Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan St., Qiryat Ben-Gurion
P.O. Box 187, 91919 Jerusalem
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
We the undersigned human rights groups (organizations) write this Open Letter to your Excellency to present our genuine concern directly to you and your administration with the hope that you will take our concern and effort into consideration in addressing the issue of African refugees in general and Eritrean asylum-seekers in particular by your administration.
We are extremely concerned by how the Eritrean political refugees are treated by the policies and actions of your administration. We are appealing to your administration review its policy of detention and deportation of Eritrean asylum-seekers.
We feel Israeli Government’s current handling of Eritrean refugees is not up to the recognized international standards, norms and human rights law pertaining to asylum-seekers.
We strongly believe that the State of Israel is fully cognizant of the fact that international law forbids the detention, deportation or forced return of asylum-seekers to a place where they face torture and even a real risk their very lives.
We also believe that Israeli State officials are fully aware of the fact that asylum-seekers are entitled to full protection by the community of states under international law regardless of how they enter a country or whether they have identity documents or not.
It is a universally expressed front-page news headline that the Eritrean people in general and the youth in particular are routinely subjected to brutal repression, arbitrary detention, torture, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and religious freedom etc. in Eritrea.
The ongoing gross human rights abuses, forced labor and indefinite military service prompts thousands of Eritreans to flee the country every month. Moreover, in their desire to escape the Eritrean regime brutal control some have been falling victims to kidnappings, torture and murders by ruthless traffickers. Those who manage to escape the human organ harvesters and torture by human traffickers in Sinai arrive in Israel hoping to fall under the protection of the State of Israel in accordance with the 1951 U N Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
It is our belief that the Israeli Government has not been fulfilling its international obligation. As expressed by an article in the Haaretz newspaper "Instead of protecting refugees as required by law, Israel boasts of its success in taking away their liberty and cajoling them to leave" (March 5, 2014). Thus, we feel that this is a counterproductive policy and not in compliance with the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
We are aware that Eritreans seeking refugee status are in "open facility" camps in Israel.
We appeal to the Israeli Government and its people that Eritreans (and other Africans) seeking refugee status be humanely treated and their safety and liberty be guaranteed in accordance with the 1951 U N Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
The international community in general and the UNHCR in particular have obligation to make sure that Africans seeking refugee status in Israel are treated with dignity and in accordance with international human rights law.
The recent attempt by African refugee status seekers (mostly Eritreans) to leave the Holot detention camp has demonstrated the level of frustration of Eritrean asylum-seekers and the reaction by the Israeli authorities indicate the failure of Israel Government’s refugee policy.
Even though the dictatorship in Eritrea is fully responsible for the massive human rights violations in the country, all civilized states have solemn obligation and duty to ameliorate the debilitating conditions of Eritrean refugees.
We appeal to the international community to hold the dictatorship in Eritrea fully accountable for creating such unbearable conditions and provide sanctuary to the refugees created due to the failure of the Eritrean government.
We also appeal to the international community to do all it can to influence(encourage) the Government of Israel to respect the rights of Eritreans seeking refugee status in the country and apply the international standard in accommodating the refugees that are seeking shelter from oppression and repression.
We also would like to plead with the Israeli people to impress upon their government that it has the obligation to comply with its humanitarian responsibilities, despite the burden the refugees pose on the country.
This letter was written with an underlining belief that the massive migration of Eritrean youth will eventually come to an end when the unbearable repressive conditions in Eritrea change and the relationship between the people of Eritrea and Israel will outlive the repressive government in Eritrea. Eritrean refugees are not a threat to Israel. Accepting and treating them with a modicum of understanding and helping them through their difficult time will only reinforce the friendship of the two peoples.
Dr. Afeworki Paulos Seyoum Tesfaye
Eritreans for Facilitating National Dialogue (EFND) Chief Executive Officer
Eritrean Global Solidarity (EGS)
Elsa Chyrum Dr. Yebio Woldemariam
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE) International Commission on Eritrean
August 12, 2014
Copy sent to:
U N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
U S Secretary of State John F. Kerry
U S Representative Ed Royce, Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U S House of Representatives
Senator Christopher Coons, Chairman, Subcommittee on African Affairs, U S Senate
Ms. Sheila B. KEETHARUTH, U N Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea
Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights