35,000 Eritreans Face Deportation From Israel

What Country Will Accept African Immigrants?

getty images

By Reuters

Published June 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

An unidentified country has agreed to take in Eritrean illegal immigrants living in Israel, according to Israeli court documents.

Humanitarian agencies say many of the 60,000 African migrants who have walked into Israel from Egypt should be considered for asylum. Israel regards most of them as illegal job-seekers, and a national debate on deporting them has stirred strong emotions in a Jewish state founded by war refugees and immigrants.

At a Supreme Court hearing on Sunday on the legality of detaining asylum-seekers who entered Israel surreptitiously, a government lawyer said a deal to resettle “infiltrators from Eritrea” had been reached with a country she did not identify.

Israeli government officials declined to comment, but local media speculated that the statement was a tactic to forestall any court moves to release migrants detained for long periods.

An estimated 35,000 Eritreans are currently in Israel. Returning them to their homeland, a reclusive state accused last year by the U.N. human rights chief of torture and summary executions, is problematic under international law.

But moving them elsewhere could also raise legal issues. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says resettlement can only be considered once refugee status has been granted, something Israel has not done, although exceptions can be made.

“There is an arrangement with one country, which will be an end-destination and not a transit point,” the attorney said, according to a transcript provided by the Justice Ministry on Monday.

She told the court she could not reveal the name of the country because the hearing was open to the public.

Israel’s Army Radio said the country was in East Africa. Other media reported that Israel had offered it financial incentives to take the migrants in.

In all, more than 60,000 Africans, most of them men, have walked into Israel in recent years seeking work or refuge. Some 2,000, most of them caught at the Egyptian frontier, are being held in a detention centre in southern Israel.

Pledging to stem the flow, Israel has responded by erecting a heavily patrolled fence along the Egyptian border, pursued legal penalties against Israelis who hire migrants without work permits, and launched deportation drives, although these have been small-scale so far.

“Compared with the more than 2,000 infiltrators who entered Israel exactly a year ago and dispersed in various cities, only two crossed the border last month, and they were arrested,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, attributing the steep decline to construction of the barrier.

“Now we have to focus on repatriating the illegal infiltrators already here, and we will fulfil this mission,” he said in a statement, which made no mention of any resettlement arrangement.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.