Open Letter to the Swedish Government
13 October 2016
Dear Sirs or Madams,
Re: Sweden’s Immigration authorities coercing Eritrean Refugees to sign a regret form and pay the 2% illegal diaspora tax to obtain national passport for family reunification.
From our recent visit to Israel, Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE) understands that some Eritrean refugees in Israel have applied to join their families in Sweden, as provided for under international law and the European Convention of Human Rights. All of them have family members already residing in Sweden who have been granted the right to stay there.
Furthermore, we understand that Eritrean nationals who applied for family reunification have been instructed by the Swedish Consulate in Israel that they need to acquire Eritrean passports before they can be accepted in Sweden.
Perhaps we may explain why this is an unfair and dangerous requirement.
Eritrean citizens are not allowed to leave their country without permission from the state. It is important to bear in mind that due to the crimes committed by the Eritrean state (some recently defined as crimes against humanity by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the situation of human rights in Eritrea), and the practice of unlimited compulsory National Service for all Eritreans aged 18 and above, many Eritreans dare not ask for official permission to leave their country. They are forced to leave without documentation, which is technically a crime in Eritrea, to the extent that the government operates a shoot-to-kill border policy for escapees.
In order to acquire the official documentation requested by the Swedish government, Eritrean refugees would have to apply to their country’s Embassy in Israel. They would then be forced to sign a confession of guilt for leaving their country illegally. This would expose their relatives in Eritrea to penalties and probable imprisonment, a punishment in absentia which the Eritrean government is known to impose very frequently on relatives of Eritrean refugees who have fled their country. It would also mean that those who have signed such a confession would be liable to punishment and imprisonment if they are returned to their country of origin. Human Rights Concern –Eritrea has ample evidence to prove the dangers mentioned above. They will also be coerced to pay the 2% illegal diaspora tax.
May we urgently request that Sweden’s Immigration authorities recognise the dangers outlined above and no longer require Eritrean refugees in Israel or elsewhere to acquire Eritrean documentation or passports before allowing them to join family members who already have status in Sweden.
We trust that the relevant authorities in Sweden will be informed immediately of the dangers outlined above, and that the policy of requiring Eritrean nationals to acquire passports or any other documentation from their country’s representatives in Israel or elsewhere will be reviewed at once and the policy changed as a matter of urgency.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
London, United Kingdom