(Haaretz)Israel to begin imminent deportation of some African refugees – even without their consent

From: Semere Asmelash <semereasmelash_at_ymail.com_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 2015 08:48:26 +0000 (UTC)


Israel to begin imminent deportation of some African refugees – even without their consent

Interior Ministry confirms deportation of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to 'third African country'; those who refuse will be placed at Saharonim Prison for indefinite period.
By Ilan Lior | Mar. 31, 2015 | 12:31 PM

The Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority has confirmed a report in Tuesday’s Haaretz that the authority will begin deporting asylum seekers in the coming days from Eritrea and Sudan to third countries in Africa, even without their consent.

The authority is not disclosing the identity of those countries or the nature of the agreements, but they are apparently Uganda and Rwanda, where about 1,500 asylum seekers have already been sent over the past year after signing a statement that their departure was voluntary.

Under the new policy, asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan will be able to be deported without their consent. Those who refuse will also be placed at the Saharonim Prison in south Israel for an indefinite period.

In a statement, the authority said that outgoing Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is leading the process, which received the approval of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. At least at first, the Population Authority stated, no one who has filed an asylum application and has not yet received a response will be deported against their will. The state almost routinely turns down such applications by Eritreans, however, and Sudanese applicants rarely get a response. Up to now, Israel has granted refugee status to just four of the 5,573 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan.

There are currently about 42,000 citizens of Eritrea and Sudan in Israel, of whom some 2,000 are being held in the Holot detention facility. According to data the state provided the High Court, 5,803 citizens of Sudan and Eritrea left Israel last year, 1,093 of them for third countries.

The state has imposed considerable pressure on Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to leave on their own accord, either for their native countries or to other African countries, but has refrained from deporting them. Those who have left Israel have done so only after signing a document declaring that their departure is voluntary because Israel grants group protection to asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea – as it is bound to do so as a signatory of an international refugee convention. Group protection means that Israel cannot deport people whose lives would be in danger in their own country.

During the new policy's initial stage, Population and Immigration Authority officials will examine which group of those currently at Holot detention facility are eligible to be sent to a third country. According to the authority, asylum seekers will be given notice that they have 30 days to leave the country.

“Infiltrators will be provided full information about the departure process, the process of being absorbed [elsewhere] and the third country where they are to be received. The departure process – including airlines tickets, hotels and a departure grant – will be the responsibility of the State of Israel, which will fund them,” the authority stated.

“The process will encourage infiltrators to leave the State of Israel in a safe and dignified manner,” Erdan said, and in reference to south Tel Aviv neighborhoods were many of the asylum seekers have settled, added that the policy “will provide an effective tool for carrying out our obligation to the citizens of the State of Israel and south Tel Aviv to restore the fabric of life that they were used to.”

Two months ago, a representative of the state hinted at such a policy change during a High Court of Justice hearing on the issue. If an asylum seeker in Israel was offered the option of moving to Canada, the person would not have the right to refuse, argued attorney Yochi Gnessin, who heads the department at the State Prosecutor’s Office that deals with illegal immigrants. “A person who is offered a move to a state that does not constitute a danger to their life or their freedom does not have the right of veto,” she said.

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 reports by human rights groups.

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, noted Oded Feller, an immigration lawyer with the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. “The government of Israel has refused to disclose 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.



By Mairav Zonszein

Israel to indefinitely imprison asylum seekers who refuse deportation

In a move unprecedented in Western countries, Israel’s outgoing interior minister announces plan to compel asylum seekers to leave the country. Israel’s High Court has repeatedly struck down laws that authorized the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea will face deportation to third countries or face unlimited imprisonment in Israel under a new Interior Ministry policy set to be implemented in the coming days. Israel will provide asylum seekers 30 days notice, at the end of which, if one refuses to leave, they will face indefinite detention, according to a statement released by the ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority on Tuesday.

The two countries are said to be Rwanda and Uganda, though Israel has not divulged the information. Up until now, Israel has exerted pressure on asylum seekers to leave by holding them in the Holot detention facility and offering them cash to leave, either back to their home country or a third country. But it always required their written consent. The new policy would be entirely coercive: either they leave, or face indefinite imprisonment.

Six NGOs, among them the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, slammed the move as illegal, dangerous and yet expected.

“The initiative of the Ministry of Interior exposes what we’ve all known [...] – there is no such thing as ‘voluntary departure.’ The decision of the minister of interior and attorney general removes the disguises the State employed before and makes it clear that Israel will work to deport asylum seekers in any way possible, including illegal ones,” the organizations said in a statement.

According to a report in Haaretz on Tuesday, there is no precedent in the Western world for this type of deportation of asylum seekers to third countries. Israel is a signatory of the UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention, which forbids compelling asylum seekers to leave a country with the threat of imprisonment.

Outgoing Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said the move will “encourage infiltrators to leave the borders of the state of Israel in an honorable and safe way.” Human rights groups, however, say Rwanda and Uganda are not safe countries for asylum seekers leaving Israel, and that they have no legal status or protection once arriving, ultimately resulting in them leaving for yet another country.

It was not clear if the new measure would be implemented before Israel’s next interior minister, expected to be Shas chairman Arye Deri, is sworn in.

There are over 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals in Israel currently, of which around 2,000 are currently being held in the Holot detention facility. Fewer than 10 of them have been granted refugee status, with a refugee recognition rate of below one percent. Worldwide, Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers are granted refugee status at rates of 60, 70 and 80 percent.

Last September, Israel’s High Court ordered the Holot facility be shut down, striking down for the second time the law that authorized the indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Instead of shutting the facility down, however, as its last act before adjourning for new elections, the Knesset passed a new law that authorizes the detention of asylum seekers for up to 20 months.

It would appear to directly contradict the reasoning behind both of the court decisions that struck down previous laws authorizing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

The new policy is being described as a way for the State to expel those asylum seekers who might be released after a 20-month detention.

Those asylum seekers who are not imprisoned in Holot are denied many basic social and health services. Two days before the new policy was announced, a four-month-old baby died due to negligence in a south Tel Aviv day-care center for children of asylum seekers — the fifth to have died since February. The makeshift nurseries are overcrowded, understaffed and lacking government oversight and accountability.
Received on Wed Apr 01 2015 - 04:49:12 EDT

Dehai Admin
© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 1993-2013
All rights reserved