Eri-Platform welcomes the Israeli High Court injunction announced on 15 March 2018, regarding the forced deportations of Eritrean asylum-seekers to third countries, such as Rwanda or Uganda.
In early January 2018, the Israeli government issued a deadline for the end of March 2018 for the nearly 40,000 asylum-seekers, of whom around 27,500 are Eritreans, to leave the country or face indefinite detention.
Following the Israeli government’s alarming announcement, Eri-Platform expressed, via a letter to the Honourable Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada, its deep concern, along with thousands of concerned individuals, human rights activists and organisations from around the world, regarding the dire consequences of the imminent deportation plans for the asylum-seekers. The appeal letter underscored that:
Eritreans flee home to escape from gross, widespread and systematic violations of human rights that amount to crimes against humanity (2016 UN Commission of Inquiry) at great risk to their lives. As a State party to the 1951 UN refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, Israel should thus recognise Eritreans as political refugees, rather than ‘infiltrators’, and respect its obligations of non-refoulement. Since starting its refugee-claims determination in 2009, Israel has granted asylum to only 10 Eritreans.
A 2014 Human Rights Watch report found that Israel exerts systematic pressure and imposes coercive measures on asylum seekers, instilling the feeling that there is no choice but to leave for a third country. To enforce its “Voluntary Departure Programme”, Israel denies Eritrean asylum seekers access to healthcare, welfare services, ability to earn a living, or places them under indefinite detention at the Holot ‘Residency Center’. The UNHCR has identified 80 cases of Eritrean asylum seekers who were forced out of Israel through such tactics. On arrival in Rwanda via a secret accord, their entry bypasses official airport controls and checks, with no processing of documents or opportunity to request asylum. After spending a night or two in a safe house in Kigali, they are whisked away to the border with Uganda and abandoned to fend for themselves or resume their perilous journey northwards in search of asylum.
Eritreans who flee the country face a precarious situation, unable to return home without grievous or dire consequences. Their circumstances make them extremely vulnerable throughout their difficult and dangerous trek, falling victim to human trafficking and slavery in North Africa; organ harvesting in the Sinai; death in the Sahara Desert; or drowning in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Eritreans are ideal victims in transit or in third countries because of the shroud of impunity stemming from the general lack of government accountability and international protection shielding their victimisers.
The imminent deportation of thousands of Eritreans from Israel has therefore increased the sense of urgency to find a humane solution. Especially, given their documented mistreatment in the host country following refoulement, and the looming danger and abuse that may befall them in the region.
There is a small, well established community of Eritrean-Canadians (15,745 in 2016) which is tight-knit and supportive, well integrated and accomplished, that has affectionately embraced Canada.
In concert with several Eritrean-Canadian community associations and charities willing to extend support, advice and assistance to new arrivals, Eri-Platform appealed, with a sense of urgency, to the Government of Canada to extend vital humanitarian help to the Eritrean asylum-seekers in distress through Canada’s sponsorship programme.
Together with the Eritrean-Canadian community
associations and charities, Eri-Platform wishes to express its deepest
gratitude and admiration for Canada’s long-standing and exemplary commitment to
justice and human rights.