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Israel deports 14 Eritrean asylum-seekers

July 15, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • During a protest outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, an Eritrean immigrant calls for granting refugee status to African immigrants who made their way into Israel.
During a protest outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem,… (Jim Hollander / EPA )

JERUSALEM -- Israel quietly returned 14 Eritrean refugees back to their restive African country and is planning to send home as many as 200 more in the coming days, refugee-rights groups said Monday.

Israeli officials declined to comment directly on the 14 cases Monday, but the Interior Ministry said in a statement that all refugees who are repatriated have signed voluntary consent forms and agreed to go home.

Activists for the refugees say the practice may not be legal because refugees appear to have been threatened and pressured, according to Reut Michaeli, executive director of the Tel Aviv-based Hotline for Migrant Workers.

She said 1,800 Eritreans refugees are currently being held in Israeli jails and detention centers in the Negev desert, with only limited access to legal or humanitarian groups. Most were taken to prison after crossing the Egyptian border.

She said the refugees have been told that unless they agree to return to Eritrea, they will remain in prison under harsh conditions.

Eritrea is one of Africa’s poorest nations, grappling with food shortages and an authoritarian regime that is widely accused of violating human rights.

Israel has cracked down over the past year on the growing flood of African refugees and migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea.

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