What Israel’s decision means for 36,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees

From: Hotline for Refugees Israel’s leading organization protecting the rights of refugees, migrant workers and victims of human trafficking.

A few hours ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri went on TV to announce that they have abandoned their plans to forcibly deport 36,000 asylum seekers from Israel to a ‘third’ African country.

Instead, the government has reached an agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under which 16,000 asylum seekers will be resettled through the UNHCR to safe countries, and 16,000 will be able to stay in Israel. We congratulate our friends at UNHCR who have stepped in and negotiated this life-saving agreement.

The details of the plan are still being formulated. What is clear is that our role going forward will be as crucial as it always has been – to protect the rights of refugees and migrants. We will closely monitor the signed agreement to ensure that all asylum seekers receive status, rights and security in both Israel and other countries.

This could not have happened without the incredible mobilization of the Israeli and international public who joined us in voicing our opposition to the deportation. We called for just solutions for asylum seekers and for the residents of South Tel Aviv, and the government heard us loud and clear.

Thank you to everyone who came out to protest, who signed petitions, who wrote letters, who donated and who attended events. This would not have happened without you.

Thank you to the dedicated staff of the Hotline who worked a million hours overtime since all this began – helping people one by one as they arrived to our office with deportation orders in hand, travelling down to meet clients in detention and submitting urgent litigation to the courts. Together with our partners we have been monitoring the third country deportations for the last three years and reporting on the danger that Israel was deporting refugees to. This proved fundamental to today’s announcement.

 

To all the asylum seekers who gave interviews to the media, spoke out in public and told their stories over and over – your strength, bravery and sincerity is inspiring.

 

Whilst we are thrilled that this deportation will not be actualized, we are also ashamed that when the world is facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, Israel is stepping down from its responsibility. Sending 16,000 people away, after they have lived here for 6-12 years, is not what should be expected from a successful high-income, democratic state like Israel.

 

Right now there are still 280 individuals detained in Saharonim for not complying with their deportation which has now been cancelled. We call on the government to release them without any further delay.

 

Shirley Racah

Executive Director

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