Letter to Mr Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Mr Antonio Guterres United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Case Postale 2500 CH-1211 Genève 2 DépôtGeneva Switzerland 21 December 2011 Dear Mr Guterres, It has no doubt come to your attention that Israel and the Knesset have been trying to adopt
Mr Antonio Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 DépôtGeneva
21 December 2011
Dear Mr Guterres,
It has no doubt come to your attention that Israel and the Knesset have been trying to adopt a militant anti-immigration policy which would label all refugees from Eritrea as ‘infiltrators’; this, effectively, criminalizes them, and gives them even fewer rights than they have at present in Israel. At the moment, those who live in Israel are mainly without any documents, work, medical attention or any other kind of benefit or protection.
Categorizing them as ‘infiltrators’ enables the Israeli government to imprison them for the ‘crime’ of ‘infiltration’ as if they were terrorists or other kinds of undesirables. The Knesset has also proposed that anyone aiding these so-called ‘infiltrators’ is also subject to legal punishment –this includes NGOs and Human Rights Defenders. There has also been talk of building a giant detention centre to house thousands of ‘infiltrators’. What can be done to stop Prime Minster Netanyahu and the Knesset from pursuing this policy any further?
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s latest public announcement on this issue states that he will visit Africa, including Eritrea, as part of Israel’s efforts to ‘repatriate’ illegal immigrants from Sudan and Eritrea.
As you are aware, those who come from Eritrea are refugees, not immigrants; Israel says ‘most come seeking work’ and does not recognize their status as ‘political refugees’ or any other kind of refugee.
Eritrea has the worst human rights record in Africa. People are fleeing for their lives even if it means ending up in a country, such as Israel, which also does not recognize that they are ordinary humans seeking a better life free from persecution, even if the journey of escape regularly entails imprisonment and torture. The journey to Israel itself is fraught with peril. Many Eritreans are kidnapped, held for ransom and even have their kidneys and other organs removed for the monetary gain of others.
Despite all this, they still try to leave Eritrea in their thousands because life there is like living in a giant prison. In the meantime Israel is suggesting that its own giant prison be built to house would-be refugees which they are criminalizing as ‘infiltrators’.
Israel is signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Israel also joined the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1967, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which elaborates on the ban against deporting asylum seekers.
There seems to be no safe haven as Eritreans find themselves trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, not welcome in Israel, and treated as slaves, and persecuted, in their own country.
In the light of all this, we appeal to the UNHCR to provide protection for these refugees by finding them a safe haven in a third country until the situation in Eritrea improves. UNHCR is these people’s only hope.
Please help Eritreans in their struggle against the mind-set of Prime Minster Netanyahu and others who lack compassion for the plight of human souls.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea