Eritrea-Ethiopia peace deal leads to new debate about migrants

Pro-migrant groups, including the UN, have said Eritreans cannot safely be sent back to Eritrea for fear of persecution under the country’s draconian draft laws.

By
July 25, 2018 23:02
2 minute read.
Eritrea-Ethiopia peace deal leads to new debate about migrants

An African migrant wears a T-shirt with a Hebrew phrase referring to the Holocaust," I promise to remember... and never forget!" in south Tel Aviv July 17, 2013.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

The future of Israel’s African illegal immigrants is in the news again following reports Tuesday and Wednesday of the signing of a peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Between June 5 and July 15, the two east African countries carried out negotiations to resolve their decades-long conflict. With reports on Monday that Eritrea will slash the length of military service from age 18 to 50 to only 18 months, Israeli officials began weighing in on how that could impact the status of Eritrean infiltrators in Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Knesset Interior Committee Chairman Yoav Kisch said that once Eritrea has eliminated or reduced its draft, the Eritreans currently in Israel should be sent back to Eritrea.

Since the mid-2000s, there has been a battle in Israel between pro and anti-migrant groups about the fate of the tens of thousands of African migrant workers here, most of whom fled Eritrea or Sudan. Should they be given refugee status, sent back to their country of origin, or deported to a third country? Pro-migrant groups, including the UN, have said Eritreans cannot safely be sent back to Eritrea for fear of persecution under the country’s draconian draft laws. Considered draft-dodgers or deserters, they could be subject to torture or death.


A Related Video You May Like:
 
Israel abandons plan to forcibly deport African migrants, April 24, 2018 (Reuters)

Under international law, this fear of persecution would allow the Eritreans to remain in Israel even though almost all of them illegally infiltrated Israel from Egypt before a border fence was erected to stop the flow of would-be refugee claimants.

Now, Shaked and Kisch are arguing that peace, together with the elimination or reduction of the draft, means there is no valid reason why Eritreans cannot be deported “If as a result of the peace deal, the draft obligation is canceled, Israel can return the invaders to Eritrea and this is great news for the residents of southern Tel Aviv,” who have protested that most migrants have taken up residence in their neighborhood, said Shaked on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that these politicians were not grasping the issue’s complexity.


Firstly, she said, the peace deal is still new and may not hold. Previous negotiations have led to deals which quickly unraveled, she cautioned. It would be premature to assume this one will last, she warned.

Secondly, she said, even if the peace deal is real, the Eritrean government itself has not formally announced an end or heavy reduction of the draft. A few media reports based on interviews with a handful of recruits hardly marks a change in policy, she contended.

Finally, even if the draft was ended or reduced, indications suggest Eritrea still considers desertion a serious crime, and may refuse to accept those who fled the country before the peace deal.

Such acceptance might also be seen as rewarding those who were disloyal to the regime, she noted.

Representatives of various ministries addressing the issue Wednesday at the Knesset’s Interior Committee said they would need to verify that returning any Eritreans would not result in endangering the returnees’ personal security.

Thus the future of Israel’s Eritrean – and Ethiopian – communities, most of whom lives in south Tel Aviv, remains unclear.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
March 22, 2019
Olmert to News 13: Never imagined Germany would sell submarines to Egypt

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF