Israel should use its diplomatic ties with Eritrea to reach agreements on
returning some of the tens of thousands of Eritrean migrants who are in Israel
illegally, Prof. Galia Sabar, African studies chairman in the Department of
Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, said on
Speaking at a meeting of a Labor Party task force on migrants
and foreign workers in Tel Aviv, Sabar said that though some of the Eritreans
who had arrived in the country might qualify as refugees according to UN
conventions, others did not.
She specifically referred to the fact that
the government of Eritrea had actively helped discharged soldiers attain
passports and make their way to Israel because of the lack of jobs in their home
country, which she called a clear violation of the country’s ties with
“It’s a much more complicated issue in Eritrea than just that
everyone there is tortured, or that all those who come here are labor migrants,”
Sabar said. She added that the situation was not black and white, and due to
Eritrea’s diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, efforts should be made to reach
agreements on repatriation of migrants – something that cannot be done with
migrants from Sudan, with which Israel has no diplomatic ties.
Israel, which trades arms and agricultural equipment with Eritrea, should invest
a great deal of resources in refugee status determination (RSD) in order to
determine clearly which of the African asylum-seekers were eligible for refugee
status and which could potentially be repatriated.
She said that the
concept of returning Eritreans to their homeland was not unheard of, and that it
was something that some Western countries had already done. In terms of the
wider migration policy, she said that “there is no magical solution,” and Israel
needed to set up a multifaceted policy, beginning with the immediate cessation
of work permits or entry for new foreign workers.
The TAU professor
called on the government to help migrants who are already in the country
integrate into the job market and to guard their basic rights, instead of
bringing in new foreign workers. Additionally, while she was in favor of an
increased investment in RSD, she also supported enforcing the return of migrant
workers whose contracts had ended.
“Anyone who thinks that a fence can be
put up and we can stop the entry [of migrants] altogether is mistaken,” she