For Israel’s Catholic leaders, society’s welfare cannot come at the expense of expellable migrants

The religious leaders call for "more humane solutions". Indifference towards the suffering of those who flee dictatorships and wars is not acceptable. God urges us to treat "resident aliens" among us as “native- born".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Catholic religious leaders in Israel have released a statement concerning the government’s decision to expel Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers.

In it, they note that “The welfare of the Israeli society cannot be achieved at the expense of so many people repelled together and so many lives exposed to danger and a very uncertain future.”

The clergymen cite the terms imposed by the authority on the refugees. Those who leave by the end of next March will receive a US$ 3,500 “grant” in addition to airfare to return to their place of origin or move to a third country. Those who choose to remain will be jailed.

The Catholic leaders' communiqué also highlights the possibility that the authorities may expand the population subject to deportation to include” those whose request for asylum is still in process.”

At present, some 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees are in Israel, most of whom came through Sinai, where they endured torture and ill-treatment.

The religious leaders do recognise “the need to control the flow of asylum seekers in our country, as everywhere else,” but they insist that “we cannot remain indifferent to the plight of so many refugees fleeing from dictatorship, war, and other horrific conditions."

Citing the Scriptures, they remind the authorities that “You will treat resident aliens as though they were native-born,” (Lev 19:34).

Ending on a note of encouragement, the clerics say, “We hope the Administration will take into consideration the distress of the Asylum seekers present in Israel and find more humane solutions to offer.”

The statement was signed by the Most Rev Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; the Most Rev Georges Bacouni, Greek Melkite Archbishop of Akka (Akko); the Most Rev Moussa el-Hage, Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land; the Most Rev Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Auxilliary Bishop, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine; the Rt Rev Hanna Kaldani, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel; and the Rt Rev Rafic Nahra, Patriarchal Vicar for Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel.