Sweden halts deportations to Eritrea

Police in Sweden have stopped deporting people to Eritrea as the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) reevaluates its policy regarding asylum applicants from the east African country.

Sweden halts deportations to Eritrea

The move comes following an email sent on Thursday to all police authorities in Sweden to not forcibly deport people to Eritrea.

“From what I understand the Migration Board is planning to stop these type of forced deportations. That’s why we’ve made this decision,” Sören Clerton, head of the border control unit with Sweden’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) told the TT news agency.

Clerton added that police have had talks with both the Migration Board and human rights group Amnesty about the situation in Eritrea.

According to Amnesty, Sweden is the only country in Europe that has continued to deport people to Eritrea in recent years.

“It’s a real problem that Sweden has made a faulty assessment of the risks in Eritrea,” Madelaine Seidlitz, a lawyer with Amnesty in Sweden, told TT.

In an Amnesty report due to be published later in May, the human rights group argues that refugees are viewed as criminals in Eritrea.

“Countless numbers of people have been imprisoned arbitrarily after having been arrested when they try to cross the border,” Amnesty writes, adding that people can be held for up to three years and that their family members can also be arrested.

Nearly all Eritreans who apply are granted asylum in Sweden, the TT news agency reports. The approval rate so far this year is 96 percent. But in some cases, applications are denied and people are deported back to Eritrea. In 2012, 19 people were deported and so far this year four people have been sent back, two of whom were forcibly deported.

Amnesty claims that Eritreans who seek asylum abroad are seen as traitors by the regime and risk being arrested and tortured upon their return.

“We’re looking at that question: is the fact that someone sought asylum in and of itself enough for them to be harmed? Hopefully, I’ll be able to have a ruling on the matter early next week,” Fredrik Beijer, acting general counsel with the Migration Board, told TT.

In the meantime, no one will be deported to Eritrea.

TT/The Local/dl

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Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for ‘torture and kidnapping’

Sweden's chapter of Reporters Without Borders has filed a complaint accusing Eritrea's regime of human rights abuses over the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak in 2001.

Swedish rights group reports Eritrea to police for 'torture and kidnapping'
A sign from a September 2011 demonstration for Dawit Isaak's release
The complaint was directed at Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and seven other high ranking political leaders, including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed.
Handed over to Swedish police by RSF and Isaak's brother, the complaint accused them of “crimes against humanity, enforced disappearance, torture and kidnapping”.
It was also signed by human rights advocates like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
On September 23, 2001, Isaak was arrested shortly after the Eritrean newspaper he founded, Setit, published articles demanding political reforms.   
According to RSF, he and his colleagues detained at the same time are now the journalists who have been imprisoned the longest in the world.
Isaak had fled to Sweden in 1987 during Eritrea's struggle against Ethiopia which eventually led to independence in 1993. He returned in 2001 to help shape the media landscape.
RSF ranks Eritrea as the world's third most repressive country when it comes to press freedom, behind North Korea and Turkmenistan.
Similar complaints have been filed before, including in 2014 when a new law took effect in Sweden enabling the prosecution for such crimes even if committed elsewhere in the world.
The prosecutor-general at the time concluded that while there were grounds to suspect a crime and open an investigation, doing so “would diminish the possibility that Dawit Isaak would be freed.”
Bjorn Tunback, coordinator for RSF Sweden's work on the Dawit Isaak case, said they hoped this time would be different after Foreign Minister Ann Linde last year said that despite repeated calls for Isaak's release “no clear changes are yet to be noted in Eritrea.”
Tunback said the minister's statements indicated that diplomatic channels had been exhausted.
“Diplomacy has its course, but when that doesn't lead anywhere, there is also the legal route,” Tunback told AFP.
“The law is there to protect individuals… and that is what we're testing now.”