Israeli Justice Minister Seeks New Destination for Deporting Asylum Seekers

Sudanese and Eritrean nationals would be deported either 'voluntarily or by coercion,' Hayamin Hehadash Co-Chair Ayelet Shaked said

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
Ayelet Shaked in south Tel Aviv, April 2, 2019.
Ayelet Shaked in south Tel Aviv, April 2, 2019.Credit: Nir Keidar
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that Israel is seeking out a new country to where it may expel asylum seekers, who would be deported either “voluntarily or by coercion.”

She refused to divulge which countries were under consideration. In a news conference in south Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Shaked said that her party, Hayamin Hehadash, would demand that a new coalition legislate an override clause to bypass any High Court of Justice rulings on asylum seekers, and would seek for the next government to vow it would not sign any agreement with the United Nations about granting any legal or residential status to asylum seekers in Israel.

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Shaked added that she would work towards denying appellate courts the authority to order granting residency status to asylum seekers, and to require any decision to grant such visas, including to children and foreign workers, to have the consent of all governing coalition partners.

Shaked would also demand separate schools for children of asylum seekers, she said. She pledged that her party would demand that the next government implement plans to rehabilitate south Tel Aviv, and allocate 20 million shekels ($5.5 million) for this purpose.

In response, activists in the campaign for rehabilitating south Tel Aviv said that they were “fed up with cynical political ploys by Hayamin Hahadash, coming at the expense of these neighborhoods. We haven’t seen them fighting for funds for us or for rehabilitating the old central bus station area. We haven’t seen them concerned about the trafficking of women or drugs. Enough parties have come here already to sow dissent, to incite and stoke the flames.” A few activists demonstrated in front of the venue where Shaked spoke.

One year ago, Israel scuttled a deal with the UN High Commissioner of Refugees, which provided for 16,250 people to leave such countries such as Canada, Germany and Italy, and for granting legal status to a similar number of asylum seekers in Israel. The UN still considers the deal to be on the table despite repeated declarations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other cabinet ministers that they are still looking at the option of deporting all the asylum seekers.

Out of some 33,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan in Israel, only 12 have been recognized as refugees. In July Shaked said that the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea would allow the expatriation of Eritrean nationals in Israel. Later she acknowledged that this option was unfeasible.

Experts have said it’s too early to determine if the peace agreement would allow for deporting the Eritreans back to their native land.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has ordered the Population Authority to examine whether defection from the Eritrean army was grounds for granting asylum. A court ruled that it was, overturning an earlier state decision. The authority has subsequently frozen the examination of asylum requests by Eritreans.

Professionals at the authority were to set guidelines for obtaining legal status, partly based on the issue of defections from the military.

A petition regarding Darfuri asylum seekers has led the state to reconsider their requests to be considered refugees as well.

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