Eritreans Fear Deportation and Danger After Israel Strikes Deal With Third Country

Migrants tell Haaretz Israel must accept their asylum requests before any move to another country could be considered.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Responding to the state's shocking announcement Sunday that it has found a third country to take in Eritrean migrants living in Israel, migrants voiced fears Monday that they might be deported against their will and without any assurance that their rights will be protected in their country of destination.

The migrants also told Haaretz that Israel must accept their asylum requests and recognize them as refugees before any move to another country could be considered.

Sunday's announcement came as a surprise to human rights organizations, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the migrants themselves.

"If they don't protect my rights in Israel, how am I to know that they'll defend my rights in the other country?" demanded Bob, 27, who arrived from Eritrea three years ago. "We need to know what country it is, how they treat refugees."

Noting that, in contrast to Israel, other countries have recognized a high percentage of Eritreans as refugees, he continued, "First of all, they must recognize us as refugees in Israel, so that we can consent or not consent to being resettled."

Gabriel, 31, who has been here for six years, said he would agree if the move were coordinated with UNHCR and the international community, "but I hear they want to throw us into a third country where our lives won't be safe. I heard that the possibilities are Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya. All of these are unsafe countries for us. It's dangerous for us there, and they're liable to deport us back to Eritrea."

Eritrean migrants protesting in Israel in 2012.Credit: Nir Kafri

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