Urgent appeal to stop forced repatriati​on of Afar Asylum-see​kers in Yemen back to Eritrea

January 08, 2014 Mr. Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Your Excellency,

Urgent appeal to stop forced repatriation of Afar Asylum-seekers in Yemen back to Eritrea

We, the Afar Diaspora, have been closely monitoring the plight of Afar refugees in Yemen over several years. Eritrean operatives in the country in collaboration with certain Yemeni authorities since last week have been actively engaged in an attempt to forcibly repatriate as many as 170 young Afars who fled their homeland risking their lives. Currently, they are all detained at Al-Hodeida prison in the port city of Al-Hodeida in Yemen.    We have confirmed this alarming news by communicating directly with the detainees in the prison facility as well as with their lawyer. On the 3rd of January 2014, 13 young Afars, including minors, were forced by prison officers to appear in court where they were charged with entering the country illegally after which the court issued deportation order the same day. We will forward the court’s deportation order as soon as we receive it. Their lawyer’s contact detail can be provided if necessary.

On the 6th of January 2014, another group of Afar detainees consisting of 18 asylum-seekers were taken to two different courts in two groups, each consisting of 9 members, and faced the same charge as the first group. The remaining detainees have been told by the prison authorities that they will face the same fate. We believe that Eritrean operatives in Yemen are influencing the Yemeni authorities to forcefully repatriate the entire 170 asylum -seekers currently held at Al-Hodeida prison. Such act not only runs against UNHCR’s non-return advisory for Eritrean refugees, it also constitutes violations of Yemen’s obligations under international law. The asylum-seeker condition is exacerbated by the precarious political instability in Yemen.

The Eritrean government has persistently tried to forcibly repatriate young Afars who managed to reach Yemen risking their lives. On the 3rd of September 2010, nine Afar Marines from the Eritrean Navy escaped with a speed boat to the port city of Al-Hodeida where they were detained. The Eritrean officials at the time made visible effort to repatriate them back to Eritrea. Those young Afars today are resettled in a third country thanks to relentless efforts by the UNHCR and other human rights organizations to whom the Afar Diaspora Community are very grateful.

The Afar Diaspora is extremely concerned about the current effort by the Eritrean authorities to forcibly repatriate Afar asylum-seeker to Eritrea where they could face severe punishment including execution, for attempting to escape from the regime. We do not think it is necessary to list here the widespread and systematic human rights violations in Eritrea as you are aware of them and are well documented by major human rights and UN agencies including the recent comprehensive Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea (A/HRC/23/53). We appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and all concerned human right organizations to take an urgent action to protect this group of asylum-seekers, which includes considerable number of minors, from the threat of forced repatriation. Please find enclosed a list of 13 asylum-seekers for whom deportation order has already been issued by the Yemeni court in Al-Hodeida city. We can provide, if needed, a complete list of the entire 170 asylum-seekers who are detained and are in danger of being handed over to the Eritrean regime; the very regime they were trying to escape from.

Best regard, Afar Diaspora Network Email: adnafar@gmail.com

CC: UNHCR Yemen Office, Sanaa UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Strasbourg Human Rights Watch, New York Amnesty International, London

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