$3,500 inducement, pressure to leave, harsh conditions are spurring detainees to go, says one.
By Ilan Lior | Feb. 19, 2014 | 2:17 AM | 5
Israel has begun to send African asylum seekers to Uganda, according to a senior government official who said that over the past month, dozens of asylum seekers have agreed to leave Israel for Uganda, and some have already left. The Population and Immigration Authority declined several requests from Haaretz to respond on the matter and no other official confirmation was forthcoming.
Haaretz has obtained information that a Sudanese citizen who had been detained at the Saharonim detention center flew to Uganda, where he was reunited with his family. The man called his friends in Israel and said there were six other asylum seekers from Sudan with him on the flight, all of whom had been released from Saharonim. The man also said he had received a grant of $3,500 for leaving the country, which is in keeping with the government’s “voluntary departure” procedure.
The state does not deport citizens of Eritrea because of danger to their lives in that country, nor does it deport the Sudanese, because Israel has no diplomatic relations with Sudan. But it does exert heavy pressure on people from those countries to leave.
In June of 2013, the state told the High Court of Justice that it had reached an arrangement with a third country that would agree to accept asylum seekers from Africa, but would not reveal the name of the country. Senior officials confirmed that the country was Uganda; however, the state would not discuss the agreement and the Ugandan government denied the existence of such an agreement.
Asylum seekers incarcerated at Saharonim or at the Holot detention facility say representatives of the Population and Immigration Authority are pressuring them to sign “voluntary departure” forms and are specifically mentioning the possibility of moving to Uganda. “Somebody from the Interior Ministry is going around here and asking if anyone wants to go back,” a detainee at Holot said on Wednesday. The detainee said the harsh conditions at the facility and the pressure are leading some people to agree to leave Israel despite their fears. ...
Meanwhile, Sa’ar said there has been a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers from Africa leaving the country under what is known as the voluntary departure procedure. Speaking at the “voluntary departure unit” that the Population and Immigration Authority recently opened in Eilat, Sa’ar said that this month some 1,500 asylum seekers would be leaving, as opposed to 765 in January, 325 in December and 63 in November.
“The number of people leaving every month recalls the number of infiltrators who were coming in at the height of the illegal infiltration,” Sa’ar said. He added that the sharp rise in departures was due to the new law against illegal entry, summonses to the Holot detention facility, the prohibition against employing illegal migrants and increasing the grant the asylum seekers receive on departure from $1,500 to $3,500. He said the figures were encouraging the ministry to continue its policy.
According to the Population and Immigration Authority, as of September 2013 there were 53,646 asylum seekers from Africa in Israel, among them 35,987 Eritreans, 13,249 Sudanese and 4,400 people from other countries.
According to the cabinet decision, all asylum seekers from Africa who leave the country by the end of the month via the “voluntary departure” procedure will receive a $3,500 grant.
The Population and Immigration Authority reported on Wednesday that two Sudanese citizens crossed the border at night from Egypt to Israel. Since the beginning of 2014, 12 Africans have crossed into Israel. All have been incarcerated for one year in Saharonim, in keeping with the amendment to the law on illegal entry to Israel. ...
In contrast, in the United States, from the New York Times:
By DAVID BORNSTEIN
Earlier this month, John Boehner declared that it was unlikely that the House of Representatives would pass major immigration reform legislation this year. Given the desperate need for an overhaul of the system, the political gridlock is dismaying. But thankfully it’s not the whole immigration story.
While Congress is locked in ideological battle, an incipient “welcoming” movement is taking root around the country as elected officials and community leaders are increasingly adopting “welcoming plans,” forming “welcoming committees” and issuing “welcoming resolutions” — to attract immigrants and improve relationships between newcomers and those who receive them.
Historically, efforts to assist immigrants have tended to focus on services and overlook the relationship-building process. “If you think of an immigrant as a seed making its way to a new garden, we’ve traditionally focused on the seed, but not on the soil,” says David Lubell, the founder of Welcoming America, a network that has helped to define, galvanize and spread this movement.
(Here's their Our Supporters page.)
“You need to focus on both the immigrant community and the receiving community.” ...
We often think of diversity as a good in and of itself. But diversity is hard. The political scientist Robert Putnam has observed that residents of ethnically diverse neighborhoods tend to “hunker down” and develop lower levels of altruism and trust. To turn around this state of affairs takes deliberate effort; it doesn’t happen by itself. People have to get to know — and come to like or respect — individuals from different ethnic or religious groups. Then they become more positively predisposed towards those groups as a whole. Putnam calls this the “My pal Al effect,” and he notes that it hinges on having encounters with people who are different from you (pdf).
In other words, the problems caused by immigration aren't reasons to limit immigration, they are reasons for David Lubell-types from the Kennedy School at Harvard to be given NGO jobs to be paid to shame the natives into not using their Constitutional rights to vote against more immigration.