lunedì 18 aprile 2011

Urgent Appeal: lives of Asylum Seekrs under Immidiate Risk

Dear all,

We apologize for addressing you on the Eve of Pesach, but the matter is of utmost urgency. Testimonies received by both PHR Israel and the Hotline for Migrant Workers raise grave concern to the lives of 40 asylum seekers from Eritrea. We urge you to pressure your Israeli colleagues to ensure their safety and in by no circumstances return them to Egypt.

Background: A few days ago, a group of around 50 asylum seekers from Eritrea, including a few women, two of whom were with children, arrived to the Egyptian-Israeli border. According to testimonies, after they passed to the Israeli side, the IDF soldiers returned them to the Egyptian side, allowing only 2 women and their children in leaving the husband of one behind.

At a certain stage, the members of the group of asylum seekers (around 40, including 13 women) sat on the ground and refused to go back to Egypt – this for two days. 6 men and 2 women left the rest of the group who were too exhausted to make the jouney. 2 of the men decided to go towards Egypt. Shortly after they left the other 6, shots were heard. The other six (four other men and the 2 women) reached the city of Eilat (Israel). Those who stayed by the border were left without food or water, while the region is under a heat wave. No water or food were offered by the soldiers who pushed them.

Various sources, including UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have published reports on the situation of asylum seekers which are pushed back to Egypt by Israel. Last week the US State Department Human Rights Report also referred to theur situation. All the reports indicate that Egypt denies access of returned asylum seekers to the UNHCR-sponsored asylum system in Egypt, and deports them back to their countries of origin without assessing their protection needs and against international law and the princple of non-refoulement. Additionally, the reports indicate that persons pushed back to Egypt are held in inhuman prison conditions.

This is done in blunt contradiction to the State’s commitments to the Israeli High Court of Justice (March 30th 2011) that as of the beginning of March there is no “coordinated return [of asylum seekers]” as there is no one on the Egyptian side, to coordinate such return with.

While the IDF refuses to relate to the fate of the group, it confirmed that they indeed allocated the group last week.

We urge you to demand clear answers from Israeli authorities as to the fate of the group on the border and urge them to:

· Make sure that the asylum seekers will not be returned to Egypt,
· Ensure their access to the Israeli asylum system.
· Ensure their swift access to adequate medical care and shelter.

Physicians for Human Right-Israel and the Hotline for Migrant Workers
For further details: Hadas Ziv, PHR Israel 054-6623232, or Shahar Shoham 054-9431847

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