Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Israel To Throw Out African Refugees

There are currently about 42,000 citizens of Eritrea and Sudan in Israel, of which some 2,000 are being held in the Holot detention facility in the Negev. According to data the state provided the High Court, 5,803 citizens of Sudan and Eritrea left Israel last year, 1,093 of them to third countries. Until now, Israel has not revealed the names of the third countries or the nature of the agreements, if any, reached with them, but it is known that asylum seekers have been sent to Rwanda and Uganda. A Haaretz investigation published last April revealed that those asylum seekers who left Israel for Rwanda and Uganda had no basic rights and no legal status in those countries. This made survival virtually impossible, prompting them to leave Rwanda and Uganda and resume being refugees once again. According to the United Nations refugee convention, asylum seekers cannot be sent to any country unless there is an agreement with that country that ensures safeguarding their rights and welfare, notes Oded Feller, an immigration lawyer with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel.
“The government of Israel has refused to expose any agreements with the governments of Uganda and Rwanda, and it is doubtful if any such agreements exist in writing. Those countries deny there are agreements at all,” added Feller. 

Israel will begin to deport Eritrean and Sudanese citizens to countries in Africa –  without their consent – under a new policy in the works at the initiative of the Israel Population and Immigration Authority, a branch of the Interior Ministry which along with Justice Ministry representatives have been discussing a policy change. The authority believes that there is no legal barrier to forcing Eritrean and Sudanese citizens to leave Israel for a third country that is not their native country – even if this is done against their will. The Justice Ministry is expected to permit their deportation to neutral states.

According to Asaf Weitzen, the head of the legal department at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers, the new policy is the state’s way of circumventing a recent supreme court ruling that limits detention to 20 months.

Mutasim Ali, a detainee in Holot who fled Darfur and is a leading activist in Israel’s African asylum seeker community, said, “This is just another technique Israel is using to make our lives miserable and force people to leave,” he said. “There is not a big difference between being detained in Holot and being imprisoned in Saharonim [a prison in the Negev desert]. If we had other options we wouldn’t be in Israel.” 

No comments: