Thursday, September 10, 2015

Refusing Eritreans Asylum

Refusing asylum to Eritreans on back of discredited report. Danish researchers have condemned conclusions published by Denmark’s immigration service that conditions in east African country are safe for deportees. The researchers behind a report on Eritrea which the Home Office cited heavily when claiming it was now safe to send Eritrean asylum seekers back to the east African country have publicly distanced themselves from the findings, claiming the report was unsubstantiated and distorted. The only named source in the DIS report, Professor Gaim Kibreab, director of refugee studies at London South Bank University, has also distanced himself from its findings. “They distorted what I said, quoted me out of context,” he said. “One example: they quoted me saying that I knew people who had returned back to Eritrea without problem. What I told them was I know of a few who returned who are connected to the government, who are naturalised and have English passports and Danish passports – they didn’t mention that I was talking about a few who were connected. They left out so many things. The way they did it, there was an unnamed anonymous source and then they brought in my name to support their views. It was very disingenuous,” he said. Kibreab said: “Nothing has changed in Eritrea. The Home Office is rejecting most Eritrean asylum applications even though nothing has changed on the ground. The Home Office has disgraced itself doing that.”

 The Home Office updated its country advice on Eritrea in March, claiming that citizens who left the country without permission – many of them to escape its infamous indefinite military service – would not face persecution if they returned. in the Home Office guidance, the DIS report was cited 39 times, making it the most referenced source in the report by a significant margin. The next most-cited source was a proclamation by the Eritrean government outlining the national service programme, with 16 mentions. The advice resulted in the number of Eritreans granted protection in the UK plummeting from a 73% approval rate in the first quarter of 2015 to 34% in the second quarter.

But the two researchers behind the report, Jens Weise Olesen and Jan Olsen, who conducted the fact-finding mission in Eritrea for the Danish Immigration Service (DIS), have revealed that they are appalled by the report written by their department off the back of their research and have since resigned from the DIS. In an interview with the Amnesty International Denmark members magazine, the pair, who worked for DIS for more than 20 years, claim their superiors limited their questioning in Eritrea and tried to conclude the mission before they had conducted the necessary interviews. When they returned to Denmark, Olsen and Weise Olesen say there was a “showdown” and they both eventually resigned from the immigration service. They claim they have been branded “whistle-blowers and disloyal employees”. Olsen and Weise Olesen told Amnesty International that their superiors put pressure on them to deliver a specific result, saying their head of department, Jakob Dam Glynstrup, openly speculated to them several times on what kind of asylum result the government was hoping for.
“Jakob said that the last thing the government wanted in a future election campaign was a growing number of people seeking asylum and for refugees to become an [election] issue,” the men said in a written statement to the Danish ombudsman, which is investigating the issue. “I saw it as pressure to deliver a particular outcome,” Olsen said. “It was a dream scenario for bosses to present brand new information on the situation in Eritrea.”

Dr Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, condemned the Home Office for including the Danish report as a source in its country guidance. “For it to be discredited by some of the researchers shows even more powerfully how the information cannot be relied on for making life and death decisions. If any part of that evidence is shown to be in doubt, it should be removed from the guidance immediately.”

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