March 12, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Authorities in Israel are threatening Sudanese and Eritrean nationals, including asylum seekers, with prolonged detention in a bid to force them to leave the Middle East country, a US-based right group said.
- African asylum seekers in Israel (jewschool)
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the hotline for migrant workers, Israel has pressured several detained Sudanese, mainly from Darfur, and one Eritrean to leave the country since December last year, while in February some 50 detained Eritreans reportedly agreed to leave for Uganda under similar pressure.
All 50 remain in Israeli detention, the group says.
“Israel’s prolonged detention of asylum seekers apparently aims to shatter all hope so they feel they have no real choice but to leave the country,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at HRW.
The Israelis authorities, the official added, should release the asylum seekers while their claims are being examined and protect anyone at risk, instead of browbeating some of the world’s most abused and vulnerable people into giving up their rights and putting themselves at grave risk.
Sudanese and Eritreans, according to the rights group, are likely face a real risk of harm if they return to their home countries. Under Sudanese law, for instance, anyone who has visited Israel reportedly faces up to 10 years in prison in Sudan and Sudanese officials have said the courts will apply the law.
In a report extended to Sudan Tribune, the group said Israel would contravene international laws if it opts to return anyone to a place where the person’s life or freedom would be threatened.
“Such return would violate international law’s prohibition on refoulement – forced return to a serious risk of persecution,” the report says partly, citing the 1951 Refugee Convention, which bars the return “in any manner whatsoever” to places where a person would face a serious risk of persecution.
Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has confirmed that Sudanese who agreed to leave Israel in recent months were sent to “third” countries through which they transited before travelling on to Sudan.
According to HRW, these countries had no obligation to allow Sudanese nationals to enter, meaning “they would have been forced to travel onward to Sudan”.
Under UNHCR detention guidelines, an asylum seeker should only be detained “as a last resort”, with detention permitted only briefly to establish a person’s identity or for longer periods if it is the only way to achieve broader aims such as protecting national security or public health.
HRW says Israel is currently holding more than 2,000 African nationals in two detention centres near the Egyptian border, including at least 1,100 Eritreans and 600 Sudanese, all of whom reportedly have little prospect of being released because of “restrictive” Israeli asylum laws and policies.
About 50,000 other Eritrean and Sudanese nationals reportedly live in Israel’s cities, and although authorities have informally suspended their deportation, plans are still in place to have them deported anytime.