An interesting opinion article in today’s Haaretz by Craig D. Smith, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Toronto and a research fellow in the department of international relations at the Hebrew University:
“Some 60,000 Africans have crossed the Egyptian border into Israel over the past five years, most of them from Eritrea. Like the world’s other 30 to 40 million ‘irregular’ migrants, they came uninvited, and Israeli society has largely decided they are an unwelcome addition to an already fractured cultural landscape. There are no channels for integration under Israel’s Jewish-only citizenship laws, no political appetite for blanket amnesties, and no chance for migrants to go about their lives without being noticed. Israel thus faces an ‘African question’: What to do with a growing number of people who are inassimilable and unwanted, and how to prevent more from coming? Politicians have decided the answer includes withholding asylum status, deporting the most expedient cases, interning the remainder – and, most significantly for Israel’s neighbors, sealing the Egyptian border. While such tactics face resistance from a vocal minority, they enjoy support across most of the political spectrum. In the meantime, African migrants in Israel face assault, destitution and intimidation, encouraged by the rhetoric of democratically elected politicians….”
Click here for full article.
Filed under Analysis, Israel
Yesterday, 10 June 2012, marked the 35th anniversary of the rescue by an Israeli ship (the freighter Yuvali) of 66 Vietnamese boat people in the South China Sea. After neighboring countries, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, refused to permit the disembarkation of the rescued Vietnamese, the Israeli government agreed to allow the 66 Vietnamese to be transported to and resettled in Israel. While I have not confirmed this, an Associated Press report at the time of the event quoted an Israeli Interior Ministry official as saying that this was the first time that Israel had permitted non-Jewish refugees to settle in Israel. The humanitarian decision taken 35 years ago stands in stark contrast to the asylum and migration laws that are now to be enforced in Israel.
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced last week that the revised Prevention of Infiltration Law will begin being enforced. The Infiltration Law allows the arrest and detention of irregular border crossers, including asylum seekers. The Israeli Defence Ministry also announced last week that five new detention centres are under construction and when completed will consist of 20,000 to 25,000 tents. “The objective of the plan, according to the [Defence] ministry, is to ensure that all African migrants who enter Israel will be directly transferred to a detention center where they will stay for long periods of time, in order to prevent their entry to Israeli cities.”
Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 10 June calling on the Israeli government to refrain from enforcing the law until its provisions are amended to comply with Israel’s international legal obligations: “On January 10  the Knesset amended the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law to define all irregular border-crossers as ‘infiltrators.’ The law permits Israeli authorities to detain all irregular border-crossers, including asylum seekers and their children, for three years or more before their deportation. The law also allows officials to detain some people indefinitely, even if border control officials recognize they might face persecution if returned to their country. [***] The government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate that since 2005, around 60,000 Africans have entered Israel somewhere along the 240-kilometer border with Egypt after passing through the Sinai desert. Many of the migrants and asylum seekers fall victim to abusive human traffickers en route to Israel, particularly in the Sinai. [***] Israel is building a fence along the border to prevent irregular crossings and expanding a detention facility for irregular border-crossers from 2,000 beds to around 5,400, according to Israeli refugee rights groups….”
Click here for HRW Statement.
Click here or here for article from ECRE’s Weekly Bulletin, 8 June.
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Filed under Israel, News, UNHCR
Several organizations, including Gruppo EveryOne, are making an appeal on behalf of a group of 80 Eritreans who are reportedly being held by traffickers at the Egypt-Israel border. The Eritreans apparently departed Tripoli en route to Israel. This incident provides anecdotal evidence that African asylum seekers are attempting to enter Israel because the Central Mediterranean sea route to Europe has for all practical purposes been closed by the Italian-Libyan push-back practice in effect since May 2009.
Click here (EN) or here (IT) for the Gruppo EveryOne appeal.
Israel today begins the construction of a 250 km border fence along portions of its border with Egypt. The barrier is primarily designed to prevent the entry into Israel of African migrants and asylum seekers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying that “Peace does not include the flood of illegal infiltrators, who come from Africa through Sinai … This is a blow which our neighbours in Egypt are also suffering from.”
The Israeli Interior Ministry reported that on average on a weekly basis 1,100 irregular migrants enter Israel along its southern border with Egypt. The Ministry reported that over 10,000 such migrants have entered Israel in this manner so far in 2010 compared with 4,431 for all of 2009.
The construction project will take at least one year to complete and will include sensors and other devices designed to detect persons along the border.
One effect of such a fence will be the diversion of migrants and asylum seekers who will either attempt to cross at unfenced portions of the border or pursue new destinations, with or without the assistance of human traffickers.
Click here, here, and here for articles.
Click here for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel “Refugee and Asylum-Seeker” Fact Sheet.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on the Egyptian Government to issue an immediate order to its security forces to halt the killings of unarmed migrants attempting to enter Israel through the Sinai Desert.
“While migrants often lose their lives accidentally while traveling in over-crowded boats, or trying to cross remote land borders, I know of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum-seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by Government forces. … It is a deplorable state of affairs, and the sheer number of victims suggests that at least some Egyptian security officials have been operating a shoot-to-kill policy. It is unlikely that so many killings would occur otherwise. Sixty killings can hardly be an accident.”
OHCHR also called for an independent inquiry in the deaths of the approximately 60 migrants who have been killed by Egyptian security forces since mid-2007. Most of the migrants are from sub-Saharan Africa.
Click here for full article.
Egyptian police shot and killed four African migrants and wounded two others near the Egypt-Israel border.
“Monthly migrant arrests by Egypt at the border have surged this year, rising five-fold in May to 55 and then doubling again to 114 in June and 160 in July, security sources said. That compares to just six arrests in January.”
The increased numbers of migrants attempting to enter Israel from Egypt is believed to be related in part to the Italy-Libya agreement which has resulted in the forcible returns of hundreds of migrants who are interdicted in the Mediterranean.
Click here for article.
Reuters reports that there has been a recent increase in the shootings of African migrants by Egyptian authorities along the Egypt-Israel border. Six Africans have been shot to death by Egyptian police since May. “Monthly migrant arrests by Egypt at the border have surged, rising five-fold in May to 55 and then doubling again to 114 in June and 160 in July, security sources said. That compares to just six arrests in January.”
The article suggests that the migrant and refugee stream from the Horn of Africa that has most recently tended to cross Egypt to Libya and then on to Italy may now be shifting to the east because the route from Libya to Italy is blocked by the Italy-Libya agreement to turn back migrants.
“’The numbers (at the Egypt-Israel border) are increasing. That route is being used again more heavily than before,’ said Gasser Abdel Razek, Egypt country director of refugee legal aid group AMERA. ‘I heard it (Libya) is becoming difficult for them … I am hearing there is strong monitoring along this route, on the border between Libya and Sudan,’ said Mohamed Dualeh, head of an office of the U.N. refugee agency in Kassala in east Sudan, through which many migrants transit, especially Eritreans. ‘If you are a human being, and you cannot go because one route is blocked, you look for another route,’ he said.”
Click here for the article.