Prime Minister’s Office
3 Kaplan St.
“Once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”
Written in 1902 by Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
As the executive director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), [ii] a social justice movement of diverse Ethiopians seeking to advance truth, freedom, justice, equality, respect for human rights, reconciliation, security and prosperity in Ethiopia, I am writing you regarding our serious concerns involving the status, detentions and living conditions of the 2,500 to 3,000 Ethiopian refugees now living in Israel.
As you know, both the government of Israel and the African refugee living within Israel have reached a complicated and difficult impasse with no simple solutions to a growing refugee problem; yet, we believe that Israel’s newly instituted solution to cope with these refugees is not only short-sighted and harsh, but also ethically and morally wrong. Instead, we hold that a more humane policy could be found to address the very real challenges of both refugees who are genuinely seeking a temporary safe haven and the state of Israel which is not ready to meet the real needs of so many persons.
Contrary to the general tone of the law, in most cases, Ethiopians refugees living in Israel have legitimate asylum cases and are there legally as the Ministry of the Interior has reportedly issued most asylum seekers a conditional release visa. This means they are not simply “work infiltrators.” According to the 2012 report from Freedom House, Ethiopia was second on the list of all countries for experiencing the greatest decline in freedom over the past two years. The 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index showed Ethiopia to at the very bottom of their list as the most “un-free” country among the 110 countries studied.
Moreover, we believe the proposed enactment of stringent detention or deportation policies, under the Anti-Infiltration Law and its amendments, which includes asylum seekers, is unjustifiable in view of the widespread human rights violations in many neighboring countries, including Ethiopia, and will undoubtedly place many of these refugees in harm’s way. Some, if not many, will not survive. Furthermore, according to UNHCR, only 1% of asylum requests are finally accepted. Acceptance does not mean permanent residence or citizenship in Israel. What many of these refugees need is temporary shelter until safety and security are restored in their countries; not draconian policies that would criminalize asylum seeking, leading to long-term detention.
We contend that the enactment of the Anti-Infiltrator law and its amendments fail to fulfill the obligations of the international Refugee Convention, of which Israel is a signatory, and may violate the soul and conscience of a nation of people who in the past and present have experienced their own persecution, threats to their survival and the need to seek the goodwill of other nations in providing safe refuge to them.
In light of this, and on behalf of these Ethiopian refugees, the SMNE respectfully calls on the Government of Israel, the Ministry of the Interior, the Knesset and other people and bodies associated with the implementation of the Anti-Infiltration Law and its amendments, to consider its revision. In particular, we would for the protection of asylum seekers from the application of this law. We also respectfully call on you to cease disclaiming the cases of these asylum-seekers as being without cause until there is a well-developed asylum process in place, free of bias, with all deficiencies corrected and until authorities possess accurate and up-to-date facts about the state of repression in Ethiopia, so as to fairly evaluate the claims of these African Refugees without discrimination. The present acceptance of only 1% of all asylum claims[iii] calls into question the entire process; something that is very disturbing in light of the very real threats many of these refugees will face at home. Read more…
Executive Director of the SMNE
910-17th St. NW, Suite 419
Washington, DC 20006 USA
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