African asylum seekers wait to apply for a visa in Bnei Brak, Israel.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The four men sat at the cafe, smoking cigarettes and drinking coke, the sweat visible on their faces. The Eritrean asylum-seekers were on a break from their daily work: two are bricklayers, and two are shop attendants.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity in south Tel Aviv on Wednesday, the group said that the freeze on the state’s policy to deport African migrants will not hold off the deportations for long.
“We will be deported – it doesn’t matter to the government if this means deported to our deaths, they want us gone,” said 24-year-old Amanuel (not his real name). “Maybe there will be a few days or months delay, but more than that, no... We will have to go. I’m just waiting for the moment when they come and take me. I expect it to happen, my bags are packed.”
Gebre, 22, who has been in Israel for the last 12 years, said that he would rather face jail time than go back to Eritrea.
“They [the Immigration and Population Authority in the Interior Ministry] don’t have plans, they don’t know what they’re doing, and the courts see through that,” he said. “It’s good to know we have a legal body on our side, but I don’t know if it will stop them from deporting us. I don’t want to go to Rwanda or Uganda or wherever they’re trying to send us. I’d rather go to jail – take me to jail, I’m not guilty of anything. But I’ll have a better life in jail than being sent to poverty, war and starvation, because that is what will happen if I go.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that without the recently completed fence with Sinai, “we would be faced with... severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse, a flood of illegal migrants from Africa.”
Asked how she felt about the prime minister’s comments, Sudanese migrant Faridah said she was deeply offended.
“How can he say this? It’s wrong – we are people, we cannot be treated like dogs,” said Faridah. “We are not terrorists, we are not criminals, we don’t hurt or kill... We are not worse than those who commit such crimes against the Israeli people. We are not infiltrators. I’m not a terrorist,” she said, adding that she has two small children to look after.
“I just want to live – I want to feed my children. I ran away from terrorism in Darfur – that was terrorism, the things I saw there... and then he [Netanyahu] says we are the same as them. He must not compare me to terrorists. What have we done to get such a name?”
Faridah added that it was unfair for asylum-seekers to be called “worse than terrorists” when the government hasn’t taken the time to look at even half of the applications for asylum.
“Think about this for a minute,” said Yalda, a 19-year-old also from Sudan. “I was here from age 11, that’s when we escaped the horror of Sudan and the child soldiers and the shootings and the killings... I saw my father die... he was on his knees begging for his life..., and now you [Netanyahu] have the audacity to compare me to those people who killed him, who took him from me. He left me and my two brothers to fend for ourselves. Don’t call me a terrorist. I am no terrorist.”
The High Court of Justice issued an emergency injunction last week in response to a petition signed by 120 refugees and asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan.
The High Court gave the government until March 26 to respond to the petition, instructing it to suspend its April 1 plan to start deporting single adult male migrants to third-party countries in Africa, believed to be Rwanda and Uganda.
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