Eritrea will not accept the forced repatriation of its nationals living in Israel, Ambassador Tesfamariam Tekeste said on Monday
Eritrea will not accept the forced repatriation of its nationals living in Israel, Ambassador Tesfamariam Tekeste said on Monday, at a lively and at times heated meeting of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers.
Tekeste said his government’s position remains that it will welcome those who choose to return and will help the Israeli government determine which migrants are Eritreans. He also said his government would ensure the safety of those returning and would not prosecute them for leaving the country, except those who skipped out on mandatory military service.
He then held up a list of what he said were the names of hundreds of Eritreans who had come to his office in the past year to arrange their voluntary return home.
Eritreans make up the majority of the more than 60,000 African migrants in Israel, with some estimates claiming there are over 40,000 in the country. Their homeland is ruled by a dictatorship and Israel cannot legally return Eritreans there due to the possibility of persecution upon their return. Commonly referred to as the “North Korea of Africa,” the country is ranked by Reporters Without Borders at the very bottom (179 out of 179 countries) in terms of press freedom, and has been accused of widespread human rights abuses against its citizens.
“That is Eritrea’s choice,” Granot said. “But that is not what we’d welcome in our relation with Eritrea, we’d rather welcome greater sharing of responsibilities.”
Granot also spoke about the desire to find a third country willing to take in Israel’s Eritrean population, but said that since there are 20 million refugees and illegal migrants from Africa just within Africa – including 200,000 Eritreans in Ethiopia – this has not yet borne fruit.
US, save us from deportation
“The Eritrean asylum seekers suffer from racism, hatred and incitement by Israeli politicians,” says Sarah, an activist at the refugee advancement center.
“The US is aware that Eritrea is a country that commits systematic oppression and must make it clear to Israel that it cannot deport refugees there. Interior Minister Yishai’s statements don’t hold water.”