Groups call on Israel to keep African migrants


WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, is the latest Jewish organization to call on Israel’s government not to expel tens of thousands of Africans seeking asylum status.

A number of liberal Jewish groups, chief among them HIAS, the leading Jewish immigration advocacy group, has decried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recently announced plans to force some 38,000 migrants to choose between expulsion and jail. Most now move freely in the country and are able to study and do some jobs.

“We urge the government to suspend its plan to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who entered the country between 2007-12, and develop a comprehensive policy for non-Jewish asylum-seekers that safeguards human dignity and human rights, in compliance with Israel’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention,” said a Tuesday [Jan. 16] JCPA statement. “We believe that such a policy would ensure Israel’s security, and honor Israel’s values as a compassionate, Jewish and democratic state.”

Some 60,000 asylum seekers from countries torn by war and suffering under repressive regimes arrived in Israel between 2007 and 2012, when Israel built a fence along the border with Egypt that ended the influx. About 20,000 of them have taken up an Israeli offer to leave for African destinations with several thousand dollars of cash. Many of these have reportedly been robbed and kidnapped into slavery, and in some cases murdered.