A-G: Stop transferring Eritreans out of Israel

Order to Border Authority follows a case where Eritrean removed to Uganda was denied entry; AG says man will be returned to Israel.

March 5, 2013 10:13
2 minute read.
Eritrean migrants protesting, Feb. 1, 2013

Eritrean migrants protesting 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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 analyses 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


Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday morning announced that he had ordered a stop to all transfers of Eritreans in Israel's detention facilities and out of the country until further notice.

The decision was transmitted by letter from Deputy Attorney-General Dena Zilber to Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) chief Amnon Ben-Ami on Monday night.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

The letter said that the order was a response to a report by attorney and activist Yonatan Berman that an Eritrean citizen had been taken from a detention center in southern Israel, flown to Uganda with a stop-over in Egypt, but then returned to Egypt.

According to Zilber, although PIBA had promised the Eritrean that he would be sent to Uganda, the Ugandan authorities had ultimately not agreed, and he was now being held in detention in Egypt.

Zilber said she understood that based on the circumstances, the Eritrean would be returned to Israel by Wednesday.

"In order to prevent, heaven forbid, a recurrence of cases like this, I reiterate and emphasize that I expect the PIBA to follow the guidelines of the attorney-general, which state that Eritrean citizens should not be removed from PIBA detention centers to any destination outside of the borders of Israel, until there is a decision on the legal issues in question.”

The exact circumstances of the transfer are under dispute, but depending on those circumstances, the transfer and any similar ones, could have violated Israel’s treaty obligations under international law especially its obligation to ensure the safety of individuals who are removed from its borders.


The asylum seeker, Tesfamihret Habtemariam, had been in Israel for a few years and was arrested several months ago under the amendment to the “Infiltrators Law.”

According to Eritrean-Swedish human rights activist Meron Estefanos, who contacted The Jerusalem Post about the story Sunday night, Habtemariam left Israel for Uganda on Thursday and at the airport in Uganda was told he would not be allowed to enter. He said he was kept at the airport waiting for four days before Uganda decided to deport him to Eritrea by way of Cairo, where he is now awaiting a flight to Asmara.

Habtemariam's attorney, Lior Peretz, said that he met with his client on many occasions over the past months, and that during the hearings at the court at Saharonim prison he requested to be sent back to Uganda, where his father reportedly lives.

Peretz said his client was happy to return to Uganda and not that he was forced to by the state or did so solely due to the threat of longer incarceration. Peretz said he sounded very at ease and happy once he heard that he had a ticket to Uganda, and would be moving back there. Peretz said that he has not heard from his client since Thursday, though he promised to call him once he arrived. In addition, Peretz said that once he heard about what reportedly happened to Habtemariam he told another client in the process of agreeing to return to Uganda to put things on hold for now.

The HMW and the United Nations Higher Council for Refugees (UNHCR) both said there does not appear to be any sort of coordination between Israeli authorities and the Ugandan government on the matter of resettling Eritrea asylum seekers in Uganda.

Ben Hartman contributed to this story.

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

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night