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