Craig Damian Smith, associate director of the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, has written an article in the Globe and Mail about Israel and Eritrean refugees in the country. He has singled out the Jewish state of Israel for infractions regarding refugees. There is no mention of the change in refugee policies for Eritreans in Switzerland.

Why is it wrong for Israel to return refugees but not Switzerland?

Regarding the Eritrean refugees in Israel, now Smith said:

Several thousand have already left, many to perilous Mediterranean routes. Eritrean Christians were notoriously murdered by Islamic State in Libya. Some deported to Rwanda were sold to traffickers. Those who made it to Europe were granted asylum given that Eritrea is one of the world’s most oppressive countries and those from Sudan are victims of war crimes.

“Asylum seekers ended up in Israel because of European attempts to stop Mediterranean migration.

Stories from the Sinai are horrific. Bedouin traffickers systematically tortured and raped to extort money from families or diaspora communities. Israel pushed refugees into Egypt. The Egyptian army, when not complicit with trafficking, shot to kill. The route was closed in late 2012 after Israel built a border fence and the Mediterranean route reopened after Libya collapsed in the Arab Spring.

Most recently, rabbis organized sanctuary to prevent deportations to Rwanda and Uganda – places with which asylum seekers have no connection beyond a racist notion that all Africans are alike.

It collapsed because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners refused to accept non-Jewish refugees.”

Here is a YouTube of Eritrean refugees in Germany

His information regarding Israel and Eritrea (Israel pushed refugees into Egypt) comes from a 2012 report  and appears out of date according to the article EU: Safe to send Eritreans home written in early 2017  

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) published a report stating that those who left the country to avoid draft evasion should be sent back to do their national service.

The report, which was completed in November 2016 and reviewed by EU Member States, also said that the treatment deserters receive in Eritrea “appears to have become less harsh in recent years.”

Egypt is a major transit country for refugees looking to go via the Mediterranean to Europe and also has taken in thousands of Syrian refugees. What is the Egyptian government’s policy towards them?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi said at the G-20 meeting in September 2016 that Egypt was hosting five million refugees and immigrants, and that this included 500,000 Syrian refugees. This might be overstated, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) puts the total number of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people at around 250,000 in the country  and the number of registered Syrian refugees at 122,203.

According to the UNHCR, Syrians in Egypt need 592 Egyptian pounds a month to meet basic standards of living in the country. Education is free to Syrians and there are also special accredited Syrian learning centers in Egypt where Syrian teachers are employed. Egypt is a signatory of the 1951 Geneva Convention, which specifies that refugees who face persecution in their home countries may be granted asylum and may not be returned to a country where they face threats to their lives or freedom.  

April 2018 ZURICH :

Switzerland could try to expel as many as 3,200 Eritreans whose requests for asylum fail, marking a major policy switch in a country that has granted thousands temporary refuge, broadcaster SRF reported on Wednesday.

People from Eritrea – which has drawn criticism over its human rights record – topped the Swiss list of asylum seekers last year with nearly a fifth of the more than 18,000 overall requests. More than 13,700 Eritreans were in the asylum process in February.

The policy switch, hailed by conservatives and attacked by the left, followed a Swiss court ruling last year that Eritreans who have completed their military service can safely be sent home.

Currently, Switzerland cannot send back Eritreans to their country of origin. The Eritrean government has shown no willingness to receive those who have fled and there is no readmission agreement between the two countries.

However, the court ruled that deserters were not at risk of inhumane treatment. The same applies to those who have already lived abroad for several years and who have resolved their situation in their country of origin.

In February 2017, the court had already tightened the admission criteria for Eritrean asylum seekers. It ruled that Switzerland will no longer recognise Eritreans as refugees solely on grounds of having fled their country illegally. The policy automatically granted refugee status to some Eritreans. However, the court decided, “The illegal exit from (Eritrea) cannot in itself justify recognition as a refugee” because of some recent cases of Eritreans returning safely for short home visits after gaining asylum status in Switzerland.

In 2017:

Furthermore, “Eritrea is not currently in a situation of generalised violence,” the FAC( Federal Administrative Court) wrote. “Returning to the country cannot be considered across the board as out of the question.” The government’s policy for processing asylum requests from Eritrean refugees is important because Eritreans make up the largest single nationality among asylum seekers in Switzerland – some 5,000 a year.

The Federal Administrative Court’s decision handed down on Thursday says Switzerland will no longer recognize Eritreans as refugees solely on grounds of having fled their country illegally. The policy automatically granted refugee status to some Eritreans.

Why is it wrong for Israel to return refugees but not Switzerland?


From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”