Saturday, April 15, 2017

Israel's deportation policy

 Israel has signed the U.N. Refugee Convention, it is almost impossible for the approximately 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in the country to get refugee status. Only six Eritrean nationals and one Sudanese have been granted asylum since Africans started coming to Israel in large numbers in the mid-2000s. The rest live in a legal limbo, with temporary visas that they must frequently renew or risk being sent to prison. They are officially referred to as “infiltrators.” 

Israel’s government uses a carrot-and-stick approach to encourage asylum seekers to leave the country voluntarily.

The stick is detaining asylum seekers in Holot. Next month, Israel also plans to start withholding 20 percent of asylum seekers’ wages – which are already typically low – to be paid if and when they leave Israel.

The carrot is a cash payment of $3,500 to asylum seekers who leave voluntarily for a “third country” – that is, neither their country of origin nor Israel.

Israel sent about 14,000 asylum seekers to two “third countries” in Africa between 2013 and 2016, according to interior ministry statistics. Under the secret deals, Israel says it cannot identify the two countries. Refugee rights groups have extensively documented that they are Rwanda and Uganda.

“The documents of asylum seekers who arrive from Israel are taken from them upon landing,” says Anat Ovadia-Osner, of the Israel-based Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. “They are not granted any legal status or formal protection from deportation, and because asylum seekers cannot settle there, they are forced to keep searching for refuge in other places, exposed to abuse and exploitation.”

It is difficult to estimate how many asylum seekers there are who left Israel for third countries like Uganda and Rwanda, only to travel onward to Europe. It is even harder to know how many may have died in the Mediterranean Sea. But Hebrew-speaking asylum seekers with similar stories of deportation to Rwanda and Uganda are increasingly emerging across Europe.

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