News / Middle East

Israel Deports Eritreans Despite Rights Concerns

Eritreans demonstrate against new deportation regulations in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 29, 2012.
Eritreans demonstrate against new deportation regulations in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 29, 2012.
Reuters
Israel has launched a forced repatriation of Eritrean migrants that amounts to a grave violation of their human rights because of the risk of persecution in their reclusive homeland, an advocacy group said on Monday.

Israeli authorities have been trying to curb an influx of Africans that has ignited resentment in the poorer neighborhoods in which they dwell and compounded the fears of many Israelis about eventually being outnumbered in the Jewish state. But humanitarian groups say that forcibly returning African migrants home often exposes them to rights abuses including torture.

Some 60,000 Africans, including 35,000 Eritreans, have walked over a long porous desert border with Egypt into Israel since 2006, Israeli government figures show, and many live in gritty districts of Tel Aviv.

Israel regards most as illegal job-seekers but rights agencies say many should be considered for political asylum because of poor human rights records of their home governments.

Hotline for Migrant Workers (HMW), an Israeli human rights group, said an initial group of 14 Eritrean men were flown to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, on Sunday, after receiving $1,500 each from Israeli authorities.

They were driven to the airport from one of two desert detention centers that Israel has expanded. A law passed a year ago, and now being contested in its high court, allows the country to jail migrants it says arrived illegally.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry declined to comment on the HMW report, other than to say that some “people are returning home.” She did not give their nationalities.

The men who left on Sunday were the first sent back to  Eritrea, which was accused last year by the U.N. human rights chief of practicing torture and summary executions.

Israel had said in the past that it was seeking third-country destinations for Eritreans.

Sigal Rozen, public policy coordinator for HMW, a group that objects to most deportations of migrants, told Reuters the latest repatriations were “a grave human rights violation”.

Rozen said those repatriated had signed consent forms but she argued their agreement could not be seen as voluntary because Israeli authorities made clear the only way they would be freed from detention was by returning home.

She said at least one of the Eritreans had said he was a military deserter, and could face punishment at home.

A Tel Aviv-based representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees monitoring migrants' treatment in Israel had no immediate comment. She said she was seeking confirmation from Israel of the Eritreans' repatriation.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also condemned the new repatriations. In a statement emailed to news media, Gerry Simpson, a senior HRW refugee researcher, accused Israel of “using the threat of prolonged detention to force Eritrean and Sudanese nationals to give up their asylum claims”.

Worldwide, HRW said, around 80 percent of Eritrean asylum seekers are granted some form of protection because of credible fears of persecution relating to punishment for evading indefinite military service in Eritrea and other widespread rights abuses in the small Horn of Africa state.

Last month, an Israeli government lawyer said at a Supreme Court hearing on the legality of detaining asylum-seekers who entered surreptitiously that a deal to resettle “infiltrators from Eritrea” had been reached with a country she did not name.

At least one group of Africans was flown out of Israel to South Sudan in the past year and other migrants have been offered cash to leave voluntarily. Some 2,000 Africans are being held in the southern detention centers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that a fence which Israel completed along most of the Egyptian border earlier this year has significantly reduced the flow of migration from Africa, which hit a peak of 2,000 a month in 2011.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More