Situation of people returning after spending time abroad or seeking asylum or refugee status (November 2005) [ERI100842.E]

Sources consulted by the Research Directorate distinguish between persons who were forcibly returned and those who were voluntarily repatriated to Eritrea.

1. People forcibly returned to Eritrea

In 26 November 2005 correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a professor at the Department of History of the University of Durham, who conducted research on the recent conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, stated that "all evidence points to the arrest and mistreatment, including torture, of failed asylum seekers forcibly returned to Eritrea. This is particularly true of those attempting to escape from military service."

In addition, various reports indicate that those who were forcibly returned to Eritrea have been mistreated by the government authorities (UK Oct. 2005, Sec. 6.98; AI May 2005, 103; HRW 2005, 122). Referring to hundreds of Eritreans who were deported from Malta in 2002 (ibid; UK Oct. 2005, Sec. 6.98; AI May 2005, 103), and to dozens of others deported from Libya in 2004 (ibid; HRW 2005, 122), the same reports explained that all of them were immediately arrested at their arrival and ended up in detention where they were subjected to "torture" (ibid.; AI May 2004, 103; UK Oct. 2005, Sec. 6.98) while some of them are believed to have died as a result of the harsh conditions during their detention (ibid.).

Referring to Eritrea, the Amnesty International report 2005 identified "army deserters, conscription evaders and forcibly returned asylum-seekers" among those who were "held incommunicado and tortured in military custody" (May 2005, 103). In addition, citing a 19 May 2004 Amnesty International report, an October 2005 United Kingdom report stated that "Eritreans returning from abroad [...] risk arbitrary detention if they return to Eritrea and are suspected of opposing the government- even if they have a foreign passport" (UK Oct. 2005, Sec. 6.94).

2. Persons voluntarily repatriated.

Various reports indicate that thousands of Eritreans have returned to their country mainly from Sudan (ibid., Sec. 6.103; IMC UK 2005; UN 12 Mar. 2004; Global IDP May 2004). The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHC) was involved in the repatriation, in cooperation with the Eritrean government (UN 12 Mar. 2004; UK Oct. 2005, Sec. 6. 103) and some humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations's World Food Programme (WFP) (ibid., Sec. 6. 97), the International Medical Corps UK (IMC UK), the Dutch Refugee Foundation, the Stichtling Vluchteling and the Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) have provided basic facilities to Eritrean returnees (IMC UK 2005). However, persistent drought and poor socio-economic conditions are among constraints to the returnees' reintegration, adding to their vulnerability (ibid.; UN Jan. 2005, 1).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). May 2005. "Eritrea." Amnesty International Report 2005.

Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council (IDP) [Geneva]. May 2004. "Returning Refugees from Sudan in Need of Basic Facilities for Reintegration (May 2004)." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2005]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2005. "Eritrea." World Report. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2005]

International Medical Corps United UK (IMC UK). 2005. "Saving and Rebuilding Lives in Eritrea." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2005]

Professor, Department of History, University of Durham, United Kingdom. 26 November 2005. Correspondence.

United Kingdom (UK). October 2005. Immigration and Nationality Directorate. Home Office. "Eritrea." [Accessed 25 Nov. 2005]

United Nations UN). 12 March 2004. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Eritrea-Sudan: Biggest Convoy of Returning Refugees This Year.",%20Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=ERITREA-SUDAN

United Nations. January 2005. United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Eritrea Risk Groups and Protection-Related. [Accessed 25 Nov. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral source: A researcher on both Ethiopia and Eritrea with the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Ottawa-based UNHCR office did not respond to information request within time constraints.

Publications: Africa Confidential, Africa Research Bulletin, Jeune Afrique/L'Intelligent, Resource Centre country file.

Internet sites, including: Abyz News Links,, Amnesty International, BBC News, CIA World Factbook, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Crisis Group (ICG), Migration News, Minorities at Risk Project, Norwegian Refugee Council Report IDP Report on Eritrea, Relief Web, UNHCR, United Kingdom - Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), UN Security Council Report on Eritrea, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, US Department of State.

Associated documents