On the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, approximately 130 students in a pre-military academy sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on him not to deport asylum seekers to countries where they would face danger.
The letter was sent in the wake of several reports that revealed the State’s plan to change its policy from “voluntary repatriation” (a policy strongly encouraged by the government, which included jailing asylum seekers in Holot prison) to a policy of forced deportation of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea to Uganda and Rwanda.
The letter was sent by students at the Telem pre-military academy in Jaffa who recently visited Holot, where they met with asylum seekers and heard their stories. Since their visit, the students at Telem have moved to other pre-military academies, where they have taught classes about the situation in Sudan and Eritrea. “At the end of the lessons, we took down people’s contact information, and now that it was revealed that they are trying to deport asylum seekers, we turned to the same people and got their signatures for the letter,” says Shira Levi from Telem.
Among the signatories are all the students at Telem, most of the students at Minsharim Kalo in Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael and students from other pre-military academies from across the country.
Here is a portion of the letter:
“Over these past months, the Administration of Population and Immigration has been initiating a change in policy, according to which asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea will be forcibly deported to a third country under a shroud of secrecy. This move has no global precedent, especially from a democratic country that has signed on to the 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, not to mention a country whose history is one of refugees. This decision does not secure the protection of the asylum seekers in the slightest, and prevents them from securing their rights to life and safety.
“We call on the Israeli government to immediately check asylum seekers’ refugee requests as agreed upon in the Convention and according to international standards. Our hope is that especially at this time, when we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, the government will learn the necessary and human lessons, and will not remain apathetic to the murder happening in front of our eyes in the asylum seekers’ home countries.
“The government of Israel must immediately cease its humiliating treatment of asylum seekers. We demand it checks requests for refugee status and not send them to danger and death in their home countries by turning them, once again, into refugees and endangering their lives.”