Asylum seekers head for Israel

Update January 12, 2010: Israel will build barrier along border with Egypt, here.

Update January 2, 2010: Israel’s African refugees keep coming, here.

Update November 29, 2009: Israel setting up asylum process for refugees, here.

Update October 20th: A million refugees are trying to sneak across Israel’s border from Africa, here.

Update July 4th:   Israeli government taking a larger role in dealing with asylees and refugees, here.

This is not a story about Gaza, for once. But the lesson is similar: Israel getting the short end of the stick because it tries to treat people decently, as it did when it evacuated Israelis from Gaza and turned over thriving greenhouse businesses, only to be rewarded with a constant barrage of rocket attacks.

In this case, Israel is a better deal for asylum seekers than Egypt, so it  has thousands of would-be migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and other African countries going through Egypt and trying to enter Israel via the porous border between Egypt’s Sinai Desert and Israel. (Israel captured Sinai from Egypt in the Six-Day War but gave it back as part of the peace agreement between those two countries.)

The article in Egypt Today that recounts this is too long and complicated to summarize here, but the points I want to highlight are these:

Israel has thousands of African migrants already, and does not want to absorb any more. Check out this map of the Middle East to see one reason why. Israel is that tiny little sliver of yellow on the Mediterranean coast.

Israel is trying to work with Egypt to stop the border crossings. Egypt appears to be trying to solve the problem by shooting some of the people who try to cross. This doesn’t sit well with human rights groups, and doesn’t prevent more people from crossing.

Egypt used to be a desirable place for refugees, but is no longer because of a deteriorating economy and changes in policy by both the UN agency and Egypt’s government. Egypt’s constitution grants every foreigner the right of asylum, but is not living up to that promise (a pretty foolish promise, but there it is).

Here’s a point that we will be hearing more about, I’m sure.

The UNHCR budget is dependent on donor countries, and given the dire economic situation in many parts of the world, some donors are redirecting funds.

More chaos to come. And here’s a brief point that deserves a much more thorough treatment. The asylum seekers in this article are not groups of displaced people. They are economic migrants for the most part. They come from countries that have been devastated by war and political tyranny. Most importantly, the traditional social systems of these countries have been destroyed. We see two results of this here: First, when there is economic hardship, there is no organic, traditional safety net so people have to look for solutions apart from their own nonexistent social group. Second, the societies are so atomized that there is little feeling of belonging, sometimes even of belonging to a family. People become atoms, drifting around on their own and “free” to do whatever they want. They are free to migrate to alien lands in search of a better life. As chaos in the world increases, this fragmentation of societies increases, increasing the chaos in an ever-worsening spiral.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply