+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

ISIS executes three asylum seekers deported by Israel

Video by extremist Sunni group shows execution of three Eritrean asylum seekers coerced into leaving Israel last year.

T. photographed in Tel Aviv (R), and appearing in ISIS' execution video (L). (photo courtesy of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants)

T. appearing in ISIS’ execution video (L), and photographed in Tel Aviv (R) (photo courtesy of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants)

At least three Eritrean asylum seekers who lived in Israel and were deported to a third country were executed by Islamic State militants in Libya this past week, according to family and friends who recognized them in a video released by the extremist Sunni group. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants is checking the possibility that additional Eritreans deported by Israel were also executed.

“I recognized my relative, T., from the photos published by ISIS that appeared on Facebook before the video was released,” says Mesi Fashiya, an Israeli-born Eritrean whose parents came to Israel in the 70s. “I thought it was him, but then ISIS announced that it was a group of Ethiopians, so I began to look into it. The people at the Holot detention center also saw the photos — they hoped it was only photos, and that they didn’t really kill them. After they released the video there was no doubt. I couldn’t watch, but my friends in Holot did and couldn’t sleep all night.”

T. a distant relative of Fashiya, came to Israel through Egypt in 2007. He lived with her for a period of time, and the two became close. According to her, T.’s mental state deteriorated after being sent to Holot, and despite her promises to try and do everything to release him, he eventually decided to sign a voluntary departure form and was deported to a third country — Rwanda or Uganda. T.’s brother, who lives in Norway, told Fashiya that T. attempted to reach Europe. He crossed Sudan and reached Libya, where he got on a boat to Europe that was turned back. The last thing they heard was that he was in a Libyan prison.

Read: Our elected officials boast about deporting genocide survivors

The video shows two groups of hostages being executed by Islamic State militants in Libya. One group is beheaded near a beach, while another is killed by gunmen. According to Fashiya, who works at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, both she and the prisoners at Holot identified two more asylum seekers in the group that was shot. “They are doing twisted things there, beheading them and then placing the heads on the bodies. It is terrible. It is difficult to believe that these things happen, even to people you don’t know. But when it happens to someone you do know, a relative who was promised a better life when he leaves, and this is what happens in the end — it’s unbelievable.

Fashiya says that since the executions, many in the Eritrean community in Israel have changed their Facebook profile photos to black as a sign of mourning. The community is worried about the possible ties between the Libyan authorities and ISIS, and worry that if ties do exist, this won’t be the last catastrophe of its kind, as many Eritreans who try to reach Europe do so through Libya.

African asylum seekers walk into the Holot detention center in Israel's southern Negev desert, on February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers walk into the Holot detention center in Israel’s southern Negev desert, on February 17, 2014.

It is important to note that the three victims signed “voluntary departure” forms, although most asylum seekers and NGOs see this as another form of deportation, since the other option afforded to asylum seekers is indefinite detention at Holot in the middle of the Negev Desert.

The Israeli government recently announced its intention to begin forcefully deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. Refugee organizations are concerned that the state refuses to reveal its back channel deals with “third countries,” and worry that those same countries will not guarantee the safety of asylum seekers.

Perhaps now, after these horrendous murders, someone in the government will re-examine this policy. However, if Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz’s comments on the hundreds of migrants who drowned on their way to Europe are any marker, it seems that the answer is negative.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. Ben Zakkai

      Yikes. Well, what did we expect when we began deporting traumatized individuals to third countries where they have no friends, family, or other personal connections, no understanding of the local languages and culture, no jobs or welfare benefits, and above all no guarantees of safety and subsistence? We keep hearing more stories of how Eritreans and Sudanese are meeting bitter fates after being deported by Israel. It’s painfully sad.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Both the Danish and the British have concluded that Eritreans can go home without fear of being persecuted. The Eritreans voluntary left Israel for a third country and could have chosen to go home. Instead they went to a third country and then to Libya in order to migrate to Europe for better economic interests. There they met their end at the hands of Arabs.

        Economic migrants are not refugees. Countries around the world like Australia, Canada, the United States, and Britain do not accept that economic migrants have a right to live and work in their countries without first obtaining legal permission from the government to do so. These countries actively seek to prevent economic migrants from reaching their shores and detaining them if they do.

        For some reason, maybe the usual anti-Israel narrative presented here on 972mag, Israel is treated different from other sovereign countries. Only Israel is expected to take illegal economic migrants because their standards of living are far from desirable.

        Reply to Comment
        • Felix Reichert

          “Both the Danish and the British have concluded that Eritreans can go home without fear of being persecuted.”

          That’s partisan bullshit though, and you know it. If the British and Danish state have concluded such, they’re wrong, as EVERY human rights organisation will agree.

          Most other countries still give asylum to Eritreans. That is, countries that even have the common decency of even giving asylum to anyone. Not Israel, obviously.

          “The Eritreans voluntary left Israel for a third country and could have chosen to go home.”

          That’s bullshit as well. They were coerced by the inhumane situation asylum seekers face in Israel, for whom it is virtually impossible to get asylum-status.

          The choice they had was: live in prison or leave.

          “Economic migrants are not refugees.”

          Most people coming from Eritrea are NOT economic migrants. See above.
          That’s why you have such a large imbalance of Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers, when Ethiopia has around 15 times the population and a similar living-standard. And, let’s not forget, people are actually more or less free to leave Ethiopia. Why don’t they, and why do the leave Eritrea in droves?
          You’re especially fucked if you’re member of a small Christian minority church.

          “Only Israel is expected to take illegal economic migrants because their standards of living are far from desirable.”

          It would be a start if Israel even gave Asylum to anyone.
          And by that I don’t mean to 0.01% of applicants.

          Reply to Comment
          • Matt M.

            Okay Felix, I will bite. Please provide me with evidence that 1% or more of those returned to Eritrea had their safety violated. Please note, I am not interested in sources from unaccountable “human rights organizations.” I prefer credible sources, such as respected periodicals etc.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            How do you know as they do not get harm when they go back to Eritrea. Can you go to Eritrea and access freely to come to such conclusion. The British report cite the Danish report and the Danish report is not accepted even by the Danish government.

            For the main stream media like BBC it was a breaking news to get chance to make a documentary in the country. Why do you think the government of Eritrea give only words but close any independent assessment about the humanitarian violations in the country.

            Reply to Comment
        • Mt

          You should realize that Eritreans who apply for refugee status in Canada, Europe, Australia, and the E.U. have one of the highest recognition rates at ~85%. I have seen Canadian refugee status determination cases- these judges are incredibly thorough and nitpick every detail. Those familiar with refugee law in the global north understand that Eritreans almost always have credible claims with a true fear of persecution. I cannot say the same for any other African country, especially West African applications where the number of economic migrants are much higher.

          The fact that Israel’s recognition rate for Eritreans stands at 0.04% is astounding and clearly shows that MOI have not assessed credibility of claims in any logical fashion.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          PedroX, I think you’re flat wrong about UK law regarding Eritreans. The still-reigning seminal and dispositive authorities on that subject are a series of UK Upper Tribunal asylum and refugee decisions culminating in MO (illegal exit – risk on return) Eritrea CG [2011] UKUT 00190 (IAC), which you can see here:


          For good measure, you can see the official list of country condition determinations here:


          And all subsequent tribunal decisions here (use “Eritrea” as your search term):


          Finally, you can also see recent UK Home Office guidance, promulgated in pursuance of the aforementioned tribunal rulings, at the following two links:



          Under no possible interpretation of those sources may it be claimed that “the British have concluded that Eritreans can go home without fear of being persecuted.” And while the Danish do generally have more restrictive immigration policies that their Western European (and especially Scandinavian) neighbors, I find it hard to believe that even the Danish government has officially adopted such a sweeping, false and laughably ridiculous position. Could you provide some sources, please? Like, actual, official legal sources, not some hallucinatory article from Arutz Sheva or Makor Rishon or Yisrael Hayom or Der Settler Sturmer?

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Dear moderator, where is the long and well-documented post I submitted showing that PedroX’s characterization of UK law is flat out wrong? I spent a great deal of time composing it and would hate to think that it got lost in cyberspace.

          Reply to Comment
        • Baladi Akka 1948

          “Both the British and the Danes etc”
          Nope, the Danish report – on which the Britih report was largely based – has been withdrawn after much public critique.
          Here’s very informative article on Politiko in Danish with many links (one of your hasbara collegues probably know Danish or use google translate).
          I can alos inform you that per december 2014, 97% of all asylum seekers from Eritrea were granted asylum in Denmark.

          Reply to Comment
      • Joel


        “third countries where they have no friends, family, or other personal connections”

        They have plenty of friends, family or other personal connections in the E.U.

        Jeez. What a tool.

        Reply to Comment
        • MT

          But they actually do have family members in the E.U., Canada, and the U.S. Italy, Scandinavia, Toronto, and many U.S. cities have huge Eritrean diasporas, especially in the early 90s. It mentions that one of the men killed had family in Norway. The Eritreans I worked with in Tel Aviv had siblings in San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, and Stockholm. Other than Ethiopia, where refugee camps are filled with Eritrean children, there is no safe country or community in Africa where they might share any common language or culture.

          Eritrean asylum-seekers have one of the highest rates of recognition of refugee status at 85% in Canada and the EU because they almost always have credible claims of persecution. Countries in the global north can recognize this and they afford them the appropriate protection accordingly.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Well Joel, my dear shining beacon of human wisdom, understanding, kindness and compassion, try very hard to put yourself in the position of an actual Eritrean refugee, of whom there are many, despite Official Israel’s denial of the existence of such a category. After fleeing murderous and sadistic persecution in Eritrea, surviving a veritable death march through a couple of other African countries, being subjected to the gentle ministrations of Bedouin kidnappers in the Sinai, and spending half a dozen fun-filled years in Israeli prisons, you’re “voluntarily” (oh yeah!) shipped off to friggin’ Uganda or Rwanda, which despite some folks’ tendency to lump all Africans together into one indistinguishable mass, are nothing like home for you. So, since returning to your country of origin is not an option, and your options in Uganda/Rwanda are (ahem) limited, you try to drag your battered and traumatized self to Europe and a better life — but unfortunately, you run into ISIS in Libya, and they cut your head off. To any decent and reasonable human being, this is an incredibly tragic story from beginning to end. But in the Bizarro world of Israeli hasbara, this story merely illustrates the evil of ISIS/Arabs/Muslims, the canny duplicity of Eritrean fortune-seekers, and the ultimate wisdom and justice of Israeli policy. Oh yeah.

          Reply to Comment
          • Joel


            Take your holier than thou moral narcissism and shove it.

            Now let’s try this again, but now try to stay on point.

            “third countries where they have no friends, family, or other personal connections”

            They have plenty of friends, family or other personal connections in the E.U.

            Jeez. What a tool.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben Zakkai

            I give up Joel, I’m utterly defeated by the force of your logic, by the eloquence of your expression, and, most of all, by the basic human decency that shines through every word you write. Best of luck with that whole Third Temple thing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Well said Ben Zakkai. I sometimes suspect that Anti-Zionist trolls are impersonating Zionists in order to discredit and delegitimise Israel, but I fear that joel and his near-anagram Jello are the genuine article.

            Reply to Comment
          • Elitzur

            Dear Ben,
            without any doubt it is heart breaking when we read the stories of these poor refugees, and I truly mean it as very compassionate person. However, why is it an Israeli problem? Israel has enough problem as it is. This little country at times struggles to accommodate for its own people. Let’s alone the ever growing Arab population. Be serious. Can Israel really do more? Also, who knows what troubles THESE refugees may create as the time goes by. Should Israel really take this chance as well?
            Asking to accommodate refugees from troubled countries means asking for more trouble. After all, charity starts at home, and as far as helping other countries (which by the way would never stand up for Israel), Israel does enough. Somehow, this is never mentioned by EU nor by UN. The African refugee somehow got everybody’s attention.

            Reply to Comment
    2. It was refreshing to see someone other than PedroX be the first to comment here. Is it possible that his usual hasbara would have been in poor taste, even for him? This has been a terrible week for Africans who mistakenly believed they would find sanctuary in the zionist state. It should be obvious to the non-third world countries that the zionist state is only invested in the perpetuation of it’s racist, xenophobic dogma. I wonder how much gentler and kinder Palestine would be? I imagine it would be a much nicer place and hopefully will see that day soon.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jello

      Israel deported them to a safe place where they were not at risk. That they wound up in Libya on their way to Italy was their choice. They certainly were not deported to Libya. The policy is sound. We are under no obligation to absorb them and as long as they will be safe we are within our full rights to deport them. What happens to them as a result of risky gambles they take afterwards is not our problem.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Your ice cold contempt for these people is a sight to see. Wow. No illusions about you. “They are leaving! Period! One way or another!” Yes indeed. And everyone of them refused even a hearing. Wow. With “just enough water.” Don’t ever, ever, preach to us about “the most moral…”

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          That they illegally crossed into my country does not grant them additional concern from me over those that are back in their home countries. I don’t care about either. They are people that illegally entered my country for a better life and I have zero obligation to them. There are rules in place which prevent us from deporting them to their countries but we are entirely within our rights to send them elsewhere where they do not face risk. What they do after they get there is not our problem. We are not their keepers. We are just people whose country they illegally entered. We wish them the best of luck but none of them will find a hone here.

          Reply to Comment
          • “That they illegally crossed into my country does not grant them additional concern from me over those that are back in their home countries. I don’t care about either. They are people that illegally entered my country for a better life and I have zero obligation to them. There are rules in place which prevent us from deporting them to their countries but we are entirely within our rights to send them elsewhere where they do not face risk”

            A few points here.

            1) The Refugee Convention explicitly states that mode of entry does not prejudice asylum hearing. That they entered illegally is in itself irrelevant. One can, however, up border protection to prevent such entry. Once here, though, they must be given hearing. ALMOST NO HEARINGS, FOR ABOUT A DECADE, HAVE BEEN GIVEN.

            2) If there are “rules in place which prevent them from being deported to their countries,” this must be because their home country is seen as threatening to them. This implies that they would fare well in asylum hearing. This implies that the State refuses hearing because the petitioners have a fair chance of succeeding, allowing them legal residence of some kind in Israel. This implies that the Refugee Convention is being violated, for the Convention does not permit further deportation of a true claimant. The reason they are not deported back to their home country is that the Court has said a hearing showing plausible safety therein must be made. Ignoring that Court order really affirms the Court’s doubt.

            3) In general, deporting to a third country does not fulfill Convention obligations, for while Israel can speak for safety in its own land, it cannot in any plausible way guarantee safety in another country. Now the US does similar deportations. For example, from GITMO to South America. But the US has not signed the refugee convention and, in any case, GITMO residents were captured and brought to US jurisdiction, so are not refugees under Convention terms.

            4) The refugee convention was written after WW II when the worst of migration seemed over. Besides providing safe harbor, it also gave signing states a way of regularly deporting refugees back to their now “newly secured” country. It wasn’t meant to deal with the destabilization exodus from parts of Africa. Israel thought it was signing the convention in one world, only to find another world now. But that is the way the law is; it encounters new worlds and must deal with that. If the Knesset formally abrogates the convention the High Court will at best be able only to protect those presently in the country, as they entered, legally or not, under the convention.

            I again warn against relying on Knesset Supremacy only because those you like presently hold a majority (or plurality, at any rate). This may change latter. Rights granted at the whim of a legislature are not rights, for the very idea of a right is check against government, including legislature. Even so, in the present case the Knesset does have final control: just abrogate the treaty. You refrain speaking of this option solely because you want Jews to have protection under the treaty. Really, though, any other State affirming the convention would still have to admit fleeing Jews even if Israel abrogates. As far as I can tell, the sole evident reason for not abrogating is to hide the hypocrisy of the centuries of Jewish need for flight and refuge from Israel’s present failure to provide the same for a closed set of individuals already in the country. And the only for doing so is not really their number, which is negligible for the State; I am left with the uneasy suspicion that right nationalist ideology simply refuses their presence for being non-Jews. Ok. Then say so and abrogate the convention. Easy, honest, public solution. No prison necessary, no exit payment necessary, no High Court battle necessary.

            Interestingly, you say here Israel is “my country” but elsewhere say you live in Canada and are Canadian.

            Reply to Comment
          • Wait–I think Pedro says he’s Canadian, so my bad.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            A few points.

            1) The refugee convention does not apply to people that have crossed multiple states to get to us. They were in no danger in Egypt and came to Israel for economic reasons. We are not going to give hearings to a bunch of work migrants so that they can lie their heads off which they inevitably will.

            2) That their home country is threatening does not imply that we are obligated to grant them asylum or refuge. All we have chosen to accept as a responsibility even if the convention does not apply is to avoid expelling them back to their country. And whether their home country is threatening is questionable.

            3) In general the convention has been hijacked by the UNHCR and has been misinterpreted to mean whatever the most liberal lawyers want it to mean. How the UNHCR chooses to interpret the convention is not relevant to us and is not a part of our laws. By no means was the original intent of the convention to force a country to permanently settle migrant workers and grant them a path to permanent residency or citizenship.

            4) The world has changed somewhat but not too much. In any case the convention does not apply to the Eritreans and Sudanese because they crossed multiple countries in which they were in no danger in order to get here. However, even if we were to go by the word of the convention our obligations are rather limited. We are not obligated to grant them any permanent status, not obligated to allow them to live in Tel Aviv, not obligated to allow them to work, study, or anything else. Were we to put them in housing in the furthest point in the Negev and feed them thrice a day we would be well within the original intent of the convention. Likewise, we can expel them to a third country because that does not in the least contradict the principle of non-refoulement back to their home countries. That liberals in Europe chose to reinterpret the convention to override the immigration policies of their own countries and the will of their own people is not my problem and it is certainly not binding on me.

            The convention does not apply to these people. Even if it did the convention is quite limited to what it actually requires. These people are entirely safe in Israel and they are entirely safe in the countries that Israel deported them to ‘voluntarily’. Our obligations to a convention that does not even apply end there. We have no need to abrogate the convention because the convention as it is is perfectly reasonable. It just happens to be that several European countries and the UNHCR have decided to turn the convention into a blunt instrument for overturning national sovereignty, borders, and immigration laws. We are not going to play according to that game.

            Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        Only a low-life Racist Scumbag would support Israel’s decision to remove “unwanted blacks” and send them to their death in some third world house of horrors…

        Right Wing Fascist Brown-Shirts are just plain DISGUSTING PEOPLE…

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          They are uninvited and unwelcome visitors and our patience with them has expired. They are leaving and they know it and because they know it no more are coming. Europe is going to figure this out sooner or later.

          Reply to Comment
          • Proud Miza Jew

            You are a disgrace to Judaism, a defiler of the Holocaust and bastardize persecution. You make the Nazis look like humanitarians. They too deported ‘unwanted’ or UNDESIRABLES who they were ‘fed up’ with; who later would be executed,left to drown or left to die at the mercy of others.

            We Jews who haven’t forgotten our morals are also fed up. We are fed up with you Israelis.

            Reply to Comment
      • Dave

        i really hope that u can say that to God on the judgement day.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          Yes, yes, Jesus’ feelings are hurt. Woe upon me.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Lo

      Here in the Greatest Country On Earth ™ we have our own problem with refugees fleeing state collapse and quotidian brutality. We also have those who say they deserve no compassion because they are simply “economic migrants.”

      The difference is that we know those people as “xenophobic idiots” over here, whereas they appear to be in major positions of power over there. Where our authoritarian/xenophobic bloc is slowly dying due to the shift in public consensus and demographics, yours is in its ascendancy.

      There were so many opportunities for our best little buddy in the Middle East to see the terrible things we did and choose to do differently. Instead, they took our history of cruelty and adapted it for the 21st century.

      915 Jews aboard the MS St. Louis were eventually killed by the Nazis after they were denied entry by the nations of the world. Now, another 900 people have died and again there are those who would coldly turn the shoulder and rationalize.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Sheikh Yahudi

      This story sounds like a complete hoax. Seriously, what are the odds?

      Reply to Comment
    6. GilGamesh

      As per usual the only interest in the the welfare of these refugees is dependent on whether their plight can be used to somehow bash Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Tosca Z

      Well, I can see who Australia is taking its refugee policies from! We’re only one step away from Israel’s ruthless policies. Shame on Israel, a nation built on refugees, many of whom at first were taken in by the very people they have displaced. They say that the oppressed often become just like their oppressors. I doubted that, but Israel shows that it is too true.

      Reply to Comment
      • New Relic

        “Shame on Israel, a nation built on refugees, many of whom at first were taken in by the very people they have displace”

        Wow, in one sentence you make two astonishingly false claims

        Making up facts,does little to help your cause.

        Reply to Comment
      • GilGamesh

        Australia keeps refugees on an island offshore and doesn’t allow them to even get in. I love how you blame Israel for what your country does. Oh and when are you giving back that stolen land to the Aborigines. too funny. the colonizer from down under criticizing Israel.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Click here to load previous comments