An African Asylum Seeker's Hellish Journey to Israel

Eritrean Escapes Homeland — Only To Find Harsh Challenges

Lily Padula

By Anonymous

Published January 28, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
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The guards kept trying to pressure us into signing a “voluntary repatriation” form. It was clear to me that if I returned to Eritrea, I would end up either dead or in prison.

In March 2013 I filled out an asylum request form. To this day, I have not received a response.

I regained hope of being freed this past fall, when the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants told me by phone that the Supreme Court of Israel nullified the law that kept me detained for more than a year. The hotline informed me that according to the court ruling, I and the other detained asylum seekers would be released within 90 days.

Government authorities conducted short interviews with each detainee. In my interview, they asked me about myself and told me the conditions of my release. They informed me that formerly incarcerated asylum seekers would not be permitted to live or work in Tel Aviv or Eilat.

A week later I was released. I was given a bus ticket to Beersheva. From there I went to Tel Aviv, where I had friends. But since I was told I could not be in Tel Aviv, I found someone with whom I could stay, in a nearby city. Through him I was able to find a job.

I now work in a big house and do whatever is asked of me: clean, trim the trees and so on. There are other Eritreans there, and I work 10 hours a day, six days a week, earning $71 per day. So far, though, they haven’t paid me; they say they will at the end of the month, and I have to trust them.

I have been out of jail for a few weeks now. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my freedom after what I have been through. I take nothing for granted.

What is most important to me now is paying off my debt. My family borrowed money from so many people to secure my freedom from the torture camp in Sinai, money that needs to be repaid.

For me, returning to Eritrea would be returning to hell. Someday, if the government changes and there is peace, I would be happy to go back to my family.

Israel’s new “Anti-Infiltration” Law frightens me. Last December the government used the law to establish an internment camp for asylum seekers. The possibility of facing captivity again? I honestly don’t think I could survive that.

My only wish is to remain free. Please, just leave me my freedom and let me live my life in peace.

The author shared his story with assistance from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and from T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.


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