OTTAWA (CCN) — Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has written Immigration Minister John McCallum, asking him to lift the cap of 350 private refugee sponsorships from Israel.
“Today, about 42,000 African refugees and asylum seekers are living in Israel, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan,” said the July letter from the social justice policy think-tank, signed by board chair Rev. James C. Dekker and executive director Joe Gunn. “Israel’s policies of detention and deportation combined with the lack of stable legal status and restricted access to economic and social rights means that these individuals are living in constant fear and uncertainty without safety and security.”
Until last year, there was no cap for Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) on receiving refugees from Israel. CPJ is urging Canada to return to the previous system.
“Hundreds of Canadians that are interested in sponsoring refugees from Israel have been told by SAHs to return in 2018, as the waiting lists of interested applicants far exceeds the number of places,” the letter said.
CPJ said Israel’s policies toward African refugees “have significantly deteriorated.”
“While Israel has implemented policies of prolonged detention since 2012, over the last two years Israeli authorities have been using detention to encourage refugee detainees to ‘consent’ to ‘voluntary’ deportation, either to their home or third countries such as Uganda and Rwanda,” the letter said. “Israel has completed secret agreements with Uganda and Rwanda, reportedly selling weapons and providing money in return for the commitment to take in refugees from Israel.”
CPJ noted UNHCR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said a consent to be deported cannot be considered voluntary when prison is threatened. It also pointed to reports of harassment and violence when these refugees arrive at the third countries, prompting many to consider dangerous travel to Europe and elsewhere.
“Instead of detention and deportation, many of these refugees could be privately sponsored to Canada,” CPJ wrote. “Eritreans in Israel have a strong network in Canada, both of family and friends who are now residents and citizens of Canada.”