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.
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.
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
During Friday night’s event, Eritreans asked Estefanos and Sigal
Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers about the problems facing the
At times the discussion became heated, with those present
arguing about the role of Israeli NGOs in working with
Speakers also discussed the situation in Sinai, where
Beduin smugglers have abused and held for ransom migrants.