Speak up for African refugees in Israel.

We've just heard from our friends at Hotline for Migrant Workers about an attempt by Israeli authorities to deport 25 asylum seekers from Eritrea. If they return to Eritrea they likely face imprisonment, which means serious risk to their lives.
 
The U.S. State Department has found that prison conditions in Eritrea are "life-threatening." State also found that imprisonment there often entails "torture and incommunicado detention, which sometimes resulted in death; forced labor of indefinite duration through the mandatory national service program; and the severe restriction of civil liberties..."
 
Lend your voice to prevent this catastrophe by sending the letter below.
 
Israel is a nation founded by immigrants, many of them refugees fleeing for their very lives.  It seems absurd that Israel would not do everything possible to protect those fleeing persecution.
 
Yet, in the past year we've seen an escalation in rhetoric that demonizes asylum seekers. This rhetoric has been matched by policies that place asylum seekers under a cloak of suspicion. Currently, asylum seekers are automatically imprisoned upon their arrival in Israel. In prison, they are routinely denied the materials they need to file for asylum. They are misinformed about their rights. And they are pressured to board flights out of Israel.

Immigration policy is controversial everywhere. Israel is no exception. In the long-term, Israel needs a sensible immigration policy that respects the human rights treaties it has signed and balances the ideal of the Jewish homeland with the Jewish obligation to help the stranger.
 
But right now, we are acting to protect the physical safety of refugees who have found their way to Israel. We are acting to help Israeli society live up to its highest Jewish and humanitarian values.

The basic idea behind the New Israel Fund is that individuals who care about Israel can join together, pool our resources (financial and otherwise), and support Israelis working to make Israel more equal and democratic.

Join our struggle for a better Israel by taking action below.

The Hotline for Migrant Workers (HMW) -- an Israeli NGO committed to upholding the rights of migrants in Israel -- has learned that 25 Eritrean refugees who agreed to fly to Uganda might be flown directly to Eritrea instead.
 
HMW is calling on their supporters to write to Amnon Ben Ami, head of the Israeli Immigration Authority to urge him to intervene. We're passing on their request to you. 

Let’s show the Immigration Authority that supporters of Israel worldwide are following this issue. If we can prevent the deportation of these 25 refugees back to Eritrea, we can make sure that the Immigration Authority refrains from resorting to these tactics in the future.


UPDATE 2/15/2013: A representative of the Israeli government reached out to NIF about this campaign. He shared a letter sent yesterday by the head of Israel’s Immigration Authority to a Knesset Member who had voiced concerns similar to ours.

The letter stated: 1) That there will not be any forced deportations of Eritreans to Eritrea; 2) That imprisoned asylum seekers have access to the asylum application process; and 3) That the Immigration Authority is looking into "voluntary" deportation of some imprisoned Eritreans.

We checked in with our colleagues at Hotline for Migrant Workers (HMW). They raised the following concerns:

* All undocumented border crossers are imprisoned upon arrival to Israel. HMW has documented a host of obstacles that these detainees face in terms of applying for asylum status. In more than 800 interviews over the past six months, HMW has repeatedly found that detainees are misinformed about their rights and that they lack access to the paperwork required to file a request for asylum. A reformed process that offers meaningful access to the asylum process for prisoners is urgently needed.
 
* The psychological pressure detainees face to agree to any alternative to prison is immense. The editorial in today's Haaretz discusses this issue and questions whether consent obtained in prison is truly "voluntary." 

The quick response we've gotten and the continued front-line work of HMW is reason to hope that these matters will be resolved such that no Eritrean will end up returning to a place where they likely face imprisonment or worse.



Take action now.

Amnon Ben Ami

Israel Immigration Authority