Report: Israel Discussing Fate of Eritrean Workers Directly With Eritrea

Eritrean migrants protest in front of the European Union Embassy in Ramat Gan, in 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

After failing to arrange for the deportation of illegal Eritrean migrant workers to a third country that would agree to accept them, Israel has opened negotiations directly with Eritrea itself for the repatriation of its citizens, Channel Ten reported.

This is the first time Israel has attempted to discuss the matter with the government of the country that many of the illegal migrants in Israel hail from. The officials said that the new political situation in the country would allow for the repatriation of at least 20,000 Eritrean nationals to their home country, without concern on their part that they will be punished or persecuted by the government.

The negotiations were prompted by the recent signing of a peace treaty between Eritrea and Ethiopia, ending a long, drawn-out war that has devastated both countries. Eritreans who fled to Israel attempted to claim refugee status, as they claimed they were running away from a government that attempted to force them into lifetime army service. That policy has now been ended, the Eritrean government has assured Israel, Israeli officials involved in the negotiations told Channel Ten. Therefore claims that Eritrean migrants are refugees are no longer valid, and they can be deported without issue, they said.

Under international law, Israel cannot deport political refugees back to their own country, but they do need to be certified as refugees by Israeli authorities. The government contends that most of the migrants are here to work, not for political asylum, but with a backlog of years in cases to decide whether claims of political asylum are accurate, the illegals effectively are able to stay and work in Israel without a decision being made on their status.

In 2016 the government worked out an arrangement with an unnamed African country to accept Eritean and South Sudanese migrants from Israel. That country promised to accept the migrants and examine their claims of refugee status, and provide them with employment. The deal was challenged by groups advocating on behalf of the migrants. Many of the migrants have settled in south Tel Aviv, where Israelis say they have taken over the streets and institutions – imposing a reign of fear on residents and bringing crime and disease into the neighborhood.

At a rally in Tel Aviv Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that his government is “seeking solutions to this issue, and one of the solutions we are taking into consideration is the blessed peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. We are examining what can be done. I don’t want to speak about this too much but believe me we are doing things. Not just there, but elsewhere as well,” he added.

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