In 2015 . . . less than two percent of Sudanese asylum requests had even received a government response. Not a single one had been approved. Of the more than 2,400 Eritreans who requested asylum, the Israeli government granted it to four.
Last week, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’ estimable Israel correspondent, wrote an article about the Netanyahu government’s decision to either expel Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to third countries or indefinitely lock them up. The article ran under the headline, “Israel Moves to Expel Africans. Critics Say That’s Not Jewish.”
“Like much of the Western world, Israel is grappling with how to balance its right to protect its borders and prevent illegal immigration with showing compassion and humanity,” writes Kershner. “But the government’s decision has struck a particular chord here and among Jews abroad since the modern state of Israel has served as a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution.”
Kershner goes on to say that many Jews believe the government’s decision violates “Jewish values.” She suggests that “Even secular Israelis have taken to citing biblical verses like Leviticus 19:34: ‘The stranger who resides among you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’”
“I don’t want to go to Rwanda. I’m from Eritrea, and I don’t want to return to Eritrea. I’m going to jail, without fear.”
— Dabsai, a 47-year-old Eritrean resident of Netanya
The Population, Immigration and Border Authority will begin issuing deportation notices on Sunday to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan who are not held in the Holot detention facility.
In the first stage the notices will be issued to men without children who come to renew their residence visa. Citizens of Eritrea and Sudan are required to renew their visas every two months at the authority’s office in Bnei Brak. They will receive their last two-month visa, along with a letter stating that during this period they are expected to leave the country, otherwise they will be forbidden to work and can expect to be incarcerated indefinitely. Authority personnel will suggest that they leave for either Rwanda or their native countries. . . .
“The asylum seekers that are deported from Israel end up in Libya, end up being sold. This is not just an idea, this is what happens to them actually once they are deported from Israel. Their lives are in danger. We came today to the Knesset to reinforce that message.”
— Sigal Avivi, Israeli refugee rights activist
A group of Eritrean asylum seekers and Israeli refugee advocates staged a mock slave auction outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, while a conference on government plans to begin mass deportations of asylum seekers took place inside Wednesday morning.
Around 10 asylum seekers stood on make-shift auction blocks made of milk crates, while an auctioneer called out, “get your slaves, slaves for half price,” over a megaphone. A single member of Knesset, Dov Khenin, came outside to support the asylum seekers, and called Israel’s refugee policy inhumane and unacceptable.
Israeli officials have stated that starting in a matter of weeks, tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel will face a stark choice: indefinite imprisonment or agree to be sent to Rwanda or Uganda. Asylum seekers who have left Israel for the two countries in recent years have not received any legal status there, and faced dangerous conditions and choices, including heading toward Europe through Libya, where human trafficking and other types of violence is a constant danger.