Is deportation of Israel’s Congolese asylum seekers wise?

From 1998 to 2008, 5.4 million Congolese died as a result of civil war. Most of the Congolese asylum seekers in Israel came during this period.

By
October 15, 2018 22:57
Is deportation of Israel’s Congolese asylum seekers wise?

displaced people congo 224.88 ap. (photo credit: )

 
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It is now the turn of hundreds of asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to be deported back to their country. The Foreign Ministry has implied that the conditions that justified collective protection to Congolese asylum seekers no longer prevail and that there is nothing to prevent them from returning home safely. The Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) has given them 90 days to leave the country.

How ironic that this decision came only a few days after the granting of one of the two Nobel Peace Prizes to Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege put the spotlight on the massive violence still going on in the DRC. Dr. Mukwege witnessed the horrific use of gang rape, genital mutilation and torture as instruments of war between the Kabila regime and rebel forces in the Eastern provinces of the DRC over the past two decades. From Ponzi Hospital in Bukavu, Dr. Mukwege has treated and operated on thousands of women psychologically and physically destroyed by sexual violence. He has also been outspoken in his criticism of Western countries for their silence and doing little or nothing to stop the violence that has destroyed thousands of African communities and forced millions of Africans to flee their country.

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While the PIBA obviously has little expertise concerning conditions in Africa compelling asylum seekers to flee their countries, it is difficult to believe that the people in the Foreign Ministry who informed the PIBA that it could now deport Congolese asylum seekers are unaware of the actual situation in the DRC.

Here are some of the facts. From 1998 to 2008, 5.4 million Congolese died as a result of civil war. Most of the Congolese asylum seekers in Israel came during this period.

From 2013 to 2018, the number of DRC asylum seekers and refugees in African countries rose from 450,000 to 811,000. In the first eight months of 2018, more than 100,000 Congolese asylum seekers fled to neighboring countries because of sharp increases in violence and political repression in their regions. Rebel movements supported by Uganda and Rwanda continue to fight to overthrow the Kabila regime and to gain control over the rich natural resources of the eastern provinces.

Under the Kabila regime, the DRC remains a repressive state. Political opposition leaders like Moise Katumbi, who has been the target of several assassination attempts, have been forced into exile. Political opponents have been arrested, tortured and murdered. Congolese deciding to return home have been greeted at the Kinshasa airport by members of the national intelligence services to see if they have opposed or criticized the regime. It is not safe for Congolese critics of the regime to return home from Israel.

The holding of DRC presidential elections slated for December 23, 2018 does not reflect an end to political violence or guarantee a transition to democracy. After serving as president since 2001 and refusing to hold scheduled presidential elections in 2016, Kabila has finally succumbed to pressure by the African Union to step down. Kabila has handpicked a close associate to be his party’s candidate. His choice, Emmanuel Shandary has served as police minister and minister of regional governments and was responsible for crushing political opposition and managing violence in the main war zones. Sanctioned by the European Union for grave violations of human rights, Shandary is highly unlikely to conduct a peaceful and fair election campaign.

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There is no legal or moral justification for our government to suddenly end the collective protection status of Congolese asylum seekers. Civil war violence and political repression are getting worse, not better.

Moreover, even if the violence ended today, the main conflict regions are faced with a staggering humanitarian crisis which has been woefully neglected by the so-called international community The World Food Program estimates that 7.7 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the DRC., especially endangering the 4.5 million Congolese living in squalid conditions in IDP camps concentrated mainly in the eastern provinces.

The DRC remains one of the least safe countries in the world. Returning Congolese from Israel would have no guarantees for their safety and few opportunities for employment until the violence and political repression end.

To its dismay, the government doesn’t have the power to forcibly deport African asylum seekers to their home countries. In declaring that Israel has no refugees, only asylum seekers, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his associates count on the Israeli public’s ignorance of conditions in Africa, stereotypes about Africans and the media’s sparse coverage of the “dark continent” to get away with this big lie. He also talks as though the 1951 UN Refugee Convention enthusiastically supported by Israel that defines refugees and refugee rights in host countries applies only to Jewish refugees.

Israeli interests are not served by threats to forcibly deport several hundred Congolese asylum seekers. It is just another futile gesture.

The writer is a Jerusalem-based international consultant and scholar specializing in African democracy, religious, development and migration issues. It is now the turn of hundreds of asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to be deported back to their country. The Foreign Ministry has implied that the conditions that justified collective protection to Congolese asylum seekers no longer prevail and that there is nothing to prevent them from returning home safely. The Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) has given them 90 days to leave the country.

How ironic that this decision came only a few days after the granting of one of the two Nobel Peace Prizes to Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege put the spotlight on the massive violence still going on in the DRC. Dr. Mukwege witnessed the horrific use of gang rape, genital mutilation and torture as instruments of war between the Kabila regime and rebel forces in the Eastern provinces of the DRC over the past two decades. From Ponzi Hospital in Bukavu, Dr. Mukwege has treated and operated on thousands of women psychologically and physically destroyed by sexual violence. He has also been outspoken in his criticism of Western countries for their silence and doing little or nothing to stop the violence that has destroyed thousands of African communities and forced millions of Africans to flee their country.

While the PIBA obviously has little expertise concerning conditions in Africa compelling asylum seekers to flee their countries, it is difficult to believe that the people in the Foreign Ministry who informed the PIBA that it could now deport Congolese asylum seekers are unaware of the actual situation in the DRC.

Here are some of the facts. From 1998 to 2008, 5.4 million Congolese died as a result of civil war. Most of the Congolese asylum seekers in Israel came during this period.

From 2013 to 2018, the number of DRC asylum seekers and refugees in African countries rose from 450,000 to 811,000. In the first eight months of 2018, more than 100,000 Congolese asylum seekers fled to neighboring countries because of sharp increases in violence and political repression in their regions. Rebel movements supported by Uganda and Rwanda continue to fight to overthrow the Kabila regime and to gain control over the rich natural resources of the eastern provinces.

Under the Kabila regime, the DRC remains a repressive state. Political opposition leaders like Moise Katumbi, who has been the target of several assassination attempts, have been forced into exile. Political opponents have been arrested, tortured and murdered. Congolese deciding to return home have been greeted at the Kinshasa airport by members of the national intelligence services to see if they have opposed or criticized the regime. It is not safe for Congolese critics of the regime to return home from Israel.

The holding of DRC presidential elections slated for December 23, 2018 does not reflect an end to political violence or guarantee a transition to democracy. After serving as president since 2001 and refusing to hold scheduled presidential elections in 2016, Kabila has finally succumbed to pressure by the African Union to step down. Kabila has handpicked a close associate to be his party’s candidate. His choice, Emmanuel Shandary has served as police minister and minister of regional governments and was responsible for crushing political opposition and managing violence in the main war zones. Sanctioned by the European Union for grave violations of human rights, Shandary is highly unlikely to conduct a peaceful and fair election campaign.

There is no legal or moral justification for our government to suddenly end the collective protection status of Congolese asylum seekers. Civil war violence and political repression are getting worse, not better.

Moreover, even if the violence ended today, the main conflict regions are faced with a staggering humanitarian crisis which has been woefully neglected by the so-called international community The World Food Program estimates that 7.7 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the DRC., especially endangering the 4.5 million Congolese living in squalid conditions in IDP camps concentrated mainly in the eastern provinces.

The DRC remains one of the least safe countries in the world. Returning Congolese from Israel would have no guarantees for their safety and few opportunities for employment until the violence and political repression end.

To its dismay, the government doesn’t have the power to forcibly deport African asylum seekers to their home countries. In declaring that Israel has no refugees, only asylum seekers, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his associates count on the Israeli public’s ignorance of conditions in Africa, stereotypes about Africans and the media’s sparse coverage of the “dark continent” to get away with this big lie. He also talks as though the 1951 UN Refugee Convention enthusiastically supported by Israel that defines refugees and refugee rights in host countries applies only to Jewish refugees.

Israeli interests are not served by threats to forcibly deport several hundred Congolese asylum seekers. It is just another futile gesture.

The writer is a Jerusalem-based international consultant and scholar specializing in African democracy, religious, development and migration issues.

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