'J'lem could use Eritrea ties on migrant issue'

Expert says Israel can return some illegal migrants as Eritrea has encouraged migration in violation of ties with Israel.

Eritreans protest homeland regime 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Eritreans protest homeland regime 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Israel should use its diplomatic ties with Eritrea to reach agreements on returning some of the tens of thousands of Eritrean migrants who are in Israel illegally, Prof. Galia Sabar, African studies chairman in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University, said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a meeting of a Labor Party task force on migrants and foreign workers in Tel Aviv, Sabar said that though some of the Eritreans who had arrived in the country might qualify as refugees according to UN conventions, others did not.
She specifically referred to the fact that the government of Eritrea had actively helped discharged soldiers attain passports and make their way to Israel because of the lack of jobs in their home country, which she called a clear violation of the country’s ties with Israel.
“It’s a much more complicated issue in Eritrea than just that everyone there is tortured, or that all those who come here are labor migrants,” Sabar said. She added that the situation was not black and white, and due to Eritrea’s diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, efforts should be made to reach agreements on repatriation of migrants – something that cannot be done with migrants from Sudan, with which Israel has no diplomatic ties.
Sabar said Israel, which trades arms and agricultural equipment with Eritrea, should invest a great deal of resources in refugee status determination (RSD) in order to determine clearly which of the African asylum-seekers were eligible for refugee status and which could potentially be repatriated.
She said that the concept of returning Eritreans to their homeland was not unheard of, and that it was something that some Western countries had already done. In terms of the wider migration policy, she said that “there is no magical solution,” and Israel needed to set up a multifaceted policy, beginning with the immediate cessation of work permits or entry for new foreign workers.
The TAU professor called on the government to help migrants who are already in the country integrate into the job market and to guard their basic rights, instead of bringing in new foreign workers. Additionally, while she was in favor of an increased investment in RSD, she also supported enforcing the return of migrant workers whose contracts had ended.
“Anyone who thinks that a fence can be put up and we can stop the entry [of migrants] altogether is mistaken,” she argued.