Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention center 370.
(photo credit:Ben Hartman)
A third country has agreed to absorb the majority of Eritrean migrants to be
deported from Israel, it emerged during a hearing at the High Court on
Attorney Yochi Gnessin, representing the state, said a third
country had agreed to take in the Eritrean deportees when the time comes, and
that Israel was in talks with two other countries to allow Sudanese migrants to
return by way of their territory, as was done for an estimated 2,100 Sudanese
who have returned to Sudan from Israel through a third country.
also said that the percentage of Eritreans in Israel who were dissidents who
opposed the regime was very small, and that the state was expected to reject
nearly all of the asylum requests for the around 35,000 or so Eritreans in the
Following the statement by Gnessin, the court ordered the
Justice Ministry to present an explanation of the agreement reached, including
the countries involved. A ministry representative said that when the information
was presented to the court, it would most likely be released to the
Gnessin’s statement came during a hearing held before a panel of
nine High Court justices on a petition to overturn the amendment to the
Prevention of Infiltration Law (1954) that was passed by the Knesset in January
2012. Some 2,000 people are being held under the amendment, which allows
detention for at least three years of a person caught illegally entering the
On March 12, the High Court issued a conditional order against
the state regarding the amendment, demanding a response to the claim that it
violates the fundamental rights of African migrants.
The order did freeze
implementation of the law. The order was given in response to a petition filed
by six migrants’ rights organizations, including the Association of Civil Rights
for Israel on its own behalf and on behalf of five Eritrean asylum-seekers,
including a child, being held indefinitely in detention camps.
petition stated that most of the detainees are from Sudan and Eritrea, countries
to which “the Israeli government itself recognizes that it cannot deport people
because of their expected fate upon their return.”
The petition argues
that under Israeli and international law, the state cannot detain migrants in
cases where they cannot be deported. It added that the law also violates the
Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which would require the High Court to
strike it down.
In an unusual development, the UN, which has repeatedly
been publicly critical of the amendment, filed an amicus curiae brief on the
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, responded to
statistics released by the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority on
Sunday showing that only two infiltrators came across the southern border last
month, as opposed to 2,031 in May 2012, by saying that the fence built on the
Egyptian border achieved its aims.
Netanyahu shepherded through
construction of the NIS 1.6 billion, 230-kilometer fence that was completed in
The prime minister said that now, since the waves of
infiltrators had been stemmed, it was necessary to focus on sending back those
infiltrators illegally in the country.
“We will also achieve that goal,”
In December, Netanyahu appointed former Mossad official Hagai
Hadas as his envoy to spearhead efforts to send the migrants back home or find
third countries willing to take them.
Hadas served Netanyahu for two
years as his chief negotiator in efforts to free tank gunner Gilad Schalit from
Diplomatic officials said they did not know whether
Hadas had indeed succeeded in finding a third country to take the
The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, refrained from commenting
on the state’s claim that an undisclosed third country had agreed to absorb the
majority of Eritreans who illegally entered Israel.
A ministry official
said Sunday was the first time he had heard of such an agreement, adding that it
sounded implausible that a third country would agree to take in tens of
thousands of Eritrean asylum- seekers. He said it was most likely that there was
an agreement for a certain country to be used as a transit point for returning
Eritreans, and that Israel probably would not have the money to pay the
incentives necessary to convince a third country to take the deportees in
Officials at the Interior Ministry and PIBA both referred
questions about the reported agreement to the Justice Ministry.
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