Denmark admits ‘doubts’ about Eritrea report

The Danish Immigration Service's fact-finding report on Eritrea has been under heavy fire since its release and the agency now says that the feedback "raises doubts" and that Eritreans can expect to be "granted asylum in many cases".

Denmark admits 'doubts' about Eritrea report
Children on a hill in Eritrea. The Danish Immigration Service's report on the country has been heavily criticised. Photo: BJARKE ØRSTED/Scanpix
The Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen – DIS) said on Tuesday that it has changed its mind about the conclusions of a much-criticised report on Eritrea.
After the report was criticised by its only named source, Professor Gaim Kibreab of the London South Bank University, as well as others familiar with the situation in Eritrea, DIS now says that sending deserters of Eritrea’s compulsory military service back home does present a danger after all. 
In a press release sent late on Tuesday, DIS said that the reaction to its report “raises doubts about whether there are risks to people returning to Eritrea after illegally leaving the country and avoiding national service”. 
“DIS therefore finds that after concrete and individual assessments, there can be a basis for granting asylum to people seeking it under this motivation [avoiding compulsory national service, ed.],” the statement continued. 
Using mostly anonymous sources, DIS’s report called into question previous claims that Eritreans can face retribution or even possible death if they flee the country. The fact finding report instead says that Eritreans who have tried to avoid military service can merely sign a repentance letter and agree to pay an extra two percent ‘Diaspora tax’. 
The report thus recommended that Denmark only provide asylum to Eritreans who can show that they face a personal threat.  
But with the change in course announced on Tuesday, DIS now says that Eritreans are likely to be granted asylum in Denmark even if they aren’t personally persecuted, concluding that the agency now “expects to grant asylum in many cases”.
Although it did an about-turn on the conclusions of its report, DIS’s press release also calls into question the legitimacy of Kibreab’s complaints. 
Kibreab stepped forward shortly after the report’s publication to say that he felt “betrayed” by DIS’s “heavily edited” report that “completely ignored facts and just hand-plucked certain information.”
But DIS released a lengthy summary of the agency’s mail correspondence with Kibreab that indicates that he repeatedly failed to provide “any detailed and concrete depictions of exactly which statements in the published report”. DIS’s summary of the correspondence can be found here (in English, scroll down). 
On the same day DIS presented its about-face on the report’s conclusions, an agency employee who has taken sick leave since the report’s release called it a massive failure. 
“It is a torpedo fired directly into the work we have done over the past 20 years to build up trust and transparency,” Jens Weise Olesen told TV2 News.  

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Eritreans protest against disputed Danish report

Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers march through Copenhagen to denounce the results of Denmark's controversial fact-finding mission to the east African country.

Eritreans protest against disputed Danish report
An estimated 500 people took part in Friday's protest action. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix
The Danish Immigration Services (Udlændingestyrelsen – DIS) report on Eritrea that has led to hefty debate and heavy criticism brought protesters to the streets of Copenhagen on Friday. 
Upwards of 500 people participated in a protest action spearheaded by Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees in Denmark. 
Protesters marched through Copenhagen before delivering what they called “an urgent appeal” to parliament to disregard the recommendations of the controversial report. 
“As the highest organ of the Danish people, we Eritrean refugees in your beloved country appeal to you, Folketinget [the Danish parliament, ed.], not to use the contentious Danish report of the Danish Immigration Service (DIS) in determining our case for political asylum in Denmark,” the group’s open letter to parliament reads. 
In a press release sent prior to Friday’s protest, Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees stressed that they “are very thankful to Danish people and to their democratic government for hospitality and liberty”.
“We want to assure the Danish people that we are law-abiding citizens and hardworking people who are made to abandon their beloved country and family due to gross human rights violations in Eritrea,” the press release reads.
DIS’s fact-finding report on Eritrea came after the number of Eritreans seeking asylum in Denmark exploded over the summer. But the report has been heavily criticised, first by its only named source and later by those familiar with the situation in Eritrea and international human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch
The Eritrea report has also led to allegations and finger pointing within and between DIS and the Justice Ministry. 
New figures released by DIS on Friday showed that the number of Eritreans seeking asylum in Denmark fell by 89 percent between August and November. Just 64 Eritreans sought asylum in Denmark last month.