A Message to the People of Israel from Your Own Past: Do Not Accept Bribes to Hunt Down African Refugees

Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) continues to press for the Israeli Parliament to retract the deportation plans of tens of thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese refugees to unknown third countries.

Israel’s plan to deport an estimated 40,000 refugees to a third country, believed to be Rwanda or Uganda, continues to receive criticism from many human rights organisations, including HRCE. Many groups recently organised protests in front of Israeli and Rwandan embassies in opposition to the planned deportation, and on 7 February, Elizabeth Chyrum, the director of HRCE, joined others protesting in front of the High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda in London.

In response to the demonstration in London, the High Commission provided a statement in which it denies any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African refugees and asylum seekers. In the letter, they state their policy towards Africans in need of a home remains “open doors”.

Nevertheless, refugees in Israel have already started receiving a notice that they must leave by March 2018, or face indefinite imprisonment. Worryingly, foreseeing that some refugees might not do either, it seems the authorities in Israel are already recruiting 140 new employees to do what many have described essentially as bounty hunting. This measure highlights an unfortunate parallel with the tragic experiences of the Israeli people during World War 2 (WW2).

 This March will mark the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Henneicke Column’s activities in the Netherlands. Between March and October 1943, a group of Nazi collaborators working in the investigative division of the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration hunted down and “delivered” an estimated 9,000 Jews to the Nazi authorities. Most of the captured people were then sent to concentration camps or deported to another country where they met grim fates.

The participants in the tracking down and arrests were all paid a salary for each person they captured, which rose substantially by the end of WW2. 

This is not too different from what the Population, Immigration and Border Authority in Israel is currently offering. On top of their salary, 100 of the new employees, who will take on the role of inspectors, will be able to get a bonus of about $9,000 if they “merit” it. Given the similarities with this dark and painful episode of their history, we therefore urge the people of Israel to reject this policy.

If this activity is put in place, it will only mar the reputation of the country as the world watches Israeli citizens hunting African refugees. People who arrive in any country in need of protection and safety do not deserve to be labelled with derogatory terms such as “infiltrators” or to be hunted down. HRCE would remind the State of Israel of its obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers under the 1951 Refugee Convention to grant them much-needed protection. HRCE would also urge anyone offered such “bounty hunting” jobs to refuse to partake in such activities.

HRCE would like to extend warm gratitude for all individuals, organisations and media outlets who have so far been advocating for the rights of the African refugees in Israel at risk of being deported, and encourages them to continue until the safety and human rights of these vulnerable people are guaranteed.

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea