NEW YORK, Jan. 16 – 2010 (UPI) –

Libya is denying Eritrean migrants their right to seek asylum, human rights advocates say.

Human Rights Watch said Friday in New York that Libyan authorities are giving Eritrean officials access to Eritrean migrants, including many asylum seekers who are being detained in Libya.

“Eritreans seeking asylum because of a fear of persecution at home have a right to confidentiality while their claims are pending,” Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release. “In inviting Eritrean officials to meet — and possibly intimidate — them in detention, Libya is committing a serious breach of their asylum rights.”

HRW noted the United Nations refugee agency has recommended host governments refrain from forcibly returning even rejected asylum seekers to Eritrea because it is likely that all returned Eritreans will be subjected to detention and torture.

The group asserted that in recent weeks Eritrean embassy officials have visited a number of migrant detention centers, including Misrata, Zawya, Garbule, Surman and Zleitan, taking pictures of the detainees, while Libyan and Eritrean officials coerced them to fill out forms in preparation for deportations.