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After week in desert, 3 Eritreans taken to prison; MK prevented from meeting them

18 of the asylum seekers caught between fences on the Israel-Egypt border were handed over to the Egyptians; two women and a boy were imprisoned in Israel.

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.

Read 972′s special coverage on Seeking Asylum in Israel
Commentary: Turning one’s back on the world and all its suffering: On Israel’s treatment of the Eritreans


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    1. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      I’m kind of late to this whole story, but here’s my take. Truism: in (im)migration, numbers are everything. This is not a significant number of people. It could have been treated as a special case, much more humanely than it was. There’s no slippery slope; it wouldn’t have set a legal or political precedent. These people should have been let into Israel immediately and treated humanely.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Sorry Aaron, I am going to have to disagree. Letting people in sets a precedent and word does get around that the border is open. You would have imitators of this group within a week. It isn’t a legal or political issue. To a large extent this is a psychological game to announce to potential migrants on their way and back in their home countries that they will not be welcomed.

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron the Fascist Troll

          What I meant is, if it leads to more people trying to get in, then you can just stop letting them in. There’s no legal precedent or bureaucratic inertia to stop you. You just don’t let them in next time, or the time after that, or whenever you decide to stop granting exceptions to policy. People would denounce it, but they’re denouncing it already.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Aaron, look, I don’t know. State bureaucracies have a very hard time not taking precedents seriously. Once you start letting people in, it becomes the normal thing to do and then *something* has to happen to actually change the policy to one that prevents entry. Once you start letting people in word goes out back home or to refugee camps in Sudan that all you have to do is show up at the border fence to get in and people start trekking. The border fence becomes meaningless and you are in the same place as before. If you choose to block entry at that point you have hundreds or thousands stranded on the border and you face even more pressure and condemnation. It really is better in my mind to put a stop to it as early as possible and unfortunately that requires some very heavy handed action.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Sinjim

      This is institutionalized misanthropy, a hatred of humanity. And it is especially endemic to all ethnic states.

      To all of you who are so shocked that Israel would behave this way, Palestinians are laughing at your naivete. If Israel prevents even indigenous people from returning to their homeland, why on Earth would it allow Foreigners to do so?

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron the Fascist Troll

        Because there are fewer foreigners trying to get in?

        Reply to Comment
        • Jack

          …still they wont get in, which prove the real absurdity.

          Reply to Comment
    3. As usual, the State refuses any possible oversight by disallowing an independent branch, here a member of the Knesset, the opportunity for his own evaluation. There can be no assured rule of law without such oversight.

      By returning the men to Egypt, the State has violated treaty and is attempting to hide this by admitting three on humanitarian grounds. Since the High Court refused immediate action, there are no longer petitioners, so no longer a case.

      Reminds of of Southern American thinking in times of Jim Crow.

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron the Fascist Troll

        What treaty forbids Israel from returning asylum seekers to Egypt? Could you point to the relevant paragraph?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Kassandra

      Something to mention : this boarder between egypt and israel is well known anyway for many years and the path for many CHRISTIAN african refugees on their way to the “promised land”. Were these Eritrean people Christian ? Nobody talked a word about it.
      It was also the way Abraham took ( vice-versa), when he needed asylum because he couldnt feed people and animals in Knaan! Egypt didnt let refugee Abraham starve on the boarder in these days…..

      Reply to Comment