Source: Human Rights Concern Eritrea
Hunger Strike by Two Eritrean Refugees in Long-Term Detention in Al-Qanater Prison in Cairo, Egypt
Two Eritrean refugees (aged 36 and 41), enduring long-term detention without charge in a prison for criminals in Egypt, have been on hunger strike since yesterday, 27th October 2020, in protest at the prolonged injustice of their treatment. Both men have been detained for 8 years without charge or trial, and without being allowed to apply for asylum or register a claim as refugees with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt.
Because of enforced conscription of all Eritreans of 18 years and upwards into often lifelong military service, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans attempt to escape from their country. In desperation, they leave by any means possible, travelling through neighbouring countries by very dangerous routes, such as via the Sinai desert, where they are frequently kidnapped by criminals, maltreated, tortured and held to ransom. Some of these desperate refugees reach Egypt, where they can be detained in prisons and denied refugee status, as has happened to these two Eritreans.
Only as recently as 23rd July 2020, officials of the UN Human Rights Council sent a memorandum to the Government of Egypt questioning the detention in a criminal prison of these same Eritrean refugees. The UNHCR memo highlighted their plight, questioning the legality and justice of their treatment. Both refugees have been in the hands of the Egyptian police, rather than being dealt with as refugees by immigration officials, and both were detained in Al-Qanater prison for criminals, rather than in an immigration centre.
The latest hunger strike by these two refugees in a criminal prison further highlights the very questionable justice of their treatment by the Egyptian authorities and draws attention to the so far unexplained length of their imprisonment without charge or trial in a prison for criminals.
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) has previously drawn attention to the illegal detention of Eritrean refugees in Egypt and the continued long-term illegal treatment of vulnerable Eritreans justifiably seeking sanctuary.
Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of HRCE, commented, “This hunger strike by the two Eritrean refugees is a desperate cry for help! —an action of last resort to call the world’s attention to their plight.
Their situation must not be ignored by any country which believes in the protection of human rights for all and supports the UN humanitarian treaties and principles for the treatment of refugees. It is now most vital that the Egyptian authorities release these two men without delay and enable them to make an application for asylum, as required by international law. They must on no account be returned to Eritrea, because of the danger they would face, since they would almost certainly be imprisoned and could face torture, disappearance, or death.”
28 October 2020
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
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