Sudan: government grants Eritreans asylum

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Sixty Eritrean nationals who were aboard a Libyan plane diverted to Khartoum late last month have been granted asylum in Sudan. The Sudanese government informed UNHCR yesterday (Monday) of the decision to grant the asylum seekers refugee status.

The 60 were part of a group of 75 Eritrean nationals who arrived in Sudan on Friday, 27 August, after the plane that had been carrying them from Libya to the Eritrean capital Asmara was re-routed to Khartoum. Fifteen people were arrested upon arrival in the Sudanese capital. The remaining 60 were accommodated in an airport transit lounge, where they were interviewed by UNHCR staff.

All 60 who claimed asylum said that the Libyan authorities had forcibly put them aboard the plane to deport them to Eritrea. They said they did not want to go back to Eritrea, because, they said, they feared persecution in their homeland. UNHCR worked in close cooperation with the Sudanese authorities to ensure that their case was resolved as soon as possible.

The 60 left the airport lounge last Friday, and are now staying in various accommodations in Khartoum. The Sudanese government will start processing and handing out documents registering them as refugees today.

UNHCR was informed last week that the 15 remaining passengers have been charged under counter-terrorism, civil and aviation laws in a Khartoum court. UNHCR does not have any information regarding whether any of the 15 have lodged an asylum claim with the Sudanese government.