In an apparent violation of international law, Israel has begun repatriating up to a thousand Sudanese asylum seekers.
Repatriation is reportedly taking place when asylum seekers are imprisoned and pressured to give consent. It has been happening since December, according to NIF grantees specialising in refugee rights. As Israel has no relations with Sudan, flights are reportedly routed through Jordan and Egypt.
According to Orit Marom, advocacy coordinator for aid organisation Assaf, "Hundreds of Sudanese are telling us that Israel has stepped up its efforts to jail them under the Anti-Infiltration Law, and is now beginning to expel them. The possibility of shelter here is now imaginary.”
In the last decade, more than 60,000 Africans have sought refuge in Israel, leading to a public backlash encouraged by ultra-nationalist politicians. Last year the government enacted the Anti-Infiltration Law, whereby migrants from Eritrea can be jailed for up to three years, while Sudanese can remain in prison indefinitely due to Sudan’s status as an enemy country.
Currently, about 3,000 asylum seekers are in Israeli detention centres. The Interior Ministry says that a few hundred have left "voluntarily," with Israel providing financial assistance for some. Israel is bound by international treaties prohibiting the refugees’ expulsion, but as the government considers most asylum seekers to be economic migrants their claims are not properly examined.
When news that Eritreans might be "voluntarily" returned to Eritrea reached the USA, more than 2,000 individuals responded to an NIF Action Alert, by emailing Israel’s Population Authority, requesting that Eritreans not bedeported back to a country where they face danger and death. The government then officially stated that there were no plans to “forcibly” deport detained Eritreans.
Asylum seeker organisations are now holding demonstrations, and will step up their lobbying efforts in the Knesset against these expulsions.
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