Eritrean Refugee Crisis this week in Israel
For as much attention as the East African situation in Israel has been getting, I’m sort of shocked that more people didn’t take notice of the two Eritrean women (one being pregnant) and a boy being detained by the Israelis over the past 24 hours while the rest of the 18 refugees were taken into Egyptian military custody. It was quite a drama though it didn’t seem to get much airtime aside from activists calling for food and water to be delivered to them through the duration of their being trapped in the Negev.
By Noam Sheizaf|Published September 7, 2012
After seven days in the desert sun with little water and no food, Israel has allowed entry to three out of the 21 asylum seekers who were caught between the fences on the Israeli-Egyptian border. The other 18 were handed to the Egyptian army, and their fate remains unknown.
Knesset Member Dov Khenin [Hadash] found out that the three Eritreans – one boy and two women, were taken to Saharonim prison, used now to hold illegal immigrants from Africa for indefinite periods of time. Khenin posted the following messages on his Facebook page:
I am at the gates of Saharonim prison in the Negev. Here the two Eritrean women and the boy were taken after eight days in the terrible heat on the Israel-Egypt border. 18 men were returned to Egypt.
I arrived at the fence earlier. I wanted to talk to them, to understand their situation and to figure out what their status should be. The army prevented me from entering the area until the boy and two women were let in and the men were turned back.
All the difficult questions remain: who were those people? Do they deserve protection as asylum seekers? What will happen to them now?
Tonight I will use my parliamentary immunity to try and meet the boy and the women and hear them out.
One lesson from the affair: a fence is not a magic solution. The billions that went into building it cannot replace international and regional arrangements. They also don’t free us from the moral and legal duty to try and figure out the situations of the people knocking on the fence.
This morning, Khenin updated on his failed attempt to meet the three prisoners:
At night I was prevented from meeting the two women and the boy locked in Saharonim. The official excuse is unconvincing: “We don’t want them disturbed.” Does anyone has something to hide?
I met the prison commander. The order to prevent the meeting came from above. He told me that the three prisoners are doing fine. I would really like to believe him.
Israel has the right to put a fence on its borders. It has the duty to treat the people at this fence in a humane way. Indeed, every man has a name, even Eritreans.
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