The United Nations is urging the Israeli government to refrain from the mass deportation of Eritreans after clashes over the weekend involving refugees. The U.N. warned the response would “contravene international law.”
On Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman, William Spindler, told reporters in Geneva, “Any decision impacting all Eritrean asylum-seekers, or instances of refoulment would contravene international law.”
International law bans collective punishment, just as it does returning a person to a country where they could be tortured or face cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment or treatment, Spindler said.
The UNHCR spokesman’s comments followed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s seeking Eritrean migrants who were protesting in Tel Aviv to be immediately deported. The prime minister also ordered plans that would remove all African migrants from the occupied territories.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, is planning to propose a bill that will move forward with the mass deportation of migrants who are illegally in the occupied territories.
While Spindler stressed that it was “important to establish accountability” for the protests in Tel Aviv, he also warned the Israeli government not to take broad measures against other Eritreans throughout the occupied territories.
“UNHCR calls for calm and restraint and on all parties to refrain from taking any steps that could aggravate the situation further,” he said.
Spindler stressed that the situation in Eritrea, one of the worst authoritarian states in the world, “remains unchanged.” He warned sending migrants back “could result in dramatic human consequences.”
“The vast majority of asylum-seekers living in Israel are peaceful and law-abiding,” he insisted. “The incidents on September 2 are deeply regrettable and do not reflect the behavior of the broader Eritrean community in Israel.”
The Israeli plans came days after protests in south Tel Aviv by rival groups of Eritreans. The clashes started as supporters of the Eritrean government celebrated the anniversary of the current ruler’s rise to power 30 years ago. The event was held not far from the Eritrean embassy in Tel Aviv.
Israeli occupation forces responded with live bullets, mounted horses and stun grenades to break up protesters. Israeli police officials confirmed that live ammunition was used by Israeli forces against the protesters.
More than 150 people, including 30 from the occupation forces, were injured in the confrontation. The U.N. Rights Office decried the use of force by Israeli law enforcement and military personnel.
“We understand that hospitals are reporting that there are people who suffered gunshot wounds,” U.N. Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters,
Eritreans account for the majority of more than 30,000 African migrants in Israel seeking asylum. The Israeli government has attempted several tactics to try and force them out, including sending many to a remote prison. The Israelis have been accused by right groups of racism and discriminating against non-White individuals.