Eritreans want recognition as refugees – Ruth Eglash , THE JERUSALEM POST

December 16th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Wearing white masks to conceal their identities, more than 500 Eritrean asylum seekers took to the streets of Tel Aviv Tuesday to protest what they describe as the Israeli government’s refusal to recognize them as refugees and grant them certain rights under the United Nation’s convention on the status of refugees, to which Israel is party.


Wearing white masks to conceal their identities, more than 500 Eritrean asylum seekers took to the streets of Tel Aviv Tuesday to protest what they describe as the Israeli government’s refusal to recognize them as refugees and grant them certain rights under the United Nation’s convention on the status of refugees, to which Israel is party.

“We wore the masks because if we are identified by the Eritrean authorities then our families still living there could be persecuted,” one of the protesters, Asmaram, told The Jerusalem Post following the demonstration.

Preferring to use only his first name for fear of retribution, Asmaram, 24, who speaks perfect English, said the situation in his former homeland had reached extreme levels of oppression in every sphere of society, and that as a university student, he had no choice but to leave. He arrived in Israel via Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt last year.

“I chose to come to Israel because out of all the countries I could have gone, it was the only one that was completely democratic,” explained Asmaram, who is one of 11 Eritreans elected recently by the 5000-strong displaced community to represent them in Israel. “It was either Libya or Israel and I chose Israel, hoping that my chances of staying alive would be better.”

Along with his fellow countrymen, however, Asmaram said that living conditions in Israel were extremely difficult, with the government refusing to grant them official asylum and constantly issuing new regulations as to where they could live and whether they were allowed to work.

Most recently, Eritrean community members who had settled in Eilat were told by the government that they had to leave and find a new location.

“We do not have any status here,” said Asmaram, who holds a degree in marine biology. “We live in constant fear that we will either be imprisoned or deported back to Eritrea.” In addition, he said that more than 65 percent of the community was not eligible to work in Israel and as such living conditions for most of them were very poor.

“Those of us who can work have to use our earnings to help out other members of our community who cannot work. In many cases there are between 10-15 Eritreans living in one apartment because the rent is too high for us to live alone,” he said.

According to Romm Lewkowicz, spokesman for the Hotline for Migrant Workers, a grass-roots organization that provides assistance to thousands of foreign workers living in Israel, the core of the problem was Israel’s refusal to even check the status of the more than 10,000 refugees from around the world that are believed to be living here without any rights or recognizable status.

“Israel has signed the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, yet it has no policy regarding these people or system to check their requests,” he pointed out, adding that to absolve itself from responsibility, the Interior Ministry simply claimed that “they are not refugees.”

“While [the ministry] says they are not refugees, it does not make any attempt to deport them either,” continued Lewkowicz.

Responding to the Eritreans’ claims, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabene Hadad said that the community “had a nerve protesting considering that Israel is much more welcoming than many other countries in the region.”

“It is not up to the Israeli government to appoint them refugee status,” said Hadad, who claimed rather that it was the role of United Nations to make such a decision.

“In an unusual move, however, which is based solely on humanitarian concerns, the Interior Ministry has decided to let them continue living here and will not deport them back to Eritrea,” she added.

Asmaram, however, maintained that the issue of status was the Israeli government’s responsibility. “We asked the UN why it will not grant us asylum but they say it’s up to the government and they don’t have the power,” he said. “All we are asking is that we are given the chance to prove our need for safe refuge until the situation in our country improves.”

Calls to the UN for a response were unreturned Tuesday.

  1. kibret
    | #1

    Who cares!
    Talk about other issue.

  2. | #2

    Let them burn in hell or better go to their Arab friends and wash dishes.

  3. sele
    | #3

    አሮራ ደደቡ አህያ

    | #4

    yes who cares about eritrean they are the one who refused to be one Ethiopia so we don’t care they can even go to HELLLLLLLLL.

  5. One Ethiopia forever
    | #5

    The picture of these Eritreans are haunting.

    It is a shame these people fought for nothing to be treated like animal.

    Is there difference between Isaias Afwerki and Mengistu Haile Mariam or Haile Selaisse?

    Over 250,000 Eritreans have left Eritrea to go back to Ethiopia since 2006.

    It is time Shabia gets out of Eritrea.

  6. sele
    | #6

    domaw kokobay if you don’t care about eritrean why you read the false article and ask abogida why the posted it.the other thing is when you say one ethiopia i don’t understand,you mean there is no one ethiopia with out ERITREA?wheater you like it or not eritrea is for ERITREANS.still you are craying after 17 years.insted of talking about eritrea try to make a differns in your country,try to fight your didtator meles.

  7. yikerbelen
    | #7

    Another ran away and asking aselum some where after independancy of eritrea. The israel’s people should take care those shabians and deport them back to their the “land of miracles” Otherwise, they will start the war with in Israel for independancy and create the new eritrea with in Israel.Their fathers and grond fathers were a slaves for italy over 50 years and for brtish for ten years. They did not have any right to get free education beyond four grade.When they reuniied with ethiopia, they were getting every opportunities for school with out limite, they came with an empty pockets and on barefeet , but after they have snatched ehiopia successfully, they became millionares, when they used to eating untill their neck, their brain forgot every thing what was happened with them under Italy and Britain, they start to fight the country which gave all possibiliies.after 30 years bloody war with the help of all international communities , they separated from ethiopia, but now they paid almost 1000dollars to escape from eritrea to ethiopia illegally. So Israel must learn from ethiopia, and ethiopians and should deport them back to eritrea. otherwise , after 10–20 years they will be over 1,000,000and they will be the head ache of the future ISRAELIANS.

  8. yikerbelen
    | #8


  9. mola
    | #9

    I am blessed being not an Eritrean.

  10. atuba dolla
    | #10

    Remember! in the very beginning they were forced to belive or were deeply brainwashed that that cheaty, witty, kitty,fleety and acidic promise would bring them all sorts of things such as,exotic fruits and colourful vegetables and juicy juice immediately after independence.

    All that was said and all that were told come out to be zero and nothing. Today,the exodus continues at a faster pace and seems shooting at a rocket speed to nowhere.

    Who should be blamed?

    The absence of promises in the broken hearts and edible items in markets, in the city and all over the land came into reality.

    The story of Shaebya is nothing but intimidation and insults to the ex-followers and ex-supporters; now that scattered like seeds to find a fertile soil to sprout from;otherwise and sadly,that thing called fertile woumb is in line for a fertility check-up;alas, why them?

    Sad! whose heart goes out to them?

    The number of fleeting refugees from the land of the fertilewoumb into Ethiopia has increased dramatically to the point where all said “Is it or was it for this we sacrificed everything and anything?”

    On that fateful independence day, all jumped up-and-down charged with electric emotion and feel-good feeling and as a result was created fleeting joy in the would-be-broken hearts and varities of smiles on millions of faces;gone forever that faulty smile, only left the thing called journey to the unknown.

    They are now began to connect the dot tracing their journey backward.will the broken heart be happy in the promise land, Israel?

  11. robel
    | #11

    we are eritreans where ever we go we will never shame by our beloved country despite we have miserable condition.

  12. robel
    | #12

    we are not beging like ethiopian we faighting for our rights. and am sure one day the dictator government will destroy and we will come back to built up our vergion country like the israel who came back after 1000 years to thier home land.
    am lacky that i am from eritrea

    but arora ask your poor mind we ar not arabs and we will not but we have unity with all christans and muslims thats why we wone over the greedy ethiopians. we are not dish woshers we are fishers.

  13. robel
    | #13

    but i delight to say thanks for the israelian peaple for they are kind for us despite their government didn’t accept us.

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