In December, the Israeli government announced its plans to deport some 35,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who entered Israel without proper authorization since the early 2000s starting in March. The asylum seekers claim they are fleeing famine and civil war in their home countries. Israel claims that the Africans are "infiltrators" and "economic migrants," not refugees. The Israeli government also said it plans to hold African asylum seekers in indefinite detention if they do not choose to leave the country voluntarily.
A group of airline pilots in Israel recently vowed not to fly deported African asylum seekers and refugees back to war-stricken countries in their home continent, Israeli media has reported. Pilots from Israel's flagship airline, El Al, posted their intentions to refuse to fly planes carrying refugees back to Rwanda and other African nations and called on the Israeli government to forego their deportation plans.
One of the pilots wrote, “I’ve joined many of my colleagues in declaring that I will not fly refugees to their deaths. I will not be a partner to such barbarism.”
A second pilot stated, “There is no way that I, as part of a flight crew, would participate in taking refugees/asylum seekers to a destination where their chances of surviving in a ‘third country’ are minuscule.”
Their protest comes days after Zizim Community Action, an Israeli non-government organization, launched an online campaign calling on pilots from the Israel Aviation Association and the Israel Pilots Association to refuse to fly migrants to Rwanda, Sudan or any other country deemed dangerous by the group.
“Throughout the world, citizens are fighting cruel expulsion decrees and stand alongside refugees and asylum-seekers,” Raluca Gena, chief executive officer of Zizim, said in a statement last Thursday. “This is a test for the Israeli public to determine the fate of tens of thousands of people." In her statement, Gena pointed to the 222 planned deportations stopped by pilots in Germany last month as a source of inspiration. "We call on Israeli pilots to follow their European counterparts and stand on the right side of history,” she proclaimed.