Editorial |

Shaked Continues to Abuse Asylum Seekers

Haaretz Editorial
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Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) following renewed fighting in Kibumba, outside Goma in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo in June.
Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) following renewed fighting in Kibumba, outside Goma in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo in June.Credit: DJAFFAR SABITI/ REUTERS
Haaretz Editorial

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked had a reason to party last month. She was celebrating on Instagram “a year of achievements,” among them “ending the policy of sweeping non-refoulement of Congolese nationals residing in Israel.”

This is one of those statements that make it hard to distinguish between Shaked and activist Sheffi Paz’s antisocial efforts to deport asylum seekers. Two months earlier, Shaked had announced that she was removing the group protection temporarily granted to all citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The approximately 400 nationals of the Democratic Republic in Israel, who include around 50 minors, were given 30 days to file an asylum request; otherwise, they would be deported.

It now turns out that Shaked decided on this step based on opinions from the interior and foreign ministries, which both deemed it kosher despite concluding that the security, economic and human rights situation in several districts of the Democratic Republic remains very worrisome.

Shaked didn’t backtrack on her decision even after receiving the Foreign Ministry’s opinion. It said that after a new government came to power in the Democratic Republic in 2019, it indeed tried to improve the human rights situation in the country, but this doesn’t apply to the districts of Kasai, Ituri and Kivu in the east, where a military conflict has been raging since 2004 between rebel militias, some of them affiliated with the Islamic State, and the country's army. As a result, “the torching of villages and murders are a common sight,” the ministry’s report said.

Shaked relied on the fact that, according to this report, there is no group protection policy for nationals of the Democratic Republic in the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden or Switzerland. But she ignored the fact that all the countries that ended group protection for nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo are countries with functioning asylum systems, meaning they can properly examine individual asylum requests.

In Israel, by contrast, there are 225 pending applications, some of which have been in limbo for 10 years or more. And according to those very same ministry reports, not one Western country truly knows what has befallen the hundreds of people deported back to the Democratic Republic over the last decade. Yet another report, issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees a month ago, elaborated on the many people killed or displaced in the east of the country recently. “This unbearable situation is continuing to escalate and must no longer be ignored,” an agency spokesman said in Geneva.

At least Shaked doesn’t discriminate in her xenophobia. She is also still abusing the 14,500 Ukrainian refugees in Israel who aren’t entitled to immigrate under the Law of Return. Last week, she announced that she intends to restrict their ability to work in 17 cities. Not only have the Ukrainian refugees been in Israel for months with no rights and no social services, but now it will be hard for them to work. Shaked’s actions tarnish Israel’s image. We can only hope that in the upcoming election, the public will settle accounts with her over this.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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