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The Plight of Israel’s African Asylum Seekers (January 2018)

Rabbi Mike

[NOTE: My thanks to Liora Bram for bringing this to the attention of the Beth Tikvah Board, and for the Board encouraging me to disseminate information about this crisis to our congregation.]

Just as immigration is a controversial and divisive issue in the U.S., it is currently in Israel as well.

According to a new law in Israel, Africans who reside without legal status have fewer than 90 days to leave, or face imprisonment. This population includes survivors of genocide, torture, and harrowing journeys of escape from the nations to which many would like to return, but to which they cannot return in safety. Those who have voluntarily left to Rwanda have relayed stories of theft, extortion, threat, and death.

BACKGROUND: There are 38,000 African asylum seekers in Israel. 8,000 Sudanese; 27,000 Eritrean; 3,000 from other countries. Many of the Sudanese are survivors of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Eritreans have left an oppressive nation considered second in this respect only to North Korea, where men can be drafted from age 14 to an army whose conditions are likened to slavery.

CURRENTLY: Israel intends to compel its African asylum seeking population to leave the country within 90 days from the start of January, 2018. Those who do not leave are to be faced with imprisonment.

THE PEOPLE: The majority are employed; they work long hours; they are involved in their communities; they are engaged in political dialogue; they support one another. Among them are survivors of murdered families, of torture, and those who have paid to send their family members into Europe though they cannot follow.

THE ETHICS: It is Israel's obligation under the International Refugee Convention to process all asylum requests and grant temporary refugee status to those who are so entitled. However, most asylum applications have gone unanswered. Israel must process these applications and make just decisions based on their findings. Deportation must not take place to countries where migrants are not guaranteed safety and full legal status.

This crisis has been covered at length in the media, Newsweek being among several major news organizations. The Newsweek article references T’ruah as one of the Jewish organizations that supports the asylum seekers. T’ruah (as in, one of the calls of the Shofar) is an organization of rabbis that advocates for human rights, and is a group that I am very familiar with, believe in, and support.

The attachment provides additional information, as well as a call to action to support the asylum seekers. This call to action includes making calls to the Israeli Consulate and to our local Federation. I encourage you to do so.

Sun, July 5 2020 13 Tammuz 5780