01/10/2018, 18.22

Israel offers to pay civilians to drive out migrants

The authorities offer jobs and bonuses to investigate refugees and their employers. The UNHCR calls on Israel to take a step back.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Israeli authorities are offering a bonus of 30,000 shekels (US$ 8,700) to civilians willing to serve as inspectors in the expulsion of refugees.

On Sunday, Israel's Population, Immigration and Border Authority announced plans to employ a hundred inspectors for two years, as well as 40 investigators, to deport asylum requests.

On 1st January, the authorities warned tens of thousands of asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, to prepare to leave “voluntarily”. Otherwise, they might be incarcerated indefinitely.

In all, some 35,000 Eritrean and Sudanese adults live in Israel, with another 5,000 children born in the country. Most have temporary visas that they must renew every three months.

The Israeli government routinely refers to asylum seekers as "infiltrators" and has tried to push them out since they began arriving in 2006.

In the past two years, Israel has been pressing asylum seekers to leave the country for a "third country", generally Uganda or Rwanda.

The new inspectors would be hired on the basis of a personal contract and “appropriate pay” as well as a bonus that could reach as much as 30,000 shekels (US$ 8,700) – payable at the end of the employment term. Staying in the job for a year will gain the employee a 20,000-shekel (US$ 5,800) bonus.

Starting next March, these "investigators" will be working in the greater Tel Aviv area.

Thirty would work in what the government calls a voluntary repatriation programme, whilst the others would be enforcing the law against asylum seekers and recording their stories, as well as inspecting their employers.

The job requires a high school education. Experience in combat or security is a plus.

The 40 new investigators would work in the Refugee Status Determination unit of the Interior Ministry, which is located in south Tel Aviv.

Their task includes looking into the political situation in the asylum seeker’s country of origin and write an opinion on the risk to their life, their right to asylum and other issues.

So far, less than a dozen refugee claimants have been recognised as such.

Israel’s campaign against asylum seekers worries the UN refugee agency, which yesterday appealed to the Israeli government to abandon the project.

“At a time when UNHCR and partners in the international community are engaged in emergency evacuations from Libya, forced relocation to countries that do not offer effective protection and the onward movement of these people to Libya and Europe is particularly worrisome,” said a summary of what the UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said.

This comes after 80 cases were identified in which, “Feeling they had no other choice, they travelled many hundreds of kilometres through conflict zones in South Sudan, Sudan and Libya after being relocated by Israel.”

“The interviews – all with adult males, some with family members still in Israel – took place between November 2015 and December 2017 in reception centres and informal settlements in the Rome area. All had entered Israel via the Sinai. In every case they reported torture, mistreatment and extortion before reaching Israel.”

“There are some 27,000 Eritreans and 7,700 Sudanese in Israel. Since Israel took over refugee status determination from UNHCR in 2009, only ten Eritreans and one Sudanese have been recognized as refugees. Another 200 Sudanese, all from Darfur, were granted humanitarian status in Israel”. The latter offers a lower level of protection.

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