8,335 asylum seekers who fled from Sudan and Eritrea to Israel seeking safety were pushed out of Israel over the past two-and-a-half years. But despite Netanyahu government claims that these refugees were going to safe third countries in Africa where they would be welcomed and cared for, more than two-thirds of them actually went back to war-torn Sudan and Eritrea – two countries that are so dangerous international law prohibits deporting undocumented migrants or asylum seekers to them. Some of these asylum seekers were imprisoned and tortured after returning to their home countries while others are missing and their fate is unknown.
Netanyahu Governments Appear To Have Lied About Coerced Departures Of African Asylum Seekers To Hide Violations Of International Law
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Successive Israeli governments headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear to have lied about the coerced departure of almost 10,000 African asylum seekers, Ha’aretz reported.
8,335 asylum seekers who fled from Sudan and Eritrea to Israel seeking safety were pushed out of Israel over the past two-and-a-half years. But despite Netanyahu government claims that these refugees were going to safe third countries in Africa where they would be welcomed and cared for, more than two-thirds of them actually went back to war-torn Sudan and Eritrea – two countries that are so dangerous international law prohibits deporting undocumented migrants or asylum seekers to them.
Human rights groups found earlier this year that asylum seekers who were forced out of Israel by Netanyahu’s government and returned to Sudan reported being imprisoned and tortured. Those human rights groups were unable to contact anyone who returned to Eritrea, which is an oppressive dictatorship with a horrible human rights record.
In the 30 months beginning in January 2013 and ending July 31, 2015, 4,608 asylum seekers from Sudan and 1,059 from Eritrea reportedly returned to their countries of origin and another 2,688 asylum seekers, 1,980 from Eritrea and 708 from Sudan, were coerced to leave Israel for supposedly safe and welcoming third countries in Africa – Uganda and Rwanda, but the Israeli government refuses to confirm this – Israel’s the Population, Immigration and Border Authority statistics released under Israel’s Freedom of Information Law show. Another 1,589 African asylum seekers from other African countries left Israel for their returned to their countries of origin during the same period.
But both the human rights groups’ report and and a report by Ha’aretz in 2014 show the African asylum seekers being sent by Israel to Uganda or Rwanda have no legal status in either of those countries and have no protected rights there.
The Population, Immigration and Border Authority statistics were finally released earlier this month after repeated requests made under Israel’s Freedom of Information Law by Dr. Gilad Lieberman over a five-month period during which the authority stonewalled. The data Lieberman finally received is different from the data the authority had publicly released in the past and had used to promote the government’s goal of appearing to remove as many of the African asylum seekers from Israel as possible. The authority appears to have inflated the publicly released numbers of African asylum seekers who left Israel, although why it may have done so remains unclear.
The government persists in labeling these African asylum seekers “infiltrators” even though almost all of them qualify for refugee status under international law Israel claims to be upholding. But Israel often takes years to process applications for asylum from non-Jewish Africans and has granted only a literal handful, less than 1% of the requests received.
The Government of Israel does almost nothing to help these refugees and has sought to imprison all of them and then expel as many as possible from the country, even in violation of international law.
For almost two years, Israel’s policy has been to threaten African asylum seekers with indefinite imprisonment and give then the option to avoid that by accepting several thousand dollars and a free flight to what asylum seekers were told would be welcoming third party African countries which were waiting happily to receive them.
But what many of these asylum seekers found when they landed in Uganda and Rwanda was the opposite. They were given little to no help from these countries and often faced immediate harassment and danger. Many reportedly tried to find safe havens elsewhere without success while others, defeated, returned to Sudan and Eritrea where some have been imprisoned and tortured. Others are missing and may be dead.
There are currently approximately 45,000 non-Jewish asylum seekers in Israel, 33,000 from Eritrea, 8,500 from Sudan, 3,000 from other African countries, and 500 from countries outside Africa.
As of this week, 1,700 Sudanese and Eritreans are being held in the Holot prison camp in a remote region of the Negev Desert. (Netanyahu’s government insists on euphemistically calling Holot a “detention facility.”) Another 200 Sudanese and Eritrean aylum seekers are being held in the Saharonim and Givon prisons. The numbers held in these prisons and in the Holot “detention facility” would be much higher but for repeated High Court of Justice rulings against government mistreatment of the “migrants.”
Ten days ago the High Court of Justice ruled the government must “immediately” release all detainees held in Holot for more than a year. The court gave the government 15 days to fully implement its ruling. But so far, none of the 1,200 detainees held there more than a year have been released. Netanyahu-led governments have repeatedly skirted or even ignored High Court rulings and Netanyahu’s current coalition seeks to pass legislation that would greatly reduce or even eliminate the High Court’s power, meaning there would be little or nothing to stop the current or any future government from trampling the rights of minorities.