JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s attorney general ordered a halt to the deportation of Eritrean migrants.
Yehuda Weinstein said in a letter Tuesday to the director of the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, Amnon Ben Ami, that the deportations must be stopped until he clarifies the legal issues involved.
“To prevent, God forbid, such incidents from occurring again, I expect the population authority to uphold the directive of the attorney general under which, pending a clarification of the related legal issues, no Eritrean citizen will be allowed to leave the population authority’s custodial facilities to any destination outside Israel’s borders,” the letter said.
Illegal migrants can be held in detention facilities in Israel for three years.
The letter follows reports that an Eritrean migrant who agreed to be deported to Uganda was refused entry to the African country last week and is now being held in detention in Egypt. The Eritrean is expected to be returned to Israel on Wednesday, Weinstein said in his letter, though other reports say the Eritrean is set to be returned to his country, where he is an army deserter and likely to be killed.
Meanwhile, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai told reporters Tuesday that more than 2,000 Sudanese migrants were repatriated vountarily to their home country — the first confirmation of a Haaretz report that the migrants were repatriated via a third country, which violates the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Yishai said his ministry would adopt a plan formulated by an expert panel that recommended bolstering forces along the borders to prevent infiltrators from entering the country, as well as placing some 65,000 migrants in Israel into detention facilities. The panel also recommended deporting the migrants, possibly to a third country, despite the U.N.’s position.