Israel Set to Deport 2,000 Ivory Coast Asylum-Seekers

Dana Weiler-Polak and Maya Lecker, Haaretz, January 18, 2012

Bernard Abett sat in his spacious living room in Tel Aviv watching an African television channel he receives via satellite dish. A Christmas tree still stood in the room, whose matching furniture made clear that this wasn’t a temporary residence.

“I didn’t come here to stay,” Abett said. “I have a home, and it’s in Ivory Coast. That’s where my heart is, and that’s where I’ll return. But right now, my life is in danger.”

Abett came to Israel in 1997 in search of financial opportunity. In 2000, having found nothing but cleaning jobs, he decided to go home. But then Ivory Coast’s civil war erupted and Abett decided he was safer here. Like other Ivorians, he could do so because the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had granted Ivorians collective protection from deportation while the unrest in their country continued.

But three weeks ago, the Population and Immigration Authority announced that this group protection would expire at the end of January, because the fighting had ended, and the Foreign Ministry had determined that refugees could return safely. It advised the 2,000 Ivorians in the country to prepare to leave within a month, adding that if they didn’t leave voluntarily, they would be deported come February.

The authority justified this extremely short notice on the grounds that it had warned Ivorians to prepare for departure back in May, even though at that time it didn’t specify a deadline.

Abett, who lives here with his girlfriend and her 3-year-old daughter, said he heard about the planned deportation only on January 10, when he paid his monthly visit to the authority to get his visa renewed.

“They told me this was the last time,” he said. “I was very surprised, because they always said the state was discussing the matter but there’s no decision. And after years, you don’t expected to be told one morning, ‘Pack up, you have only 20 days left.’“

This isn’t nearly enough time, he added, because people have to give notice to their employers and their landlord, “and the late notice will cost us thousands of shekels that we won’t get [from our employers].”

Abett believes most Ivorians will nevertheless depart by the deadline, for fear of arrest. But while UNHCR and human rights organizations say that Ivorians from the country’s north—where Ivory Coast’s new president comes from—generally feel safe returning, members of certain southern tribes identified with the former president are still at risk.

“A few months ago, my brother was kidnapped and killed because he was a political activist,” Abett said. “Immediately afterward, my mother and sister fled because they feared for their lives. I’m not politically active but, because of my brother, they might hunt down everyone in the family to get revenge. In the coming days, I’ll apply for asylum in the hope that they’ll understand my situation.”

UNHCR says it is not currently encouraging refugees to return to Ivory Coast. At a meeting of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers last week, Sharon Harel of UNHCR said that, while the situation in Ivory Coast has definitely improved, there are still reports of severe human rights violations there.

Moreover, she said, in previous cases where collective protection was ended, Israel generally gave people a year’s notice—time enough to wind down their affairs in an orderly fashion.

But Israel is not the first to begin repatriation. UN data shows that Norway and Sweden began repatriating Ivorians in June 2011 and, since August, UNHCR itself has signed agreements to voluntarily repatriate Ivorians with the governments of Liberia, Ghana, Guinea and Togo—though not Israel. Altogether, UNHCR expects some 50,000 Ivorians to return this year.

Over the past year, 24 percent of Ivorians who sought asylum in Europe on an individual basis received it, compared to only 0.1 percent of those who did so in Israel over the past three years. Germany, for instance, approved 10 out of 45 asylum applications in 2011; Spain approved 30 out of 115; and England, which isn’t yet repatriating Ivorians, approved 20 out of 130. Israel, in contrast, approved only two out of 1,500 requests in 2009-2011.

Hundreds of asylum requests

Yapi Yves-Cesaire came to Israel in 1996. He met and married his wife, a fellow Ivorian, here and they now have two children—Yafit and Ariel. “We had no doubt their names would be Israeli,” he said. “They are part of the country that protected us and treated us well. And that’s how we’d like to end it—but only once it’s safe.”

His parents were killed during the fighting in 2000, and more recently his sister was badly injured. “She was in the village when the new president’s army came,” he explained. “Because he’s from the north, and knows our southern village supported the former president, his people attacked anyone who dared to open their mouth, including her. Today, she and my brother are in Ghana, and nobody is thinking of returning until we know for sure the situation has improved . . . Two of my friends who returned in 2009 were killed there. I don’t want that to be our future.”

But the short notice is a problem for those southerners who want to request asylum, because the department that approves asylum applications has only nine employees and will have trouble reviewing the expected hundreds of applications in a mere 20 to 30 days.

Nor is danger the only problem. Amido Kita, who has been here since 2008, is currently suing the hotel where he worked for three years over unpaid wages. The case is slated to be heard in May, but if the Population Authority has its way, he won’t be here. “I worked for three years without being paid, and if they deport me I’ll never get my pay and my rights, which are worth hundreds of thousands of shekels,” he said. “I just want them to let me attend the hearing, and once I get the money I’ll leave Israel. I didn’t come here to stay, but only to escape Ivory Coast.”

The Hotline for Migrant Workers asked the authority to let Kita and 23 other Ivorians in special circumstances stay for another few months, but the authority rejected all the applications collectively, without studying each one individually, and without offering any reason for its decision. The hotline now plans to appeal the decision to the courts, as it “mainly serves unjust employers who broke the law and didn’t pay their workers,” said its attorney, Asaf Weitzen. “This decision also gives these employers an incentive to continue breaking the law.”

The Population Authority declined to explain why it rejected the applications for extra time, how the asylum requests could be processed in time or why it doesn’t just extend the deadline for everyone. Ivorians, it said, were given “orderly notice back in May” and should have used the time to prepare. Any individual request for an extension or exemption “will be studied,” it said.

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  • Meanwhile, their brothers are the driving force behind the importation of the same fecal-colored beings into America.

  • Marcy Fleming

    Nonsense, they have had hundreds of thousands of Africans and Asians lingering there for years after they cut off all the Palestinian workers over a decade ago.

  • Anonymous

    Good for the Israelis.  They are race realists and unapologetic about it.  Jewish or not, people in this country can learn a lot from them. 

    • Marcy Fleming

      No, they are hypocrites because 25% of Israel is Non-Jewish while only 1.58% of the US
      is Jewish and they would be the first to protest a Christian or Gentile State here.

      • Anonymous

        Correct! Jewish lawyers and politicians in the UK/US would be up in arms at just the thought of adopting this policy, let alone carrying it out.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile the US continues to allow thousands of El Salvadorans to continue to “temporarily” live here because of an earthquake that happened in that country back in 2001 I believe.

  • Mark

    Virtually every single Jewish member in Congress voted for this amnesty. The Washington Post estimates the Senate is 13 percent Jewish and Congress 8 percent Jewish while the American population as a whole is only 2 percent Jewish. Only 1 Jewish Congressman voted against the DREAM Act amnesty: Virginia congressman Eric Cantor, who represents Culpepper, and has to pretend to be a “conservative” to be in the Republican leadership in the House.

    • Anonymous

      American Renaissance is expressly anti antisemitic. Take your Jew Bashing elsewhere. Jewish Americans are among the most ethnically and culturally conscious Americans. They have also contributed massively (and as you point out, disproportionate to their numbers) to our culture. America fought Nazism and Fascism to liberate European Jewry, and had a great part in establishing Israel. Show some respect.

  • Marcy Fleming

    False, that’s the old discredited Joan Peters’ fraud. See Blaming The Victim by Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens, Verso, 1988.
    The Zionists from 1880s onward had a policy of buying no Arab produce and hiring no Arab labor. There were already three quarters of a million Arabs in Palestine around 1900. They had no need to rush in.

  • Marcy Fleming

    Your right, Navy, except the Arabs don’t benefit from the Israeli economy.

  • Marcy Fleming

    Who cares what Bloomberg thinks about anything ?

    • All of the MSM, who invite him on their shows on a regular basis to promote his open borders agenda.

  • Anonymous

    Cheer up, these secular people you call “Jews who hold American citizenship” already consider Israel to be a racist entity & in a generation will no longer have a Jewish identity but will be your garden variety White Atheist. 

    • Anonymous

      Atheist & white skin maybe, but very near sighted and more like to have Tay-Sachs or Gaucher Disease.  Although this tribe loudly proclaims there atheism they are in fact some of the most zealous evangelicals for the church of forced diversity.   

  • Afoster477

    Actually, nearly half of the Jews in Israel are refugees from Muslim countries, where they had lived for centuries. 

  • Anonymous

    Mmmm… Israel as a model for how to treat immigrants – or, for that matter ANYONE – I don’t think so!

  • Why aren’t there any AFRICAN countries who are rescuing their black brethren from the horrors of civil war? Certainly said refugees would be more comfortable among their own, then they are among the “racist”, “colonialist”, and “white supremacist” White people who supposedly do nothing but exploit them, discriminate against them, and make them feel “inferior”!

    These people would be much more comfortable, while they were waiting for their countries to return to “normal”, in an environment with people like themselves. Western countries have enough problems already!

    PEACE AND FREEDOM!!