'An asylum seeker froze to death in a Tel Aviv park tonight'

January 26, 2012
Sarah Benton

Tel Aviv refugee froze to death. ‘Go back to Africa, it’s warmer.’
By Dimi Reider, 972 mag news

An asylum seeker froze to death in a Tel Aviv park tonight.

Blogger Inter Spem et Metum collated some of the comments left on the YNET report describing other asylum seekers freezing across the city.
What was wrong with Egypt? Why did you come here?

Here’s an idea for Abdul and Yusuf – seek asylum in Gaza

I heard Africa is pretty warm right now

Go back to Sudan, it’s much warmer

Adam Yusuf and Abdul Salam. Muslim names. This is what we import. We should stop the tsunami of these wretched coreligionists of our enemies and kick them back to their own country. There’s nothing for them to find here. Only insane and delusional Israelis think they do.

There’s only one thing we should give them. A ticket to ride. No asylum, no water, no food, no jobs, no life. They should go back to their own country.

You tell me: Do we need Yusufs and Abdul Salams here?

Egypt is warm! Go back there and from there to Africa.

Let them seek help from the UN – they’re taking care of the Palestinians and they’ll take care of them.

What’s the big problem, let the Left take care of 200 people. Is it that complicated?

NGO director – why don’t you take some infiltrators to your own place? Take care of them at your expense and don’t give advice to the state on what to do. You’re such a bleeding heart it’s disgusting.

There’s no room. They are Muslims let them go to the Arab states, there’s a Spring of Nations happening there now and it’s nice and warm. Sent from my mobile.

Go back to Sudan. Cheers.

Asylum seekers? Infiltrators. Let the reporter take in six or seven of them.

If they didn’t come here, they wouldn’t be in this condition.

Let them go to the New Israel Fund, they are loaded.

Deport all those who assists border trespassers

Tel Aviv too cold for them? Africa’s much warmer.

Why are they releasing them into Tel Aviv? Why not into Gaza?

I heard there are a few houses recently vacated in Darfur and they have blankets too you’re welcome to move.

Help the Sudanese only after they sign a document recognising a Jewish and Democratic Israel.
Interspem notes:

“Writing right now would be unbearable. So I’m merely quoting. When your grandkids ask you, you’ll have something to recall.”

Dmitry (Dimi) Reider is an Israeli journalist.  His work has appeared in the New York Times,The GuardianForeign PolicyHaaretz,  Jerusalem Post, and  Index on Censorship

Myths, facts and suggestions: Asylum seekers in Israel

Asylum seekers’ are often confused with ‘migrant workers’ in Israel. Here is an info-sheet written by two experts in the field that explains the facts about the new faces in Israeli society, and suggests how the country should cope.

By Yonatan Berman and Oded Feller, +972blog

‘They’re not refugees, they’re migrant workers’

More than 60 percent of the asylum seekers in Israel are Eritrean, and more than 25 percent are Sudanese – together, that’s 85 percent of the asylum seekers in the country. Israel has not examined the asylum requests of any Eritreans and Sudanese nationals.

But Israel does not deport Eritrean and Sudanese nationals. Indeed, in the absence of diplomatic ties, it would be difficult to deport someone to Sudan. But Israel enjoys full ties with Eritrea, such that there is no logistical barrier to the deportation of all Eritreans (who constitute the vast majority of asylum seekers in Israel). If they are all migrant workers, as various officials claim, why not deport them? The answer is simple: their lives in the country of origin are at risk. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon admitted as much in a recent Knesset hearing, explaining why returning Eritreans to their country is not on the agenda: “Eritrea has a regime described by the entire international community as a regime that does not protect human rights, and someone returning there is at risk – including risk of death.” Israel thus meets its commitment to the Refugee Convention to refrain from returning refugees to a place where their lives would be in danger. It is thus also abiding by UNHCR guidelines prohibiting the return of Eritrean asylum seekers.

The rate of recognition in the world for Eritrean asylum seekers is 84 percent. The global rate of recognition for Sudanese asylum seekers is 64 percent.

Is it possible that the liars are only coming to Israel?

“They themselves say that they are coming to work”

The only question that asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan are asked by the Population Authority upon arrival to Israel is, “Why did you come?” Many answer that they came to work. However, that is not the method by which asylum applications are verified. The relevant question would be , “Why did you leave your country, and what will happen to you if you return?” If those questions were asked, many would be found eligible for refugee status.

Asylum seekers come from poor countries. Even if their motivation to come to Israel stems from this fact, and from the desire to improve their lives, this doesn’t mean that they are not refugees and not eligible for international protection.

“Israel isn’t their first country of asylum. They should stay in Egypt”

International law does not require asylum seekers to ask for refugee status in the first country to which they flee. If this was the rule, third world countries– which already receive the majority of the world’s refugees – would be the only legitimate destinations. Countries are permitted to sign burden-sharing agreements regarding the intake of refugees, and to return refugees to countries of asylum where they had already resided. This is only legitimate if the receiving country is a safe country in which refugees enjoy protection.

Israel has no such agreement with Egypt, and Egypt isn’t a safe country and does not have asylum procedures; it does not enable free access to UNCHR and the International Committee of the Red Cross; it arrests asylum seekers; it deports asylum seekers to their countries of origin; it does not allow asylum seekers to work to support themselves; it does not give their children access to education.

“The residents of South Tel Aviv and Eilat are suffering”

That’s true. But they are not the only ones. Asylum seekers also live in Ashdod, Jerusalem, Arad and elsewhere.

Asylum seekers live in Israel with deportation orders – which cannot be implemented – hanging over their heads. Their employment in Israel is predicated on the government’s agreement to refrain from enforcing an employment ban against their employers. They are not eligible for any form of aid. Their futures are obscured by fog. Government policies that prevent asylum seekers from reasonable work conditions – along with access to housing, health services, welfare and education – leave them impoverished.

As a result, high concentrations of asylum seekers have cropped up in poor areas, where some can afford shelter. The crowding contributes to already difficultl conditions, resulting in what has become an unbearable situation.

Asylum seekers do not choose to live in these conditions. Most of them are productive people. Many are educated. Government intervention to ensure their rights and assist them in housing, work, health, welfare and education would help rescue them from poverty and decrease the burden on poor areas. If the massive funds the government spends on the unnecessary detention of asylum seekers were diverted to help improve the infrastructure in the areas in which they live, the resident would no doubt greatly benefit as well.

“Israel doesn’t need to help all the poor people in the world”

That’s true, but Israel does need to do its part in sharing the burden. In Israel, there are more than 45,000 asylum seekers. Most Western countries today deal with large numbers – but they’re not alone. States that border countries from which refugees flee are the ones who carry the heaviest burden, and they are in far worse economic shape than Israel. Many Sudanese asylum seekers are in Chad. Many Eritrean asylum seekers are in Ethiopia. Even Israel’s neighbors – Jordan and Syria – have received hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in recent years. Israel is no different from other states. It is a strong country with strong institutions, and can handle the numbers of asylum seekers arriving.

“There is a limit to the number of refugees you can take”

The Refugee Convention does not enable countries to set quotas of refugees. No quota can supersede the prohibition against returning people to where their lives would be at risk.

“We’ll build a fence to prevent their entry”

Building a fence is allowed, but it won’t do away with Israel’s obligation to receive those whose lives are in danger.

“We’ll build a huge prison, and when it’s established we won’t let them work”

The world’s largest prison for immigrants, slated for construction in the Negev, will hold between 10 and 15 thousand people. It will be an oppressive refugee camp, and won’t solve anything. There are already more than 45,000 refugees in Israel, and by the time it is established, there are likely to be more. The prison will quickly be filled to capacity. If the many asylum seekers who remain outside its walls cannot work, they’ll starve. Moreover, the detainees will ultimately be released, in order to make room for new arrivals. Except for abusing asylum seekers and their children, nothing will be achieved. Estimates show that Israel will spend hundreds of millions of shekels on the facility, and more than a billion a year to maintain it – all for nothing.

“So what do you suggest?”

Instead of spending massive amounts on a detention facility, the government should invest in a mechanism for examining the asylum claims of Eritreans and Sudanese nationals, in order to protect the rights of those eligible for asylum and improve the infrastructure of impoverished areas. Whoever is eligible for protection will be recognized as a refugee. Whoever isn’t will be deported.

The situation in South Sudan has very slowly improved (though it appears to be deteriorating again), and some of its citizens have returned there. Hopefully, the situation in Eritrea and Sudan will similarly improve in coming years, enabling their citizens to return home. Israel should use its diplomatic channels to work toward this goal.

However, in the meanwhile, Israel should accept, like many other Western states, that it must appropriately deal with large numbers of asylum seekers. It must accept the reality that many of them will not be leaving Israel anytime soon.

Yonatan Berman is the director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the Academic Center of Law and Business. Attorney Oded Feller is director of the Immigration and Residency Project at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. This post originally appeared in Hebrew on their blog, Laissez Passer.

This post was translated by Noa Yachot

The plight of Eritrean refugees

A brutal dictatorship has forced thousands of people to flee Eritrea – but seeking asylum many face violence and death
By Khataza Gondwe, Comment is Free, guardian.co.uk

Last week, Abrehale Misghina, a 28-year-old Eritrean refugee, committed suicide in broad daylight in a public park in Tel Aviv. He had snatched a mobile phone from a young boy and, after a desperate attempt to make a call, collapsed in tears. He then returned the phone to its owner, dragged a dustbin to a nearby tree, climbed on top of it, threw a rope over a branch, placed a noose around his neck and hanged himself.

Misghina’s story is typical of the suffering of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers. Increasing numbers Eritreans have fled their country since President Isaias Afewerki came to power in 1993. Afewerki was initially hailed as a model leader, but is now seen as one of the worst dictators in Africa.

Meetings of more than seven people require permission in Eritrea. Internet use is monitored. There is no free press, independent judiciary or political opposition. Citizens, tourists and diplomats require permission to travel from one town to another. Military service conscripts are used as forced labour in development projects and, despite the failure of successive rains and imminent famine, food aid was outlawed in favour of a “work for food” programme, ostensibly designed to promote self-reliance, but which in reality ensures compliance.

The suppression of the press and of political opposition in September 2001 provided early indications of the authoritarian nature of the ruling regime. Then, in 2002, the government in effect outlawed every religious practice except Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Lutheranism and Sunni Islam, and increasingly detained practitioners of proscribed religious persuasions indefinitely without trial. Authorised groups face repression. Almost 3,000 of the estimated 20,000 Eritrean prisoners of conscience are Christians, detained pending denial of their faith. The ordained Orthodox patriarch was illegally deposed and placed under house arrest. Catholic property has been seized. About 40 Muslim clerics were indefinitely detained.

I have interviewed former prisoners of all faiths and none. They describe a myriad of inhumane punishments, including beatings, rape, people blinded by the sun after months/years imprisoned underground, prisoners bound for so long in contorted positions that limbs atrophy and are amputated, imprisonment in shipping containers, extra-judicial executions, and inadequate food, water and medical treatment.

Small wonder that thousands flee, despite a shoot-to-kill policy for escapees. Some pick their way through the mined and patrolled border with Ethiopia. Others cross the Sahara on foot to Sudan, but have found little hope of sanctuary since the country’s rapprochement with Eritrea. Putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers, they try to escape to Libya, where they face severe mistreatment, racial discrimination and harsh detention. Some subsequently cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels hoping for refuge in Europe, where asylum is far from assured. Others enter Egypt, risking fines for illegal entry, harsh imprisonment and, worse still, forcible return to Eritrea. Those who cross into Israel run into the harsh reality of the modern state, where an anti-infiltration law may soon criminalise asylum seeking, and where they are either imprisoned or forced to live in slums.

The search for refuge has resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of Eritreans in the Sahara, the Mediterranean or, like Misghina, through suicide in foreign cities.

Human rights organisations recently pointed out that a European Union decision to release development aid to Eritrea is effect an economic lifeline for a repressive regime that will manipulate its distribution. Perhaps the EU would act differently if it considered the increase in the flow of refugees to its borders, and in their appalling suffering en route.

Khataza Gondwe is research and advocacy officer for sub-Saharan Africa at the UK based human rights and religious liberty NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide

There is also a powerful Guardian editorial here

© Copyright JFJFP 2017