ENTC writes Israel to Free Ethiopian refugees

Ethiopian National Transitional Council
October 29, 2012
Prime Minister’s Office
3 Kaplan Street
P.O.Box 187
Kiryat Ben-Gurion Jerusalem 91919
Re: The Detentions and Status of the Ethiopian refugees in Israel.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
The Ethiopian National Transitional Council (ENTC) is a grassroots advocacy movement
working for the establishment of a Democratic, Free and Just society in Ethiopia. The
Transitional Council has several chapters throughout the world including one in Israel.
ENTC is deeply saddened to hear from its chapter in Israel that the actions of the Israeli
Government and especially the Israeli Ministry of Interior that has resulted in the unjust
detention and deportation of several Ethiopian Refugees.
Most Ethiopians admire and look as an example Israel’s rise out of centuries of Jewish
persecution, its current democratic tradition and its fierce determination to defend itself
from hostile neighbors. The Ethiopian and Israeli people have relations that go back
centuries. Ethiopia’s strategic role in East Africa and Israel’s security concerns in the
greater Middle East region makes it imperative that the two people maintain the good will
and mutually beneficial relations for generations to come.
The Ethiopian people currently live under a dictatorial regime that has stifled opposition,
criminalized dissent and infringes with impunity the democratic and human rights of its
citizens. During the last few years repression has reached new levels. Independent
newspapers have all been shut down and prominent young politicians and journalists have
been sentenced to long prison sentences for bogus charges. Thousands of Ethiopians
especially the youth are fleeing Ethiopia rather than live under such a harsh regime. They
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are joining the millions of Ethiopians in the Diaspora that have fled repressive regimes
during the last four decades.
Ethiopia’s neighboring countries subject Ethiopian refugees to horrific human rights abuse
that a few thousand refugees have crossed the border from Egypt to Israel. Unfortunately,
Israel’s’ recent enforcement of its detention/deportation policies, under the Anti-Infiltration
Law has put at risk the lives of many refugees. ENTC believes almost all of the refugees
just need temporary shelter until they can join their brethren in other countries or head back
home when conditions improve. Israel should not criminalize asylum seeking and subject
refugees to long-term detention. Instead it should fulfill its obligations under the
International Refugee Convention, of which Israel is a signatory. Based on the above facts
and Israel’s long tradition of fairness and justice, ENTC respectfully requests that, the
Government of Israel, the Ministry of the Interior and the Knesset suspend the use of the
Anti-Infiltrator Law against asylum seekers from Africa and especially from Ethiopia. We
also respectfully call on Israel to consider the cases of these asylum-seekers without bias
and to not just label them as economic refugees/infiltrators. In addition, the United Nations
High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) is deeply concerned that the implementation of
the law, without the adequate capacity to evaluate asylum claims, safeguard applicants and
appeal decisions greatly undermines its fairness. UNHCR is also concerned about the 3 year
minimum prison sentence that asylum-seekers face and the possibility of its discriminatory
use and it applicability to minors.
ENTC has been informed that an estimated four to five hundred Ethiopians are incarcerated
in various Israeli jails. We are also told that the prisoners include minors and women and
that some have been held in jail for over three years. ENTC believes that the Israeli
government should re-evaluate these refugee’s cases and engage advocates for Asylumseekers
such as the Hotline for Migrant Workers to reach humane and just solutions that
would find long lasting solutions to the refugee problem that Israel is facing.
ENTC understands that Israel confronts the difficult task of monitoring its borders, sorting
out refugees from terrorists and in general dealing with a large influx of Asylum seekers. At
the same time, ENTC believes Israel can treat with dignity Ethiopian Asylum-seekers in
Israel as per the International Refugee Convention.
The Ethiopian National Transitional Council‘s mission is to work for the realization of a
freely elected representative government in Ethiopia. The Council also strives to facilitate a
peaceful transition of power in Ethiopia from the current dictatorship to a genuine
democracy. As a country with a long and functioning democracy in the Middle East, we
believe Israel finds our institution worthy of it support. When ENTC’s goal of a free,
democratic and just Ethiopia is realized, the vast number of Ethiopian political refugees in
neighboring countries will be able to return to their country and ease the pressure on
countries like Israel to handle large number of refugees. Israel’s support of the aspirations
of the Ethiopian people for their universal human rights will have the added benefit of
eliminating the constant influx of asylum seekers.
ENTC urges the Israeli government to immediately halt the use of the Anti-Infiltrator Law
against asylum seekers from Ethiopia, release those Ethiopians that have been held in jail
for a long time, and adjudicate the cases of these asylum-seekers in a fair and just way.
ENTC and its representative in Israel are eager to work with you and Advocates for Asylum
Seekers in Israel to find a just solution for Ethiopian Asylum Seekers and refugees. We are
available to meet with your staff or the Ministry of Interior Staff in person to further discuss
this request and answer any question you may have.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from your
office soon.
Most Sincerely,
Ethiopian National Transitional Council – Secretariat
Washington DC
cc: The Office of the President
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Justice
The Knesset (Parliament)
Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
The Hotline for Migrant Workers (HMW),

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