Israel Asylum Seekers Wonder: Next Year in Jerusalem?

Passover is all about the persecution of the Jewish people in Egypt, and their flight to freedom across the Sinai. It is sadly ironic that, on the eve of this important holiday of freedom, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior is issuing deportation letters to Africans who fled across Egypt and into Israel. While the Ministry of the Interior is not threatening to deport Eritreans and Sudanese back to the oppressive regimes from which they fled, it is wrong to threaten them with deportation to an undisclosed location in Africa.

I am confident that the Israeli courts will not let such an opaque and cruel deportation process stand. However, it is frightening that the Ministry is even telling Africans that they will be deported. This action is as puzzling as it is troubling, as the border fence has reduced the number of unauthorized entries to zero. The argument that this policy is necessary to discourage new entrants is discernible fallacious.

The stated intention of the Ministry of the Interior is to make the African migrants so uncomfortable that they leave on their own. While in most other countries, Eritreans are granted asylum more often than any other nationality, the dysfunctional Israeli asylum system has an approval rate of zero percent. This has discouraged Eritreans and Sudanese from even asking Israel for asylum.

It would be so much more appropriate for Passover for the Israeli government to give its African migrants a haggadah and a genuine opportunity to apply for political asylum. Instead, the Ministry is giving them a letter telling them they have a choice: to accept deportation to an unnamed third country or to go to prison in Israel.

Maybe next year in Jerusalem, the government will start treating the African asylum seekers as human beings, as working taxpayers, as asylum seekers, as free people, and not as infiltrators. Let's pray for that at the seder table.

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post on April 3, 2015

Follow Mark Hetfield on Twitter: @MarkJHetfield

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