Search

 

Cablegate: Egypt Allegedly Deports Possible Eritrean

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1231/01 1671437
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151437Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9556
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0333
RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 0152
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1190
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0387

UNCLAS CAIRO 001231

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, PRM/AFR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL EG ER
SUBJECT: EGYPT ALLEGEDLY DEPORTS POSSIBLE ERITREAN

REFUGEES

REF: A. SECSTATE 61253
B. CAIRO 965
C. CAIRO 479

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet
distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: While we cannot confirm Amnesty
International allegations that Egypt has deported
hundreds of Eritreans seeking refuge in Egypt, our UNHCR
contacts say that convincing circumstantial evidence
shows that Egypt deported at least some Eritreans to
either Eritrea or Sudan between June 11 and 14. On June
15, the MFA refugees office told us - and UNHCR confirmed
- that UNHCR would be granted access to Eritreans held in
Egyptian detention "in the next few days." We have
encouraged GOE contacts in the Ministries of Foreign
Affairs and Interior to allow UNHCR access to all
Eritrean detainees before deciding whether or not to
deport them. End summary.

Egypt Allegedly Deports Eritreans: A Sequence of Events
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (SBU) On June 13, an Amnesty International (AI)
representative told us that, on June 11, Egypt had
deported 200 Eritreans held at a detention center in the
southern Egyptian governorate of Aswan directly to
Asmara, and that on June 12 a further 200 Eritreans were
deported to Asmara from the same detention center. AI's
sources were: lawyers who had been representing the
Eritreans in Egyptian courts; at least one Eritrean
detainee; an employee at the Aswan airport allegedly
aware of charter Egypt Air flights to Asmara; and
unofficial discussions with Egyptian security officers.
The AI representative also noted that many of the mobile
phones of Eritreans who were allegedly deported were now
out of service.

3. (SBU) Also on June 13, we encouraged contacts in both
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Ministry of
Interior (MOI) to give UNHCR access to all Eritreans in
Egyptian custody before making any decisions as to their
disposition per ref A instructions. UNHCR Deputy
Regional Representative for Protection Katharina Lumpp
told us that she believed that preparations to deport at
least one group of approximately 180 Eritreans being held
in Aswan governorate were underway, but could not confirm
that any deportations had actually occurred. She
confirmed that the GOE had ceased allowing UNHCR access
to Eritrean migrants for refugee status determinations on
February 27, 2008, and that UNHCR was continuing to
request this access both in Cairo and through UNHCR
headquarters in Geneva.

4. (SBU) On June 14, an AI representative told us that
100 Eritreans had been deported on June 13 and that plans
were being made for more deportations. Later on June 14,
State Security Investigative Service's (SSIS) Chief of
Operations denied that Egypt had deported any Eritreans
on June 13, and said that the GOE was not planning to
return any Eritreans to Eritrea but rather intended to
return those who had transited Sudan on their way to
Egypt back to Sudan. However, neither he nor MFA Deputy
Assistant Minister for Refugees Tarek El Maaty, with whom
we also spoke on June 14, confirmed or denied that any
deportations of Eritreans had yet occurred.

5. (SBU) On June 15, El Maaty told us that the GOE had
approved UNHCR's requested access to Eritreans being held
in Egyptian detention, and that he expected access to
occur "maybe as we speak." UNHCR Spokesperson Abeer
Etefa confirmed later that day that the GOE had granted
UNHCR access, which was to happen in the next few days,
"but we'll see what form that access takes." Revising
Lumpp's original estimate, she said that circumstantial
reports were convincing that Egypt had deported "at least
some Eritreans" - though the destination was uncertain -
between June 11 and 14. She noted that UNHCR was sending
staff to Aswan to get a better sense of events on the
ground.

Why Are Eritreans a Concern?
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Lumpp opined that the GOE had originally cut off
UNHCR's access to Eritreans in early 2008 because, with
UNHCR granting refugee status to Eritreans at a rate of
about 90 percent, a surge in the number of Eritreans
illegally entering Egypt caused fears that Egypt would be
forced to accept an ever increasing number of refugees.
Egypt already hosts a large number of Sudanese refugees
and faces a continued flow of African migrants illegally
transiting Egypt to reach Israel (ref B). El Maaty
confirmed this line of thinking, saying that Egypt does
not have the capacity to absorb continuing flows of poor
migrants, and stressed potentially security concerns by
welcoming further flows. However, El Maaty disputed
UNHCR estimates that Egypt is holding about 1600
Eritreans who illegally entered the country, claiming
that the number is "at most 300 to 400." No matter the
numbers, Lumpp and El Maaty agreed that about half of
Eritreans entered Egypt through Sudan, some after having
obtained UNHCR refugee status there, with the other half
coming directly to Egypt via the Red Sea.

7. (SBU) El Maaty claimed that Egypt has always abided by
UNHCR designations of refugee status and plans to
continue to do so, but implied that Egypt is not required
to do so as "other countries" do not always refer
potential refugee cases to UNHCR. He complained that
Egypt is shouldering more than its fair share of the
refugee burden. He asked for the U.S. and European
countries to take a more active role in resettling
refugees, though he thanked us for the U.S.'s recent
acceptance of a handful of Sudanese for resettlement.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) If reports of Eritrean deportations are true,
the GOE may be trying to send a message to any further
would-be Eritrean migrants that they are not welcome in
Egypt. We hope to have more information on how many
Eritreans, if any, have actually been deported when UNHCR
gains their promised access later this week. In the
meantime, we are continuing to encourage the GOE to abide
by the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and to provide
UNHCR access to any who may be in jeopardy of
refoulement.

SCOBEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: