Report: 15 Eritreans set to return to country from Saharonim detention facility

Sabine Haddad of the Population, Immigration, and Borders Authority says "anyone who desires to return can do so.”

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July 14, 2013 19:52
1 minute read.
Eritrean migrants protest Negev detention facility

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.

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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.”

In late 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.

The decision 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 prison.”

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.”


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