Israel Was Built By Refugees, Now It's Expelling Them

Israel, a country that became a home for those fleeing persecution, is turning away people who are fleeing persecution in their countries.

The Israeli government is reportedly giving the following choices to thousands of migrants: go back home, accept deportation to a third country or go to jail.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently told his cabinet as part of his "three-pronged policy" regarding the removal of migrants from the country, African asylum-seekers would be instructed to "self-deport to a third country – which reports have identified as Rwanda," The Jerusalem Post reports.

In addition, two key cabinet ministers, Interior Minister Arye Dery and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdanwould, have said they are also considering deporting asylum seekers to an African country or jailing them indefinitely.

This is appalling not just because Israel is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which means it is legally obligated to protect refugees or other people seeking asylum, but also due to the fact that Israel was built by and for those who were also fleeing persecution in their countries at the time.

For nearly six years, from 2006-2012, thousands of asylum seekers from mostly war-torn African countries, arrived to Israel. The large influx was soon perceived as a threat to the Jewish state's identity and the government started mulling measures to resolve the problem.

Subsequently, under the two prongs of Netanyahu's "three-pronged" plan mentioned above, the Israeli government, firstly, stemmed the flow of new migrants building a massive fence on the border with Egypt and then moved more than 20,000 migrants voluntarily.

Now, the fate of 40,000 African migrants currently living in Israel hangs in the balance as the country's leader and his cabinet members plan to execute the third prong, an announcement that has drawn criticism from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"UNHCR and the international community have been assisting Israel to meet its international obligations, including by resettling or finding other durable solutions for 2,400 refugees who have departed from Israel in the last couple of years," said Volker Türk, the agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection. “As party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Israel has legal obligations to protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection," he added.

Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters, Ronen Zvulun

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