As African Refugees Protest, UN Criticizes Israel’s African Refugee Policy
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel's policy toward African refugees seeking asylum has been widely criticized by human rights activists and NGOs.
But that has not stopped Israel from repeatedly violating international law and the treaties it signed to protect refugee rights.
Another example of this was made public today by the UN.
"The refugee seekers are desperate and therefore decided to launch a protest march under harsh conditions," attorney Tony Garcia from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told Ynet today, referring to the protest march of about 150 African asylum seekers from their "open" detention center to Jerusalem.
Garcia added that according to the UN Refugee Convention, Israel is required to investigate each request for asylum individually. Instead, the policy of the Government of Israel for the past several years has been not to do so.
"We have discussed it with senior Israeli officials, but they have yet to provide us with answers," Garcia said.
The approximately 150 asylum seekers who marched to Jerusalem were forcibly returned to their "open" detention facility in Holot today by Immigration Police who often dragged the refugees to buses and forced them to board.
Israeli protesters who came to support the asylum seekers reportedly yelled at the Immigration Police.
"You should be ashamed!" and "They dragged your grandparents like that!" the Israeli supporters of the asylum seekers reportedly shouted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blithely claimed Israel was just enforcing the law.
"Just as we are determined to protect our borders, we're determined to enforce the law. The law is the law, and naturally it also applies to illegal workers. The infiltrators who were transferred to the special detainment facility can either stay there or go back to their home countries," Netanyahu, speaking at a commemoration of the 60 year anniversary of the Border Police, averred.
Also today, the US ordered most of if diplomats and other personnel out of Southern Sudan and asked all Americans to leave as the security situation there continued to deteriorate in the wake of a coup attempt on Sunday.
Many of the asylum seekers Netanyahu blithely said could return to detention or go back to their home country are from Southern Sudan. Many others are from other African countries the UN and international refugee NGOs say are too dangerous for repatriation. This designation prohibits repatriation by countries like Israel – a fact Israel has tried to get around by arbitrarily designating asylum seekers as citizens of countries they are not actually citizens of.
Meanwhile, Sefardi haredi MK Eli Yishai, the former Minister of Interior from the Sefardi haredi Shas Party, reportedly told Radi Kol Hai this morning that as interior minister he did his best to block the asylum seekers from entering Israel. But now that they are in Israel, Yishai wants to expel them.
Letting them stay will be costly in many ways, Yishai reportedly said, and will pose another danger to the Jewish character of the state.
Israel's High Court of Justice ruled that imprisoning asylum seekers without trial is illegal, forcing the government to begin to close its detention facility.
But instead of helping these refugees, the government put some of them in an open detention center and forbade them to leave it. No barbed wire stops them from leaving but if they do leave and are caught, the government says it will throw them in a closed detention center.
Asylum seekers are illegally kept in limbo by the government which fails to process their applications for asylum on one hand and forbids them from working and gives them little or no assistance on the other. It's immigration police arrest asylum seekers if they are caught working and conduct sporadic roundups of asylum seekers regardless of whether or not they have broken law.
For much of the past few years, those immigration police were under the control of Eli Yishai.