By Eddie Gerald
Around 40,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers in Israel are facing the risk of being forcibly deported from the country.
One of those migrants is Halofom Sultan from Eritrea who had to flee his country, leaving behind his wife and two children as his life was in danger.
Sultan first went to Ethiopia – with which his country was at war at that time – and later to war-torn Sudan after paying $3500 to human traffickers.
From there, he had two ways-out; either to go to Europe from Libya after crossing the dangerous Sahara Desert, or going to Israel via Egypt, an option taken by his traffickers.
“My choice was to leave Sudan at that time,” Sultan said. “I went to Israel some way,” he said, without going into details.
The 34-year-old Eritrean said he had fled his country after being detained and threatened with death for taking part in anti-government protests.
Sultan says that he has faced “discrimination and hatred” from Israeli authorities.
"Most of the Israelis are not against refugees. I do not face hatred from public, but from the government and police,” he said.
“Some people, who are supported by the government, hate refugees, especially black Africans," he said.
Israeli authorities offer $3,500 and a ticket to each refugee to leave the country willingly or face imprisonment. Refugees, who do not agree to leave Israel by March 31, will be put behind bars.
According to Israel’s African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), most of those who will be deported have escaped massacres in countries as Eritrea and Sudan between 2006 and 2012.
Since 2012, Israel has deported about 20,000 African migrants and asylum-seekers who illegally entered the country.
Out of 13,764 asylum applications submitted as of July, only 10 Eritreans and one Sudanese national were granted official refugee status.
Daesh or being ‘Enslaved’
Many African migrants are afraid that they will be killed if they are deported to their home countries.
“One person who was deported from Israel was killed by Daesh in Libya, while others were turned into slaves,” said Sultan, who worked as a construction worker for a long time in Israel.
Sultan is now working at a public education center established for Eritrean refugees in Israel. His duty is to organize the refugees to act together.
But he is not able to help his own family. After he left Eritrea, pressure on his family has increased and his wife and children also had to escape. Now, they are in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
“I prefer to go to prison. I will be alive at least,” Sultan said.