The Jerusalem District court of appeals, which hears appeals regarding status of residency in Israel, presented the state with an exceptional and unusual decision on Tuesday recommending the expulsion of all Eritrean asylum seekers back to their country
"Regardless of their political position as supporters or opponents of the regime," the decision read.
The court's ruling was given during the hearing of a 44-year-old Eritrean citizen who appealed the Population and Immigration Authority's decision not to grant him a refugee status.
The appellant infiltrated Israel in 2009 after he deserted the Eritrean army and asked to be recognized as a refugee fleeing persecution by the authorities in his country.
The Immigration Authority rejected his request about a year ago on the grounds that "desertion or evasion of military service does not constitute grounds for political persecution and therefore does not constitute grounds for recognizing deserters as refugees."
The judge based his decision on the "the raging crime committed by infiltrators on the streets and the helplessness of the judicial system in bringing them to face criminal charges."
"The solutions proposed by the state so far (Saharonim detention facility, expelling Eritreans to a third country, the Deposit Law, and the UN proposition) have failed," the judge added.
As for infiltrators from Sudan, the judge said he has no intention of discussing their status" in the framework of this hearing."
The judge also stated that the courts ruling is reinforced by a change in the political-regional circumstances (Eritrea-Ethiopia peace deal signed last month), the reduction of the length of the Eritrean national service to 18 months, and the ruling of the Federal Court of Switzerland (issued on July 10) which stated that approving the expulsion of Eritreans infiltrators back to their country.
According to the judge, in light of reports regarding the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the new restriction on the Eritrean national service, now "the door is open and the time is ripe for a change in the Israeli policy. The government should order the expulsion of Eritreans back to their country, as long as the state denied their asylum application."
The judge ruled that the Refugee Convention's clauses do not apply to this case, since the asylum seeker failed to submit evidence showing otherwise.
However, the Population and Migration Authority emphasized that the appellant will continue to benefit from the temporary group protection given to all Eritrean citizens residing in Israel, including army and national service deserters, in accordance with the "non-refoulement" principle and in light of the decision to recognize Eritrea as a country in a state of crisis.
Yonathan Yaakobovich, director of activities at the Israeli Immigration Policy Center, praised the decision and said that "this is an important ruling that confirms what we have known for years—there is no justification for their stay in Israel, and most of the infiltrators can, in fact, return to their country…one can only hope that this ruling will restore some common sense to Israel's asylum system."
Human rights organizations, including the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, strongly criticized the decision.
"The judge decided to share his own political doctrine and launch an unprecedented attack on the rulings of the Supreme Court and the government," they said.
"The judge's decisions and recommendations are based on false reports and unverified theories, since the Eritrean regime has yet to address recent reports about the new restriction posed on the length of the army service.
"Forced recruitment is still taking place in Eritrea, as the Swiss embassy in Israel explained, contrary to reports; Switzerland does not expel Eritreans to their homeland.
"In addition, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the National Security Council made it clear that Israel cannot deport Eritreans to their homeland since their life are in danger in Eritrea," the organizations concluded.
A member of the Tel Aviv Residents Center, Shefi Paz said in response to the ruling: "the way I see it, the judge is the boy who came out against the lies and political correctness and said that the emperor has no clothes, for many years we have been saying exactly that—send them home…On August 30, on the anniversary of the Prime Minister's promises to the residents of South Tel Aviv and the citizens of the state, we will hold a large demonstration at the same spot."