UNHCR criticizes Danish report on Eritrea

A new Danish immigration report on Eritrea has caused a political storm in Denmark. Both contributors to the report and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, have heavily criticized the report.

Danish authorities suspended all decision-making of asylum applications from Eritreans in August 2014 after increased arrivals during the summer. The authorities consequently ordered a new report on Eritrea from Udlændingestyrelsen, the Danish Immigration Service.

Several Eritrea experts warned in October 2014 against suspending decision-making, referring to the serious situation in Eritrea. Already in June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council had condemned Eritrea’s “continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and adopted a resolution establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate abuses in Eritrea.

The new report, launched 25th November 2014, focused on national service and illegal exit from Eritrea as grounds for asylum. The Danish Ministry of Justice announced that the report showed that the situation in Eritrea is now of such a standard, meaning there are no longer any grounds for automatic protection to Eritrean asylum seekers.

The report has been heavily criticized by organisations such as UNHCR, Eritrea experts and the Swedish Migration Board. The report’s sources and officers who participated in the fact-finding mission have themselves condemned the conclusions. The Eritrea expert Gaim Kibreab withdrew himself as a source. For the first time in over ten years, Flygtningenævnet (the Danish Immigration Appeals Board), was not consulted on the remits of a country of origin report. The Danish Ministry of Justice has been accused of providing guidelines on the report’s content and conclusions, in order to tighten the practice in Eritrean asylum cases.

The report has now been retracted, and Udlændingestyrelsen has announced that illegal exit and desertion from the national service in Eritrea can be grounds for asylum in Denmark. Udlændingestyrelsen further announced that it is now expected that asylum will be provided in many cases, if it can be assumed that the applicant is from Eritrea.

Read about the controversies regarding the report here (English), here (Danish) and here (Danish).

Read about Danish authorities’ assessment of Eritrean asylum cases here (Danish).

Read UNHCR’s criticism here.