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Sudan: Asylum

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 10 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees at risk of being forcibly returned to their country of origin from Sudan following their detention in Khartoum in July. (153879)

Amnesty International (AI) reported on 20 July the arrest and risk of forcible return of Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers in Sudan. According to AI, many of those detained could be asylum seekers or recognised refugees.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been seeking access to, and intervene on the behalf of, refugees who have been detained by the Sudanese authorities. Some of these refugees were handed over to the Commissioner for Refugees in August, but 25 Ethiopians and Eritreans were reportedly sentenced to deportation and removed before UNHCR had a chance to appeal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the treatment of refugees in Sudan, in particular those from Eritrea. (154565)

According to reports from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees arriving in Sudan undergo a refugee status determination process at one of the recognised refugee camps near Kassala in the border area with Eritrea. Refugees should remain in the camps and are not normally granted the right to travel from a designated area.

Sudanese law enforcement bodies carry out periodic round-ups of migrant workers whom they deport, although some of them have recognised refugee status. UNHCR has a legal team to attend cases where recognised refugees have been arrested.

Some of these refugees were handed over to the Commissioner for Refugees in August, but 25 Ethiopians and Eritreans were reportedly sentenced to deportation and removed before UNHCR had a chance to appeal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Sudan about (a) the treatment of refugees and (b) abiding by UNHCR protocols and commitments. (154566)

Ministers have not discussed the treatment of refugees with the government of Sudan.

However, officials from our embassy in Khartoum have raised the status of refugees in Sudan with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to whom we give strong support. As a result of UNHCR's lobbying, the government of Sudan has set up a committee to revise domestic legislation on asylum. We continue to monitor the progress of asylum law reform through UNHCR.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received that the government of Sudan has in the past month begun to move to return Eritrean refugees. (154568)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sudan reported in August that Ethiopians and Eritreans were arrested and detained in Khartoum and various towns in eastern Sudan and threatened with expulsion.

As a result of legal assistance from UNHCR, several individuals were handed over to UNHCR to determine their refugee status. But 25 Eritreans and Ethiopians were sentenced to deportation, which was carried out before UNHCR could intervene.

The UK supports UNHCR to ensure refugees are afforded protection and treated equitably in their countries of refuge according to international human rights law.