News

    Israeli Deportation Order Threatens Some African Migrants

    An African refugee surveys a vacant shelter, after an early morning police raid to deport illegal African immigrants, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 2008. (file photo)
    An African refugee surveys a vacant shelter, after an early morning police raid to deport illegal African immigrants, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 2008. (file photo)
    Scott Bobb

    The government of Israel recently said it would begin deporting illegal immigrants from two African countries because conflicts there had subsided and it was safe to return home. Opponents of the decision obtained court rulings postponing the deportations, but these rulings are to expire soon.

    Moses Gadia is a 35-year-old hotel worker originally from a village near Yambio, in newly independent South Sudan. Five years ago, he crossed into Israel from Egypt with his wife and two children. A third child was later born here.

    Gadia said he is grateful that initially he was able to work and support his family. But that changed a few months ago. The Israeli government announced it would begin deporting undocumented workers from South Sudan because a decades-long war had ended with the country's independence last year.

    “Most of the families [in Israel] are in danger. Their lives are like somebody in the jungle because of no work. They don't have money and they cannot go to hospital,” said Gadia.

    Immigrant advocates cite short notice

    An Israeli supporter of the South Sudanese immigrant community, Rami Gudovitch, said the 700 South Sudanese migrants here were given only two months to leave on their own.

    "This was a very short notice and we were extremely concerned knowing from the community that the situation in South Sudan is actually very close to a disaster," said Gudovitch.

    He said there still is fighting between South Sudan and neighboring Sudan. And the United Nations has declared the region a humanitarian disaster because of shortages of food and basic human services.

    The Israeli government also has ordered the deportation of about 2,000 citizens of Ivory Coast who fled its civil war 10 years ago. The conflict ended in principle last year after former President Laurent Gbagbo was removed from power and his opponent who won disputed elections in 2010, Alassane Ouattara, was installed as president.

    Migrant workers face uncertainty at home

    A lawyer for the Hotline for Migrant Workers group, Asaf Weitzen, said tensions continue in Ivory Coast and some asylum seekers could face reprisals from the new government.

    "There are still people who were maybe against the current regime, people who have suffered from persecution, which does not allow them to go back to Ivory Coast, etc. Those people must be able to ask for asylum," said Weitzen.

    Amidst demonstrations and legal appeals, Israeli courts have extended the deadlines, but these are due to expire in early May.

    Activists say almost all of the estimated 55,000 undocumented migrants in Israel are vulnerable. More than 85 percent of them are from Eritrea and northern Sudan. Because of persecution and instability in their countries they have been allowed to stay, but only temporarily.

    Weitzen said that in principle this is to allow them to seek refugee status, but most are not able to apply.

    "Probably because the state knows that if they were examined most of them would be recognized as refugees, the state doesn't even allow them to ask for refugee status. The only thing the state does is releasing them from prison and declaring them as people who deserve temporary protection," said Weitzen.

    Of those migrants who have been able to apply only a handful, less than one percent, have been granted refugee status.  This is much lower than acceptance rates in most countries which range from ten percent to 50 percent or more.

    While under temporary protection, the migrant is free and can work temporarily. But jobs are scarce, and as a result, many sleep on the streets and some turn to crime, which creates resentment among ordinary Israelis.

    Significant surge in Israel migrant population

    The Israel representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, William Tall, noted that the average number of migrants entering Israel illegally has doubled from 1,000 per month last year to 2,000 per month this year. Five years ago there were almost none.

    "Israel has joined the club, so to speak, of countries that now are attracting significant mixed migration flows. One can understand the genuine alarm of the government of [over] any unrestrained movement across the border itself," said Tall.

    The Israeli government calls them infiltrators. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently that most are not really refugees.

    He said it is a national plague economically, socially, in infrastructure, welfare and from the point of view of internal security. He said Israel will continue to take in refugees from war, but must stop others who pose what he calls a serious threat to the character and future of Israel.

    The Israeli government is building a three meter-high fence along its border with Egypt aimed at preventing illegal crossings by migrants, as well as by smugglers and terrorists. It also is constructing a detention facility in southern Israel to hold up to 11,000 illegal immigrants.

    U.N. refugee official Tall said the government is still adjusting to the situation.

    "This is a country that maybe six or seven years ago didn't even conceive of such mixed migration flows coming to the country. So they're developing an asylum system, but it is still quite a bit in its infancy now," said Tall.

    He said many Israeli officials are sympathetic to the plight of immigrants in part because of the Jewish people's history of exile and suffering. But he said the government must improve the asylum application process.

    This does not ease the worries of Moses Gadia, who said he no longer has family in South Sudan that can take him in. He said he is willing to return home or go to another country, but he would need more time and long-term support in order to do so.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.