UN warns Israel that deporting Eritreans en masse is unlawful

UN warns Israel that deporting Eritreans en masse is unlawful
2 min read
05 September, 2023
After a demonstration by Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers outside their country's embassy in Israel turned violent, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to deport all those involved, something the UN says is unlawful.
Over a dozen Eritreans protesters were injured by Israeli police [Getty]

The UN urged Israel on Tuesday to refrain from mass deportations of Eritreans following weekend clashes involving asylum seekers, warning it would "contravene international law" and could have dire human consequences.

The United Nations refugee agency said it was "deeply concerned" by the clashes that erupted on Saturday when a demonstration against an Eritrean government event turned violent, injuring over 200 people.

The clashes began when hundreds of anti-government Eritreans came to prevent the event from taking place in Tel Aviv, the commercial centre of Israel.

"UNHCR calls for calm and restraint, and on all parties to refrain from taking any steps that could aggravate the situation further," William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.

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While stressing that it was "important to establish accountability" for the events, he warned Israel against taking broad measures against Eritreans in the country.

"Any decision impacting all Eritrean asylum-seekers, or instances of refoulement would contravene international law," he said.

Collective punishment is banned under international law, as is refoulment, or returning someone to a country where they could face torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

His comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country was considering deporting 1,000 Eritreans who took part in the clashes.

Stressing that the situation in Eritrea, considered one of the world's most authoritarian states, "remains unchanged", Spindler warned that sending people back there "could result in dramatic human consequences".

He insisted that "the vast majority of asylum-seekers living in Israel are peaceful and law-abiding".

"The incidents on September 2 are deeply regrettable, and do not reflect the behaviour of the broader Eritrean community in Israel."