Opposition MKs: No Indiscriminate Deportation of Asylum Seekers

A proposal has been submitted by opposition MKs Aida Touma-Suleiman (Hadash – Joint List), Eyal Ben Reuven (Zionist Union) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) regarding the state authorities’ handling of African asylum seekers, and rejecting the government’s plans to indiscriminately deport all such persons. The authors of the proposal note how recent publications indicate that the state has no “viable possibility of forcefully expelling asylum seekers, an option the prime minister had instructed to be examined. Sources with knowledge of the situation said that the chances of putting people on airplanes against their will were slim to none.”

Recent demonstration: "South Tel Aviv against deportation" (Photo: Standing Together)

Recent demonstration: “South Tel Aviv against deportation” (Photo: Standing Together)

“In addition, such a move will necessitate complex logistics, the assent of numerous entities, significant financial expenditure and recruitment or training of a vast workforce. Not only that, but Rwanda—considered the third country Israel intended to expel migrants to — does not agree to receive migrants expelled against their will.”

The three opposition MKs who authored the proposal wrote that Israel has 34,888 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers living within its borders. Up to 2013, they noted, the country did not even allow Africans to submit requests for asylum. Furthermore, once it consented to such a process, it was conducted with deliberate inefficiency, with only a single bureau in the entire country processing requests.

“Of the 15,000 requests submitted, only ten people have been afforded the status of refugees. Israel has the lowest [asylum] recognition rates in the Western world,” the opposition MKs claimed. “As of today, 8,588 requests by Eritrean and Sudanese nationals are awaiting a response, some of them for more than three years.”

In conclusion, the three wrote that, “Should the state decide to carry out the expulsion of asylum seekers against their will, it should ascertain who is a refugee and who isn’t, and it can only do that by professionally and thoroughly vetting the asylum requests.”

On Monday, January 28, Interior Minister Arye Dery demanded that government action be taken against state-employed doctors who criticized a senior ministry official last week and called for the revocation of his medical license. The doctor in question is Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, whose license Physicians for Human Rights requested be revoked by the Health Ministry because of his role as head of the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority. The authority is running a campaign to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Africa.

“Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef isn’t filling his position at the population and immigration authority in his capacity as a doctor,” the organization wrote. “But the very fact that this job is held by a physician stains the entire profession.”

Also last week, some 350 doctors wrote directly to Mor-Yosef, demanding that he stop the deportations. “Our silence would be like consenting to one of the greatest calamities humanity has ever known,” they wrote, adding that the government must find a moral and humane solution that will allow asylum seekers to exercise their rights to health and a dignified existence.

The letter’s signatories included many doctors who are current or former government employees, including the director of Wolfson Medical Center, Holon, and the deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer (both are government hospitals); a former Health Ministry director general; and dozens of hospital department heads, physicians, nurses, social workers and other civil servants.

Also more than 6,000 teenage pupils from all over Israel and 200 leading musicians have signed a petition calling on the Netanyahu government to drop its plan to deport African asylum seekers who have sought refuge in the country. The signatories include the conductors Ilan Volkov, Yoav Talmi, Daniel Cohen and Yuval Zorn; composers Chaya Czernowin, Zvi Avni, and Jerusalem Academy president Yinam Leef; singers Mira Zakai, Chen Reiss, Hila Baggio and Keren Hadar; pianists Einav Yarden, Iddo Bar Shai and Shay Wosner, as well as section leaders from both the Israel Philharmonic and the Israel Symphony orchestras.