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!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • 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.