Israel to deport 40,000 asylum seekers
Israel is set to forcibly deport around 40,000 African asylum seekers after the country reached an ‘international agreement’.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this week that he reached an unspecified “international agreement” allowing the country to send the asylum seekers home without their consent.
The asylum seekers – around 50,000 in total – came mostly from Sudan and Eritrea in the mid-2000s making an arduous journey through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into Israel.
The large influx of immigrants to the predominately Jewish country sparked a backlash among many Israelis who say they are not genuine refugees, instead dubbing them ‘infiltrators’.
“This removal is enabled thanks to an international agreement I achieved, which allows us to remove the 40,000 remaining infiltrators without their consent. This is very important,” Mr Netanyahu said this week.
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported last month that Netanyahu reached a deal with Rwanda to deport the asylum seekers.
Mr Netanyahu’s office has declined to make any further comment on the announcement.
But a coalition of human rights organisations in Israel has slammed the move saying Israel is shirking international obligations to protect asylum seekers.
“Instead of turning away refugees within its territory, Israel can and should protect asylum seekers like other countries of the world, instead of imprisoning them or deporting them to continue the journey as refugees,” the organisations said.
It is not clear whether the African asylum seekers would be sent back to their homelands, Rwanda or a third country.
The human rights organisations say that refugees from Sudan and Eritrea cannot return to their “dangerous” homelands.
Israel was one of the first nations to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
Many of the 40,000 have been forced to live in the Holot Detention Center in the Negev desert, which requires them to report to authorities three times per day, limiting their freedom of movement.
Many refugees have protested against their treatment, hoping to get residency and work permits.
The asylum-seekers have protested against Israel’s treatment, hoping to get rights based on the United Nation Convention on Refugees.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist