Rights Groups Oppose the Expulsion of African Migrants
This week Haaretz reported that, in an apparent violation of international law, Israel has begun repatriating up to a thousand Sudanese asylum seekers. The repatriation is reportedly taking place after asylum seekers are imprisoned and pressured to give consent. NIF grantees specializing in the rights of refugees and asylum seekers say that the immigration authorities have been removing them from the country since December. As Israel has no relations with Sudan, their flights have reportedly been routed through Jordan and Egypt.
According to Orit Marom, advocacy coordinator for the aid organization Assaf, "Hundreds of Sudanese are telling us that Israel has stepped up its efforts to jail them under the Anti-Infiltration Law, and are now beginning to expel them. The possibility of shelter here is now imaginary. The government isn’t giving them a choice."
In the last decade, more than 60,000 Africans have sought refuge in Israel, leading to a public backlash encouraged by ultranationalist politicians. Last year the government enacted the Anti-Infiltration Law, according to which migrants from Eritrea can be jailed for up to three years, while Sudanese can remain in prison indefinitely owing to Sudan’s status as an enemy country.
Currently, about 3,000 of the asylum seekers reside in Israeli detention centers. The Interior Ministry says that a few hundred have left "voluntarily," and that in some cases Israel provided financial assistance. Israel is bound by international treaties that prohibit the expulsion of refugees, but the government considers most of the asylum seekers to be economic migrants, and does not properly examine their claims.
Two weeks ago, news that Eritreans might be "voluntarily" returned to Eritrea reached the U.S. In response to an NIF Action Alert, more than 2,000 individuals who care about Israel emailed the director of Israel’s Population Authority, requesting that Eritreans not be deported back to a country where they faced danger and death. The government then officially stated that there were no plans to “forcibly” deport detained Eritreans.
In the coming week, asylum seeker organizations are planning demonstrations, and will step up their lobbying efforts in the Knesset against these expulsions.
In related legal news, three NIF grantees – the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Hotline for Migrant Workers, and Physicians for Human Rights – petitioned the High Court of Justice this week seeking an order to require the Interior Ministry to include the names of both parents and the family name on birth certifications for children born in Israel without legal residency status. The petition was filed on behalf of a fourteen-month-old Israeli-born baby and her parents, who came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The petition notes that – contrary to its own regulations – the ministry has been refusing to list fathers’ names on the birth certificates of status-less children, and refusing to give children their fathers’ last names. ACRI Attorney Oded Feller said: "The State…is also obligated to grant all children, without discrimination, birth certificates. The Interior Ministry is not authorized to erase elements of children’s identity. It is neither entitled to cancel the parenthood of fathers who are not Israelis, nor authorized to take away the names given to children by their parents."