Activist: Uncertainty 'is killing’ Eritrean asylum-seekers

Eritrean activist visiting from Sweden says migrants becoming desperate as Israel discusses deporting them to unnamed 3rd country.

July 6, 2013 23:31
1 minute read.
Eritrean migrants: Illustratory

Eritrean migrants living in Tel Aviv 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Eritrean asylum-seekers have become more desperate over the past year, a Swedish-Eritrean activist visiting Israel said on Friday.

Meron Estefanos, who hosts a radio show on Radio Erena, a satellite radio station run by Eritrean exiles, said that over the past year, the calls she gets from Eritreans in Israeli cities and in the Saharonim detention center in the South have been marked by concern and uncertainty, as Israel discusses deporting Eritreans to an unnamed third country.

“Not knowing what is going to happen is killing them. They’re sitting in jail and they don’t know what is happening,” Estefanos said. In desperation, some say they are considering returning home to Eritrea, even though they could face persecution there, she said “I hear them saying ‘I’ll be persecuted here [in Israel] in jail and I’ll be persecuted if I return [to Eritrea]. I might as well be persecuted in my homeland.’” Estefanos, who is based in Sweden, said some days she receives as many as 20 calls from the detention center, especially in recent months after the reports of the plans for a third country to take Eritreans.

She was attending a fund-raiser and concert to raise money for an Eritrean women’s community center in south Tel Aviv, which hundreds of Eritreans attended, paying NIS 50 each. The event raised thousands for the center, which opened last summer as a daycare and community center where Eritrean women could attend workshops to study Hebrew, and learn about domestic abuse, contraception and their rights in Israel.

During Friday night’s event, Eritreans asked Estefanos and Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers about the problems facing the community.

At times the discussion became heated, with those present arguing about the role of Israeli NGOs in working with asylum-seekers.

Speakers also discussed the situation in Sinai, where Beduin smugglers have abused and held for ransom migrants.

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