Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention center 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A group of around 15 Eritreans are set to return to their home country in the
coming days, after spending the last year at the Saharonim detention center, the
Hotline for Migrant Workers reported on Sunday.
The hotline based their
report on testimony from a number of detainees at the Saharonim center in the
Negev, who said that they will be escorted on their return by the Eritrean
Ambassador in Israel.
While Sabine Haddad of the Population, Immigration
and Borders Authority said Sunday that they are not commenting on the report,
she sent a statement from the authority reading “infiltrators are leaving
[Israel] as part of the ‘willful return’ policy approved by the attorney-general.
Anyone who desires to return can do so under the procedure.”
June, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein ruled that migrants from Saharonim who
agree to return must be videotaped giving their agreement, a decision made amid
an ongoing hunger strike in the facility by detainees. The interviews would be
done with a translator, and would require the migrant to write out or sign a
paper showing his consent, the attorney-general ruled.
follows a previous one made by Weinstein to temporarily halt “willful returns”
after a series of media reports that the state had been coercing migrants to
“voluntarily” return, using the threat of indefinite detention to get them to
“willfully” agree to return.
In their statement on Sunday the Hotline for
Migrant Workers criticized the policy wherein migrants are jailed indefinitely
under the Anti-Infiltration law, saying “prisoners are repeatedly told by
Interior Ministry representatives at the internment camps that their only way
out it to go back to Eritrea, and that otherwise they will spend years in
The hotline said that prisoners who otherwise wouldn’t return to
Eritrea may do so because of their growing mental distress and that “others
cannot stand to continue living behind bars and claim that they prefer to die on
their own land than rot in prison. No matter what explanation they give for
their desire to go back, no legal procedure will make the return of Eritrean
national-service evaders a “voluntary return.”