An IDF soldier standing guard over a group of Eritrean migrants.
An IDF soldier standing guard over a group of Eritrean migrants, near the Israel-Egypt border. Photo by Reuters
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For the first time since they were allowed into Israel, the three Eritrean migrants who were held at the border with Egypt along with 18 others for over a week, served affidavits claiming that the IDF used physical force as well as tear gas against the migrants.

The two women and one 14-year-old boy were sent to Saharonim Prison in the Negev after being allowed to enter the country.   

The three delivered testimonies to attorneys Amar Shatz and Yiftah Cohen from the We Are Refugees organization, which contradicted the previous statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the state’s response to the High Court, according to which the group of 18 Eritreans “returned to where they came,” suggesting that they returned to Egypt out of their own volition.

From the third affidavit, which was given separately, it was revealed that Israeli security forces which crossed the fence into the Egyptian side “used force, held them physically and pushed them onto a tarp which was dragged over to the Egyptian side.”

The three told the lawyers that “some of the men had fainted, that everyone was starving and that they tried helplessly to resist while pleading and yelling to be killed rather than being sent back to Egypt.” According to the affidavits, the IDF used tear gas against the Eritreans.

We Are Refugees has called for an investigation “regarding the state’s alleged actions and its public statements, namely to shed light fate on those who are missing.”  

The IDF Spokesperson Unit has yet to issue a response.

The Prime Minister’s Office refused to respond to Haaretz’s probe over the nature of its previous statement, which hinted that the migrants returned to Egypt on their own accord.

The PMO also refused to respond to the question of whether it is in contact with Egyptian officials who promise the ensure the safety of the migrants, or whether it was promised that they would not be sent back to Eritrea before having their asylum seeker status checked beforehand. Moreover, the PMO did not respond when asked whether its personnel know the whereabouts of the 18 Eritreans that were sent back to Egypt.

According to international law, should Israel decides to not grant asylum to the migrants, it must arrive at an agreement with Egypt, which would ensure that they will allow them the opportunity to be absorbed by the state, and will not be deported back to their home country.