Israel’s African asylum seekers Eritreans in Israel who are facing a tough decision: deportation or imprisonment
In January 2018, Israel approved a plan that asked asylum seekers to choose between indefinite detention in an Israeli prison or deportation to a third country in Africa.
Rwanda and Uganda are reported to be the countries accepting those deported from Israel, despite denials from both governments.
According to the scheme, asylum seekers will be given a plane ticket and up to $3,500 for leaving, however, many are choosing to stay in Israel, rather than risk returning to Africa.
Many of the asylum seekers come from war-ravaged Eritrea and Sudan, however, Israel does not recognise the majority as refugees, claiming that they are economic migrants or “illegal infiltrators”.
‘I am in danger if I go back to my own country’
Teklit Michael and Eden Tesfamariam have lived in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv for around 10 years. Both of them say they fled Eritrea to escape the military.
|“I left … because I became hopeless in my own country,” says Teklit Michael, an Eritrean asylum seeker living in Israel [Screengrab/ Al Jazeera]|
Teklit arrived in 2006 and found work in a restaurant, before moving to an NGO that advocated on behalf of Tel Aviv’s African community.
“When I was in Eritrea, I was an athlete and also a student,” says Teklit. “Without any reason, the Eritrean regime detained me and forced me into the army. I left my country because I became hopeless in my own country, I became dreamless in my own country.”
He says Israeli officials are systematically failing to process asylum claims in accordance with international law, by blocking or choosing not to submit the claims.
“They never give us a chance to fill out the asylum application,” he says. “Sometimes they reject automatically out of hand, for no reason, without checking our claims.”
|I am in danger if I go back to my country. Not just me, every Eritrean who left the country will be in danger.|
Returning to Eritrea is not an option for Teklit, who believes he would be imprisoned.
“I left my country because I was not safe in my country. If I go back to my country, I am sure there will be imprisonment because I crossed the border illegally and I am active against the Eritrean regime and against its crimes, so I am in danger if I go back to my country. Not just me, every Eritrean who left the country will be in danger.”
Report of the detailed findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (A/HRC/29/CRP.1)
Read more in PDF Report.