On and on it goes. NGO rescue boats pick up the african men from the congo, niger, somalia, everywhere but syria, and drag them to Italy. Italy will die if they dont mount an offensive. Rather than drag them 250 miles to Italy, drag them the 10 miles back to Libya!

Africans Leaving Israel Under Secret Deals Arrive On Europe’s Shores

In the first part of our series ‘Scattered from Israel,’ Gaelle Faure reports on the asylum seekers who were coerced to leave Israel for destinations in Africa, but, dismayed by their treatment there, risked their lives to take dangerous sea voyages to Europe.

WRITTEN BYGaëlle Faure PUBLISHED ONApr. 11, 2017 READ TIMEApprox. 8 minutes
Israel africa eritrea migrants
African asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea, take part in a protest against Israel’s deportation policy in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 26, 2017.AFP/GALI TIBBON

PARIS – It became clear to Arzer* in the spring of 2014 that Israel would never grant him refugee status.

The 33-year-old Eritrean had been living in Israel for more than eight years, working as a cook in Tel Aviv, when he received a summons to report to Holot detention center for asylum seekers in the Negev desert.

Arzer knew all about Holot. Many of his friends were detained there. Though they could wander the desert during the daytime, in every other way it was just like a prison. So Arzer went into hiding. Unable to leave the house, his money soon ran out and the stress got to him.

Going back to Eritrea was not an option. Arzer fled the dictatorship in the country after being imprisoned and beaten for voicing a political opinion; he was only able to escape because he knew one of the prison guards.

Living in hiding in Israel, Arzer felt like he was in prison again. He decided that his only option was to take up the Israeli government’s offer to “voluntarily depart” for an unnamed African country.

That journey turned out to be just the beginning. Now in France, Arzer is among the asylum seekers pushed to leave Israel who quickly find themselves on the road again, taking more and more dangerous routes to find refuge.

‘Voluntary Departures’

While Israel has signed the U.N. Refugee Convention, it is almost impossible for the approximately 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in the country to get refugee status. Only six Eritrean nationals and one Sudanese have been granted asylum since Africans started coming to Israel in large numbers in the mid-2000s.

The rest live in a legal limbo, with temporary visas that they must frequently renew or risk being sent to prison. They are officially referred to as “infiltrators.”

Israel’s government uses a carrot-and-stick approach to encourage asylum seekers to leave the country voluntarily.

The stick is detaining asylum seekers in Holot. Next month, Israel also plans to start withholding 20 percent of asylum seekers’ wages – which are already typically low – to be paid if and when they leave Israel.

African asylum seekers lean at the fence of the Holot detention centre in Israel's southern Negev Desert, on February 17, 2014. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)