(Geneva) – The Egyptian authorities are preparing to deport 118 detained Eritreans to Eritrea, where they risk persecution, Human Rights Watch said today. On October 29, 2011, guards at the al-Shalal prison in Aswan beat the 118 men, including 40 who already have refugee status, to force them to sign papers for their “voluntary” return to Eritrea, according to sources with access to the detainees. Egypt should stop forcing detained Eritreans to sign repatriation forms and allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to interview all detained Eritreans to identify refugees among them, Human Rights Watch said. According to UNHCR, it has already registered 40 of the group as refugees in Sudan and Ethiopia. The renewed deportations signal a return to Egypt’s mass deportations of Eritreans in 2008and 2009, Human Rights Watch said.
“Detaining Eritreans and then beating them to force them to sign ‘voluntary’ return papers can’t mask the fact that Egypt is about to commit refoulement, the forced return of refugees to likely persecution,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of ripping up refugee law, ignoring UNHCR, and beating migrants and refugees, Egypt should protect them.”