Israeli NGOs battle over call for asylum for Eritrean migrants

Group says new UN Human Rights Council report doesn’t justify change in policy.

Eritrean migrants in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Eritrean migrants in Tel Aviv.
A UN Human Rights Council report on Eritrea on Monday recommended that countries with Eritrean migrants grant them asylum and warns “against sending them back to danger in a country that punishes anyone who tries to leave without permission.”
Israeli NGOs, both those in favor and those against granting asylum to the tens of thousands of Eritreans who illegally crossed into Israel in recent years, responded swiftly to the report.
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and a range of other pro-migrant NGOs called on the state to formally recognize Eritreans in Israel as a group which, under the current circumstances, must be granted asylum.
The groups cite the report’s statement that Eritreans who return to their homeland would be persecuted and likely arrested and tortured, belying arguments that many Eritreans have left “solely for economic reasons.” Hotline also called on the state to “cease their detention and the pressuring of them to leave,” which could lead them into danger.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Yonatan Jakubowicz of the Center for Migrant Policy said, “While the UN report seems to be quite detailed, it does not include much information” that is new or that would “justify a generalized recommendation to treat any Eritrean national who left the country as a persecuted individual.”
He added, “the report was written without any presence or fact collecting inside Eritrea and relies heavily upon second hand witnesses by migrants abroad with vested interests.”
Jakubowicz concluded the report stands “in sharp contrast to those of the most recent Danish and UK official delegations from inside Eritrea, and seems unsubstantiated in light of the available information on the support for the regime and even not infrequent travel back to Eritrea by so called Eritrean Asylum seekers.”
The Danish and UK reports have been hotly debated, including whether their sources cited support the reports’ conclusions, but they did have the advantage of having visited the country.