Sudanese, Eritrean, foreign workers
Sudanese and Eritrean workers sit near Tel Aviv’s old bus station. Photo by Alon Ron
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The Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Administration frequently relies on documents issued by the Ethiopian consulate here to attest to the fact that asylum seekers in Israel who claim to be Eritreans are entitled to Ethiopian citizenship and are therefore not eligible for asylum.

Haaretz has obtained information which shows that the Ethiopian consulate's documents are routinely issued in almost every case in which the documentation is sought by the Israeli Interior Ministry.

In cases in which it is seeking to deport Eritrean asylum seekers, the ministry's population administration regularly presents the court with certification that the Ethiopian consulate has verified the asylum-seeker's identity and that he or she is recognized as an Ethiopian and entitled to a transit certificate for travel to Ethiopia. Eritrea, although now independent, was once part of Ethiopia.

Haaretz has obtained minutes of the meeting from a committee that advises Interior Minister Eli Yishai on refugee matters showing that the Ethiopian consulate almost always issues the transit documents for asylum seekers at the Interior Ministry's request, relying on Israeli authorities' representation that the person in question is Ethiopian.

The controversial procedure can be seen in the case of three asylum seekers who were issued Ethiopian transit documents even though they had no connection with Ethiopia. Their deportation from Israel was headed off at the last minute, after which they were brought before a custody judge who demanded that the population administration provide answers regarding why the transit documents were issued.

Ethiopia's ambassador here, Helawe Yosef, told Haaretz the transit documents are only issued who themselves claim to be Ethiopian. When told that there was evidence to the contrary, he asked to have the information, but has not provided a response as of press time.

The population administration said foreign consulates, including the Ethiopian consulate, issue transit documents as they see fit.