More than 200 Eritrean asylum seekers, including 44 children, have been detained in Egypt, a report by the Refugee Platform in Egypt has revealed. They include a seven-year-old girl and a minor girl who had given birth while in detention.
The detention was arbitrary and the conditions extremely poor, it said, adding that they had not been given access to fair trials, the right of defence, or allowed to apply for asylum.
Children are also kept in cramped, crowded cells designated for adults, where they do not receive enough food or medical care and are not exposed to the sun, and can only see their parents for a few minutes every so often.
In addition, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior refuses to hand them over to their relatives who reside in Egypt and have permits and a place of residence, despite requests being submitted for their release.
The organisation revealed that 21 Eritrean asylum seekers, including children, are threatened with forced deportation over the next two days. They were transferred from their places of detention in Aswan and forced to sign travel documents at their embassy in Cairo. A further 53 Eritreans were presented to their embassy to obtain similar travel documents, it explained.
It went on to condemn the Egyptian authorities and the practises they follow at the borders in dealing with asylum seekers, stressing that the choice between accepting deportation or prolonged detention without legal justification is a clear violation of the country's constitution and its international obligations.
It went on to urge the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take serious steps to change the policies that violate the rights of refugees in Egypt and work to enable them to register and request asylum.
Egyptian authorities forcibly deported 15 Eritreans in October and November and threatened, in September, to deport two detainees in the Qanater Men's Prison, one of whom has been held for more than nine years.
Deported Eritreans face severe penalties in their country of origin, including the death penalty or life imprisonment.