A group of Israeli Holocaust survivors has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the planned deportation of tens of thousands of African asylum seekers.
In a letter sent to the prime minister on Thursday, the 36 survivors called on the prime minister to make a “historic decision” and reverse the controversial deportation plan, according to the Haaretz daily.
“Under your leadership, Israel has set itself the goal of reminding the world of the lessons of the Holocaust. So we ask you: Stop this process! Only you have the authority to take the historic decision, and to show the world that the Jewish state will not allow suffering and torture of people under its protection.”
They added, “Do the Jewish thing, like [former premier] Menachem Begin, who accepted refugees from the Vietnam War, and gave those asylum seekers life.
“As Jews, whom the world turned its back on in our most difficult time, we have a special obligation not to remain indifferent, and to prevent the expulsion of asylum seekers,” they said. “The state must grant them a safe haven and not send them to their deaths in a foreign country.”
There are approximately 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20% are Sudanese, and the vast majority arrived between 2006 and 2012. Many live in south Tel Aviv, and some residents and activists blame them for rising crime rates and have lobbied the government for their deportation.
Last month, the Knesset approved an amendment to the so-called “Infiltrator’s Law” mandating the closure of the Holot detention facility and the forced deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants and asylum seekers starting in March.
In November, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the country could accept approximately 10,000 asylum seekers from Israel. Israel will reportedly pay $5,000 to the Rwandan government for each deported migrant, plus a $3,500 “leaving grant” directly to the person being deported.
Previously, Rwanda and Uganda accepted about 4,000 migrants and asylum seekers who signed a document saying they had “willingly left” Israel, but until now the countries have not accepted any asylum seekers who were deported against their will.