01/04/2018, 11.26
ISRAEL

Asylum seekers must leave Israel or face prison. Activist: once we were refugees

In Israel there are 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees. So far, only 10 refugee status have been recognized. They go to Rwanda and Uganda, even there without recognition. The journey continues and many die or are tortured in an attempt to reach Europe. "It's a really difficult life here. Israel is doing everything to make them feel unwanted ".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "It is a scandal that with 65 million refugees in the world, the biggest crisis since World War II, Israel is asking other countries to take refugees" says Dror Sadot, spokesperson for the Israeli branch of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.  She is commenting on the recent announcement by the Israeli migration authority: "infiltrators" from Eritrea and Sudan must leave within three months or be imprisoned indefinitely.

There are about 35 thousand Eritrean and Sudanese citizens in Israel and with them 5 thousand children born in the country. Most have temporary visas that need to be renewed every three months, and the next renewal could be the last: they will be asked to leave Israel before the deadline. In addition to the risk of prison for those who do not leave, any employers will incur a fine.

Israel  will give $ 3,500 to all asylum seekers who accept "voluntary"  departure; a figure that will gradually decline starting in April. During the first stage, women, children, those aged 60 or more, parents of minors living with them, those suffering from medical or mental problems and those who were enslaved or were victims of human trafficking will be excluded. The 6,000 Eritreans and Sudanese who submitted requests to be recognized as refugees but got no response are also safe, at least until they get an answer. In its announcement Monday, the authority made it clear that anyone who hadn’t yet formally requested asylum but does so now is not protected from deportation. “Requests for political asylum submitted after January 1, 2018 will not delay the demand for an infiltrator to leave to a third country,” the statement said.

Last week, the Hotline sent a petition to the Supreme Court not to deport those who tried unsuccessful asylum, a procedure which in the last period has become very difficult due to long queues and the acceptance of very few petitions.

Even if they had also succeeded in applying for asylum, there is little hope that this will be accepted. So far, reports Sadot, the demands of "ten people, eight Eritreans and two Sudanese" have been accepted. Only ten, like the number of fingers ". "Israel does not recognize them with any status, but they cannot be sent back to their countries of origin. The majority come from Eritrea and from Darfur, in Sudan. This is why they are a protected group ", comments Sadot. "Israel does not want them here, and is making a great effort to drive them away without deporting them to their country of origin."

"In the last two years, asylum seekers could ask to leave, signing a voluntary departure. Israel gave him $ 3,500. From the testimony we collected we saw that although there are agreements - even if confidential - with those countries we see they're not granted any status there. They're going to Rwanda, but they're not given any visa or work permits. They're just keeping moving on to Uganda, to South Sudan and Libya and Europe. And we actually collect testimony not here, and collected the testimony in Europe. Many of them dies between Libya and Europe, many are tortured in Libya. Israel doesn't do any follow up with the people they send to those country. Everything we know is from the people we contact in Europe. It's very problematic as we see. It's a really hard life here. Israel is doing the best to make them feel them unwelcome," the spokesperson continues. "Right now there is a lot of panic in the community. There are lines outside our office because people don't really understand what's going on, if they're going to be deported, if there is any risk, we're trying to calm things down and do our best in our legal work to try to prevent this deportations, but it's a though time".

There are "many differences" in the reactions within Israeli society to the situation of asylum seekers. On the one hand there is a lot of tension because people are concentrated in the same neighborhood. They're refugees, and we were once refugees, so Israel should know better. I think most of the hatred comes because the government, and they're getting a lot of political powers from infighting residents against each other," concludes Sadot. 

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