded to pay 1800 USD. But as she could not afford to pay this much amount, until the time she was freed by the Sudanese police, she was kept hostage for 5 months in the warehouse in the hands of human traffickers. And all through the 5 months period she was raped by the same man. In addition to her subjection to rape, there was no enough food and water provided to them in the prison. She also testified brokers have big role in the crimes committed against refugees.

After concluding her statement, Mr. Abdallah, the perpetrator of the rape crime was brought in to the court. The girl screamed out loudly and shouted as she could not control herself out of fear and panic when she saw him. As the scene was unbearable for her, the lawyer of the victims took her out of the room to console and to assure her that she is protected and fine. The magistrate started to hear the statement of another male victim of torture in the same prison during the 5 months period of hostage taking. The victim testified that he was held hostage tortured for 5 months because he could not afford to pay the 2000 USD demanded by the human traffickers. According to his statement he was held hostage in the same location and warehouse for 5 months until he was freed by the Sudanese police. During the 5 months period he was severely repeatedly tortured and sustained injuries. He showed the court the injuries and scars he sustained as the result of tortures he suffered under the human traffickers.

The court decided that the evidences are enough prove that those crimes have been committed. The defense lawyer of the perpetrators requested the court to release the rapist from the prison. However, the lawyer of the victims, quoting article 9 of the law which is related to the protection of women and children, requested the court to give them (the criminals) either death sentence or imprisonment for life. Nevertheless, the court postponed the decisions for another time.

Khartoum: Refugee Meetings

In collaboration between Refugees Help (a Sudanese NGO), Red Crescent and United Nations High commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) meetings were organized on the 19th and 20th of July 2018, Khartoum, Sudan. The meetings took place in the areas where there are high concentrations of refugees. These are Jeref, Diem and Mukhterebin. The objectives of the meetings was to brief the refugees on the current situation concerning refugees and about support refugees can get. In Jeref the meeting was conducted at the Eritrean community school and those from Diem and Mukhterebin in Alshaebia Hall. Below are the issues discussed in the meetings.

1.      Current Situation:   

The meetings discussed economic and social exclusion faced by refugees. Particularly social exclusion was considered to be serious and that refugees are facing discrimination. Based on information it gathered, Refugees Help Presented that a big number of complaints presented by refugees were on social exclusion. The other point highlighted by the organization was that refugees should live and work in accordance with the law of the country and that contractual agreements should be legal. For example it was highlighted that almost all house rents agreements are made illegally or do not have legal basis. And it explained that this gives the land lords favorable conditions to exploit the tenants. In these meetings refugees were advised from now onward that they should follow legal means and legal procedures in all activities and undertakings and to use legal documents. Furthermore, if requested by land lords to vacate house they occupy, refugees were advised that it is their right to demand the land lords to give them 4 months’ advance notice and that during these 4 months they need to pay only 50% of their monthly rental fees. If the land lords do not respect their rights and harass them, the refugees were further advised to report the matter to Refugees Help for assistance. It was disclosed that Refugees Help have enough lawyers to help the refugees address the problem.

2.      Security Issue;- 

It was highlighted in these meetings that violations committed against the refugees, particularly against women by some Sudanese nationals and criminals have reached an alarming level. It was elaborated that the causes for such violations are that some Sudanese hold negative attitudes towards refugees and the fact that the refugees do not have legal status in Khartoum has increased the vulnerability of the refugees to different forms violations including looting of money. As the refugees lack legal status, they refrain from reporting violations committed against them to the concerned authorities. It was reported in the meetings that a considerable number of the victims are women refugees who were raped. Information documented by UNHCR as communicated during the meetings shows that some of the rape victims are minors.

The UNHCR representative in the meetings elaborated that he had met and discussed repeatedly the violations against the refugees with the Sudanese ministry of national security and urged the ministry to put an end to the violations. According to the representative, the ministry of the national security has taken so far encouraging steps including setting up new police posts in the parts of the city where there are high concentrations of refugees. These police post are: four in Jeref, five in Sahafa and Mukhterebin and one in Jebra. The UNHCR official explained that in a letter sent to UNHCR from the Sudanese security, the opening of the new police posts have partially reduced crimes committed against refugees. It was also highlighted in these meetings that there are short comings from the refugees’ side in presenting their cases to the law. Among them are failure from the refugees not to lodge lawsuit against perpetrators who committed crimes against them which is providing good grounds for the criminals to commit more crimes against the refugees. On this occasion refugees were advised rather reporting crimes committed against them to UNHCR, they should immediately report them to the police posts in their areas. If that is not possible, they should immediately report crimes committed against them to the UNHCR office without delays.

3.      Economic Conditions

 It was explained in the meetings that as the result of the economic crisis in Sudan, refugees are affected. And this is compounded by the fact that job opportunities are given priorities to the Sudanese nationals. Furthermore, according to the new government declaration issued before 8 months relating to residence permits for refugees, refugees are not allowed to work. The residence permit ID contains a message ‘no permit to work’. And it was stressed in the meetings that the banning of refugees to work has caused tremendous stress and anxiety among the refugees. Hence most of refugees are suffering from a lack of employment. It was noted that most refugees are dependent on remittances from relatives and family members in the diaspora for survival.

  UNHCR explained that it is supporting economically some destitute families and underage refugees, but these are not enough. Besides UNHCR supplies school materials to refugee students and to those destitute students some financial supports. However, it explained that it has limited resources to assist all refugees and there is a great concern that sometime in the future even the existing support may stop due to lack of funding because the funding for UNHCR from the funding countries is ever decreasing.

4.       Resettlement Process to Third Countries

 It was communicated in these meetings that investigations are ongoing into the fraud scandals relating to resettlement programme and processes and that the resettlement programme has been temporarily suspended. The resettlement programme was suspended following a report in the fraud scandal in the Sudan UNHCR office and the initiating of investigation by the Geneva UNHCR headquarters office. It was explained in the meetings an investigative team has already arrived in Khartoum from the headquarters and has started investigating into the alleged frauds.

At the end of the meetings participants /refugees asked the organizers of the meetings several questions (i.e. the UCHCR, Refugees Help and Red Crescent officers) which include the followings:

Ø  In order increase refugees awareness UNHCR to organize similar discussion meetings at least on monthly basis. If not possible to organize such discussions with refugees at its offices.

Ø   The resettlement process is becoming complicated and taking long time. What is the cause for that? Also when cases are being confirmed that they have been accepted by the concerned hosting countries, for some applicants, processing time is short, but for others it takes long. Why is there such a difference?

Ø  Why do some countries favour the followers of the Pentecostal faith and resettle them in a speedy manner while all refugees face common problems and are supposed equal treatments?

Ø  The crimes committed against refugees in Sudan are wide spread and well known and it is believed that some of members of the security forces are complicit in the crimes. In consideration of this UNHCR and other NGOs should take steps to investigate the crimes and parts involved in the crimes.

Ø  Why have those trainings which UNHCR had once started to provide to refugees stopped?

As such trainings are very useful for refugees, such trainings should be promoted and scaled up rather than terminating them.

Ø  The peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea which has come after 20 years only benefits the people of Ethiopia but not the people of Eritrea as Eritrea is still in the grip of a dictator and it has no constitution nor national assembly, agreements signed do represent the interest of Eritrea. And still human rights violations and migrations are going in Eritrea. Hence they warned UNHCR not to have wrong view of the outcome of the peace process.

56 Eritrean Refugees Dispatched to Shagarab Refugee Camp

56 Eritrean refugees among which are 15 women who have been in detention in Jewazat (immigration) prison in Khartoum for more than six months were released in the month of July 2018 and dispatched to Shagarab refugee camp. The refugees we caught while illegally migrating from Sudan to Egypt before six months.  The refugees were released and dispatched to Shagarab refugee camp following a court’s decision to release them and give them asylum in Shagarab refugee camp. Among the refugees are also children. As witnessed by a Sudanese human rights defender who visited them in the prison, their health was in extremely poor conditions. Earlier UNHCR selected and freed the recognized refugees from among the detainees and transferred them to Shagarab refugee camp. However, the number of the recognized refugees by UNHCR was small, hence the majority were left behind in the prison and the detainees have criticized UNHCR for not giving them enough attention.

As the route to Libya for migrants is operating at its lowest level (due security and safety issues), migrants are shifting their route towards Egypt as an alternative route to move further to Europe. But as there are heavy border controls along the Egyptian- Sudanese border, most of the migrants fall under the Egyptian and Sudanese military and security forces and end up in detentions and suffer abuses and difficulties. Only a few make it successfully to Cairo.

Eritrean Refugees in Egypt are more vulnerable than refugees of other nationalities

 The most common problems facing Eritrean refugees in Egypt is lack of adequate protection and access to residency visa. These are key problems for the very survival of the refugees and need adequate attention and tackling.

On July 3, 2018, a young child was stabbed five times by a knife by Egyptian criminals. His name is Ibrahim (not real name). He was born on January 1, 2001. He lives in al-harem Giza with his mother. He was treated in Al-harem - Giza hospital. Until now his attackers have not been arrested and brought to justice.

On July 11, a 27 years old Eritrean woman named Rahma (not real name), was arrested when she was working with an Egyptian families in Cairo, Nasr City. The court proved her innocence and released her. After her release the police arrested her again on false charges that she did not renew her residency. She was released again after a weeklong detention up on the intervention the UNHCR in Egypt.

On July 13, Senay (not real name) died on his way back to Sudan died after he got frustrated with the UNHCR asylum granting process in Egypt.

Senay came to Cairo towards the end of 2016 and immediately applied for asylum. Following his application, he provided him with yellow card (asylum seeker) in the beginning of 2017 and after one year from his registration, he was interviewed for the RSD (result status determination). While he was waiting for the RSD result, he received a message from the UNHCR that he was going to sit for  a complementary additional interview and the time for the additional interview still was not fixed. 

Such attacks are happening to many refugees, especially Eritreans. As the head of RSD unit (Florentine) said that they need additional information for some cases in order to help them to be determine the results. According to the officer 10 to 12% of applicants are required to do the complementary additional interview. But due to the work load it takes at least 1 year to do the complementary additional interview. This much delays and the uncertainty about the outcome of the asylum application frustrated Senay and caused him to decide to go back to Sudan. Initially Senay crossed into Egypt from Sudan. And in the process of back and forth, he lost his life.  

On July 15, an Egyptian gang stabbed a 19 years old Eritrean young man (name withheld)  with a knife on his hand and beat him on the). The perpetrators have not been brought to the court of law and the police refused to cooperate and issue him a police report/letter that he needed it deliver it to UNHCR protection department. Moreover, he was demanded by the doctor to pay more money to get the medical report and he paid 300 Egyptian pounds. As the documents from the police and doctors are requirements for UNHCR to intervene and help in covering the medical expenses, he was unable to get the necessary support for medication.

On July 24, 2018, two Eritrean Asylum seekers (One of them underage), Dawit (not his real name) - 17 years old and Fanus (not his real name), were arrested by police from the immigration office while they were in queue for renewal of their residence permit. Not only it is difficult to get residence permit but also everyone is required to swing back and forth and stay there for long period to get it. That's why the two boys had come for their second day to stay there the whole day and night to catch up the queue. There were two Syrian and one Sudanese nationals arrested with them at the time. But the Syrian had been released while the Eritreans and the Sudanese still remain in detention.

 In this context, the Eritrean refugees took part in two demonstrations in front of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a short interval of less than four months. The first demonstrations took place on April 6, 2018 and the demands of the first demonstration have yet been met. They staged another demonstration on July 22, 2018. This time they were courting for several days in front of the Commission, but the Egyptian security force came with all their might to prevent the demonstrators from moving towards the UNHCR Office.

The demonstration began at 8:00 am and about 1,200 people participated in this demonstration while in the first demonstration about 1750 people participated. At 10 am, one of the employees from the UNHCR Protection Department named Hussien (Egyptian nationality) came out to the demonstrators. He discussed with four members of the Eritrean refugee committee: Tsefit (chairman), Akram (vice chairman), Waleed (member), and Rizvan (member), who raised the issues for which they came. The most prominent problems discussed were the questions of protection, education and racism facing the Eritreans compared to the Syrians, the Yemenis and the Sudanese, as refugees of these nationalities benefit more from the services provided by the UNHCR.

After a two-hour discussion, he promised them that they would hold a special meeting with the Eritrean refugees' committee and representatives of the Eritrean community to listen to their questions and problems. After the discussion, the committee persuaded the demonstrators to return to their homes after briefing them about the outcomes of the discussions with the UNHCR representative.