An employee of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority has been charged with forging a passport for a Sudanese asylum seeker in return for a 5,000-shekel ($1,390) bribe. Ofer Shmueli, who works in Tel Aviv for the unit for encouraging unauthorized immigrants to leave Israel voluntarily, was indicted in Tel Aviv District Court on charges of fraud, breach of trust, accepting a bribe and forgery by a public servant.
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According to the charge sheet, the asylum seeker came to the agency’s offices two months ago and met with Shmueli, who made it clear to the asylum seeker that if he did not leave Israel voluntarily within two months, when his temporary residence permit expired, he would be required to report to the Holot detention facility in southern Israel. The asylum seeker expressed his willingness to leave Israel. Shmueli asked him if he had any money, and the asylum seekers said his employer owed him money.
When the asylum seeker said he did not have a passport, Shmueli allegedly told him he “could take care of it,” offering to make a false one for 1,000 shekels. But, Shmueli told the man, he would not be able to take a flight using the forged document and would have to leave Israel through a land border crossing. Shmueli then contacted the man’s employer and told him to come to his office.
Shmueli later demanded an additional 4,000 shekels and told the asylum seeker that without the bribe he would not be paid by his employer. Shmueli and the asylum seeker went to see the man’s employer, who gave his employee a check out of which Shmueli was paid in cash.
Shmueli is accused of pasting the asylum seeker’s photograph into the passport of another man. After receiving the passport, the asylum seeker filed a complaint at the Tel Aviv office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers said the case strengthens the claims of asylum seekers that the immigration agency, part of the Interior Ministry, had given them the passports of other individuals to enable them to leave Israel.