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Théo Francken, Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, called on Sudanese agents to carry out identification checks in the Maximilian Park in Brussels, where many migrants found ‘refuge’. The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH) strongly condemns the resort to Sudanese agents at the service of President Omar Hassan Ahmad el Bashir dictatorial regime, who is himself under two international arrest warrants for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The identification of Sudanese nationals and the following forced returns endanger the lives of these individuals and their families. This situation is not only worrying but unacceptable as it contradicts, among others, Article 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The article provides that no one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. AEDH calls on the Belgian government to immediately end these undue, unjust and illegal practices and urges the governments of all Member States concerned to also immediately cease their collaboration with the Sudanese dictatorship.
At present, in response to the controversy, the statements issued by the Belgian Government have been limited to arguing that other EU Member States are implementing alike measures. Indeed, similar identification missions of Sudanese nationals have also taken place in France, and forced returns to Sudan have been carried out from Germany, Italy and Sweden. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned France (2015) and Switzerland (2017) for the forced returns of Sudanese to their country.
Moreover, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel claimed that this is no agreement with Sudan but a mere “technical framework for temporary period” stemming from the Khartoum Process, initiated by the EU in 2014 and achieved in the Valletta Summit on Migration, aiming at strengthening the cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination. Following the request of Belgian MPs to make agreements concluded between the EU and Sudan available, Charles Michel gave the baffling reply that he “does not have a document as there was no formal decision from the Council of Ministers “.
Either way, AEDH wishes to remind the obligation for Belgium and for all EU states to respect international conventions on fundamental rights. Establishing such collaboration and return- partnerships with Sudan, a country known for its violence against its population and repeated violations of fundamental rights, is unworthy and unacceptable for any European government. AEDH urges all Member States’ governments to terminate any such collaboration with Sudan.
AEDH also expresses its strong disagreement regarding the EU’s intensive return policy conducted at the expense of the lives of thousands seeking refuge.