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Israel mulls plan to return African asylum seekers to Eritrea and Sudan

Israel’s Ministry of Interior is said to be exploring the possibility of deporting African asylum-seekers back to Eritrea and Sudan as lawmakers seek to generate an understanding of the situation in the two countries that have caused thousands to flee.

According to a letter drafted by Interior Minister Arye Dery addressed to Meretz MK Mossi Raz earlier this month, Dery referred to efforts by his department to forge a comprehensive policy on the asylum-seekers and said various options were on the table.“We’re generating a picture of the general situation in Sudan and Eritrea and the implications thereof,” Dery wrote, Haaretz reported. Despite the exploration, he reiterated that the current policy of non-refoulement to Eritrea and Sudan remains unchanged.

The move “is being considered, subject to a situation assessment of the threat posed to them” in their countries of origin, minister in charge of liaising with the Knesset wrote in a separate letter.“The overall solution is that they won’t remain here,” an Interior Ministry official said. “We’re constantly seeking solutions to get them out of here, and the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are working on various possibilities.”

There are just over 37,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in Israel, who illegally entered the country via Egypt’s Sinai desert before the construction of a border wall stopped the flow.Most say they are fleeing persecution, war and slavery in their home countries however the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has branded them as economic migrants who must be deported.

Deals to forcibly deport migrants to Rwanda and Uganda collapsed earlier this year, and the government itself nixed a United Nations-brokered deal that would have seen 16,000 resettled in Israel and the same number in Western countries such as Germany, Italy and Canada.

In April, Israel announced that it was cancelling all current deportation orders of asylum-seekers to “third countries” due to “legal constraints as well as political difficulties on the part of [Uganda and Rwanda]”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time.

Responding to the proposed plan revealed on Wednesday, Raz slammed Dery and Netanyahu for still attempting to “implement such a terrible solution” that he described as “cruel, immoral and unreasonable.”


This article first appeared on i24 News, and can be accessed here. 

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