U.S. Report Criticizes Israel's Treatment of African Migrants

Report quotes statistics provided by the UNHCR, showing that during the year out of 4,603 new asylum applications 3,692 were rejected. Only one was approved.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton presented on Thursday the State Department's 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that criticizes Israel for its treatment of African migrants, an issue vigorously debated in Israeli public discourse lately.

The report states that Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, which are about 85 percent of African migrants in Israel "were not allowed access to asylum procedures but were given renewable 'conditional release' documents that deferred deportation and had to be renewed every few months."

The report quotes statistics provided by the UNHCR, showing that during the year out of 4,603 new asylum applications 3,692 were rejected. Only one was approved. 6,412 cases remained pending at year’s end.

The report also critically mentioned that the Israeli government officials "often negatively referred to asylum seekers as 'infiltrators' and periodically characterized asylum seekers as directly associated with rises in crime, disease, and terrorism."
The report specifically mentions December 2011 interview of the Minister of Interior Eli Yishai with the IDF radio, in which he promised to "ensure that the last of the Sudanese, and the Eritreans, and all of the infiltrators, to the last of them, will return to their countries.”

The report also referred to criticism by NGO's of "the lack of medical treatment upon arrival for asylum seekers who had been abused, raped, and tortured in Egypt" and the petition filed by one of NGO's in the Be’er Sheva District Court "regarding the segregation of children of asylum seekers in the city of Eilat, who were not accepted into the school system but forced to study in a makeshift school outside of Eilat’s municipal boundary."

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League expressed "serious concern" on Thursday following the violent protest against African migrants in southern Tel-Aviv. Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director, said in a statement that "while we recognize the complexity involved in properly addressing this issue, and sympathize with Israeli citizens whose personal security has been compromised by the lawlessness and violence of some migrants, we are disturbed by inflammatory public statements made by certain Israeli officials, some of which has veered into racism. These statements are counterproductive and only serve to further inflame tensions."

Foxman called on all parties "to work to calm the tensions" and commended Prime Minister Netanyahu for his condemnation of the inflammatory comments by the members of Knesset that took part in the demonstration, and "his commitment to resolving this crisis responsibly."

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow said Israeli authorities "must see that this vulnerable population, some of whom were forced from their homes by politically and racially motivated persecution, is fully protected." Recognizing the challenge the constant flow of migrants poses to Israel, Gutow said that it's "never an excuse for violence and bigotry. We hope and expect that the authorities will take effective measures to protect this population from further violence and that legitimate requests by refugees to remain in Israel based on fear of persecution in their home countries will be considered humanely and with due process taking into account internationally accepted norms."

JCPA Chair Larry Gold added: "We join with Prime Minister Netanyahu and others in condemning the violence and xenophobic statements from some political quarters."