Israel Grants Asylum to Two Eritreans Amid Mass Refugee Protests

Ministry Is Considering 2,000 Applications — 50,000 Remain

Illegal African immigrants have staged large protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in recent months asking the government for rights and asylum.
getty images
Illegal African immigrants have staged large protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in recent months asking the government for rights and asylum.

By Reuters

Published January 26, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel has granted political asylum to two Eritreans, its Interior Ministry said on Sunday, amid protests by thousands of other African migrants who accuse the Jewish state of denying them consideration as refugees.

The ministry said the sanctuary decision was unconnected to censure of Israel, including from the U.N. refugee agency, of its treatment of some 53,000 Africans who have walked in via Egypt. It has branded the vast majority as illegal job-seekers who must not stay.

Seeing a demographic threat to the Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to remove the migrants and Israel has erected a fence along the once-porous Egyptian frontier.

Netanyahu’s government is limited in its deportation options because most of the migrants are from Eritrea, where rights groups say they risk persecution if they return, or Sudan, an enemy with which Israel has no bilateral contacts.

To put pressure on them to go home voluntarily or move elsewhere, Israel has been corralling them in a desert facility and jailing those who refuse to stay there. It has also cracked down on their employers. Thousands of migrants have demonstrated against the moves.

Israel has granted asylum to the two Eritreans on the recommendation of the Interior Ministry’s review board, spokeswoman Rivi Cohen said.

She declined to elaborate, citing privacy concerns, but said the men’s cases had been considered “for close to a year” and were unrelated to a U.N.-backed campaign by African migrants to have their refugee claims heard more readily.

Reut Michaeli, a lawyer representing African migrants, said Israel still fell far behind other countries which recognised more than 60 percent of Eritrean asylum-seekers as refugees.

“The real difference is in the sincerity and the true desire to examine people’s requests for refugee status,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.

Briefing journalists last week, Interior Ministry legal adviser Daniel Solomon said around 2,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants had left Israel voluntarily during 2013 with $3,500 cash handouts from the state.

He said the ministry was reviewing 1,800 asylum requests.

Israel had an offer from an African country other than Eritrea or Sudan to take in migrants, Solomon said, without naming it. He said Israel hoped for more such relocation deals in Africa but would not force migrants to go to a third country.


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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • 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.