WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressional delegation urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week to release African asylum seekers being detained in an Israeli prison.
In a letter sent to the premier on Tuesday, 11 Democrats who recently visited the Jewish state said “there is no legal justification for deportation” of the roughly 280 asylum seekers from African countries, mostly Sudan and Eritrea, being held in the Saharonim prison in southern Israel.
Israel’s Border Authority jailed the asylum seekers last month, after they refused deportation to a third-party country. The Israeli government has said it intends to to force the migrants to choose between jail and deportation.
“We hope that these detainees will be released before the Passover holiday and that durable solutions, including in Israel, can be found,” said the letter, which was orchestrated by Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The US lawmakers insisted the issue was “a matter of our shared values” between the US and Israel. The letter was sent one day after they met with Netanyahu on Monday.
The missive was signed by California Reps. Adam Schiff and Jimmy Pancetta, Connecticut Reps. Jim Himes and Rosa DeLaura, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, Texas Rep. Henry Cueller, Virginia Rep. Donald McEachi, and New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
The group also visited Jordan and Afghanistan while in the region this week.