Translated from Tigrigna
After going through the kidnappings for ransom, organ harvesting and death, thousands of Eritrean refugees who reach Israel feel like they have finally reached safety. But that feeling of safety quickly taken away as the Israeli government does its best to make sure refugees in need of international protection know that they are very unwelcome in Israel.
In recent years the Israeli government has taken certain measures to discourage refugees in need of protection from staying in Israel. As it referred to the refugees as illegal infiltrators, painting them a security threat rather than vulnerable refugees escape threats to their lives, the government decided to make their lives impossible. It was decided that the refugees be encouraged to return to their countries voluntarily, and if they are not willing to return, be detained at the Holot prison in the dry and hot Negev desert, and afterwards to be sent to a third country willing to accept them.
Recently Israel’s Public Security Ministry said in a statement that “The infiltrators will have the option to be imprisoned or leave the country.”
“This removal is enabled thanks to an international agreement I achieved that enables us to remove the 40,000 remaining infiltrators without their consent. This is very important,” Netanyahu said at the start of his Cabinet meeting.
“This will enable us to close down Holot and allocate some of the large funds going there to inspectors and removing more people,” the prime minister added.
The Israeli cabinet approved a proposal on 19 November to close the Holot detention centre, a facility in the southern Negev desert that currently houses just over 1,000 African asylum seekers.
Put forward by the interior and public security ministers, the proposal would see Holot shuttered by mid-March 2018.
Asylum seekers in Israel would then be forced to choose between indefinite detention in an Israeli prison, or deportation to Rwanda with or without their explicit consent.
In the past, these refugees could chose to stay at Holot and hope to be granted political asylum at some point in the future. Those whose harsh treatment at Holot had convinced to leave would be given $3500 and be dumped at Rwanda’s Kigali Airport. In exchange, Rwanda receives $5,000 reward for every refugees it takes and illegally smuggles away to Uganda.
Upon their arrival in Kigali the authorities confiscate all their documents and send them to a guest house in the south of the capital. They are not allowed to leave their hotel and would be forced to return by police if they were able to venture out. Two years ago refugees being sent to Rwanda didn’t have to pay anything for the initial accommodations, but recently they have been forced to pay $50-150 for their stay at the hotel.
After two days the government agent who accompanied them from the airport, identified as ‘John’ returns to take them to the Uganda border. The illegal journey to reach the border takes six hours after which they are left at the hands of human smugglers. In the past the refugees would be forced to pay $100 to reach the Uganda border and $150 to reach Kampala. Now they have to pay a total of $350. Most of these refugees try unsuccessfully to apply for asylum in Rwanda or Kampala. As a consequence they are easily convinced by smugglers to leave Uganda and head to South Sudan with the hopes of reaching Libya to cross to Europe. Smugglers convince them to pay what little money they had left after they had paid the Rwandan agents and human smugglers and continue their journey to South Sudan. Without a passport and any form of identification they become targets for smugglers and human traffickers who encourage them to travel to Libya to their deaths.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September said the tens of thousands of Africans who are living in Israel illegally are not legitimate refugees or asylum seekers, but instead are economic migrants.
“They aren’t refugees,” Netanyahu told his ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Or at least most of them aren’t.”
“Most of them are looking for jobs,” he asserted.
Netanyahu, who last week announced the establishment of a ministerial committee to deal with the influx of largely Sudanese and Eritrean migrants to Israel in recent years, vowed to “remove [the] illegal aliens who don’t belong here.”
The fates about 27,500 Eritrean and 7,800 Sudanese asylum seekers are now left hanging as Israel prepares to forcefully send them to Rwanda.