04 September 2007

Libya: 600 Eritreans refugees fear deportation

ROME, 4 September the 2007 – They deserted the army and escaped war. They crossed the Sahara desert and thrown themselves in the sea in order to reach Italy and ask for political asylum. But today they are detained in Libya and fear deportation. They are 600 Eritreans refugees detained at Misratah. Collateral effects of the European externalization of border patrolling.

Fortress Europe and Habeshia, put in contact with the prisoners of Misratah. 450 Eritreans have been detained for more than one year. But the last month another 200 people were arrested, during sea patrols as during police raids in Tripoli. They are detained in a “transit centre”, waiting for their deportation in Eritrea by airplane. A hundred of women and a fifty of children are also detained. Among them two babies born in jail. The child of four months, arrested with her mother, suffers from dermatitis, she has not got any vaccine and she hasn’t any medical assistance. They sleep on the pavement, there’s no bed, the head beside the feet of the neighbour. They are amassed until seventy people in one rooms of six meters for eight. In the rooms the warmth is intolerable; there are no fans, and the air is weighted down from the fetid exhalations coming from the clogged baths, which pour on the pavements. The main health problems of the prisoners are dermatitis, scabies, pulmonary diseases, asthma, gastro-enteritis and already three cases of T.B. Two men have been hospitalized. But for the third one there were no place at the Misratah hospital and so he is still living in the detention centre, at close contact with the 600 people who fear new infections, especially for the children. During the first weeks of detentions several women have been raped from the agents. And at least seven people have been hospitalized for nervous breakdowns.

Witnesses collected from Fortress Europe and Habeshia told about three kinds of arrests. The majority of people have been intercepted in sea by the Libyan Coastguard, while sailing towards Sicily. The others have been arrested while waiting the boat to depart, or even arrested on the road, or during police raids, in Tripoli. Someone told us he were arrested still in pyjama and lost all its properties at home. Many of the detained Eritreans are refugees under the protection of Unhcr. According to Unhcr office in Tripoli, 114 of them have got a refugee status in the Unhcr camps in Ethiopia and Sudan. All the others however could apply for asylum, being the majority of them deserter of the Eritrean army, escaping war against Ethiopia.

They all risk the expulsion. Libya would have already signed an agreement with Eritrea. Unhcr has recently interviewed 62 women and gave the political asylum to 49 of them, and is now asking the international community for their resettlement. Four Countries have answered, including Italy. But nobody knows what will happen to the others 550 Eritreans, who every day fear more their repatriation.

Libya has already repatriated Eritreans, in 2006 and in 2004, more times, also on a flight paid from Italy. The 27th August 2004 one of the airplane was diverted from the deported Eritreans aboard and landed in Khartoum, in Sudan. 60 of the 75 passengers were recognized refugees from Unhcr in Sudan. In Eritrea they would be arrested as the 223 people deported from Malta between September and October 2002. Once in Eritrean, they were arrested and tortured, firstly detained in the prison of Adi Abeito and then, as a result of an escape attempt, in the jail of maximum security of Dahlak Kebir, where some of them are reported to be killed.

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