|Sudan Not to Deport Eritreans |
CAIRO, 29 August 2004 — Sudan has agreed to consider the asylum claims of 76 Eritreans who forced a Libyan plane to land in Sudan because they feared returning home, a UN official said yesterday. Libya had denied the Eritreans refugee status.
The Libyan military transport plane took off from the town of Khufrah and was heading for the Eritrean capital Asmara when some of the angry deportees moved into the cockpit and forced the plane to land on Friday.
“We have an agreement from the Sudanese government that they (the Eritreans) will be admitted... we are looking at now how to process them — to determine whether they are asylum seekers,” said Michael Lindenbauer, the deputy representative in Sudan of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Speaking to Reuters from Sudan by telephone, Lindenbauer said the process should take two or three weeks.
Asked whether the Eritreans would be sent back if they were not found to be asylum seekers, Lindenbauer said: “We are not there yet. We would hold further discussions and see where we could go from there.”
UNHCR recommends that even failed asylum seekers are not forcibly returned to Eritrea.
Eritrean government regulations forbid young people from leaving the country. Human rights groups say hundreds of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers have been forcibly sent home, where many have faced torture and detention without charge or trial. Eritrea denies the allegations.
Sudan has poor relations with its neighbor Eritrea and has accused it of backing Sudanese rebel groups.
There were conflicting reports surrounding the incident on Friday.
An Eritrean official in Khartoum said the group had no weapons but one of the plane’s pilots told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television the Eritreans had attacked the crew with “knives and metal objects”. Reuters