“How much is my sister’s kidney?” *

December 15, 2011

Banner with the inscription was being held by one of the Eritrean men during a demonstration at the Embassy of the United States last Friday of November in Tel Aviv. Other banners almost screamed:

“USA: The Victims need your help”,

“Eritrean lives are not for sale”,

“Rape in Sinai must be stopped”.

Some Israeli politicians have developed a habit of repeating that the asylum seekers in Israel are not threatened by anything or anyone in the countries they come in search of work, but absolutely do not take into account that over 50% of asylum seekers in Israel come from Eritrea, a small country situated in the Horn of Africa, which enjoys a well deserved bad reputation because of the lack of freedom of speech and brutal regime repeatedly violating human rights. Eritreans are the majority of victims of organized groups of Bedouin who smuggle the Israeli border in the count from $350 to $7,000 (following: “The Self-Perceived Needs of Homeless African Refugees in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park,” Suhail Stephen and Michael Schmautz.)  (depending on race, religion and other factors), and if you are not able to meet the financial requirements Bedouins are to withstand as hostages, who can be a source of ograns to be transplanted and the victims of the most abominable crimes to frighten the rest. Women are brutally raped and many of them give birth to their children in Israel after because they are kept in prison in the Negev desert Saharonim too long to be still able to make abortion ( Quotation “An open letter from ARDC,” written by Nicholas Schlagman.) Further 35% comes from the Sudan, in particular from the two zones of conflict: Darfur and Southern Sudan and they are often people who managed to escape a brutal slaughter. The rest are citizens of different countries, including African, but not only. It is true that the number of asylum seekers is growing almost exponentially and is now estimated for 45,000 people. Why, instead of writing “refugee” I use the term ‘asylum seeker’? Well, it turns out that in a country founded by Jewish refugees, survivors of the Shoah, the reception of such status is equal to being the victims of modern genocide. Israel has not ratified the Geneva Convention of 1951, according to which:

“A refugee is a person who as a result founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or does not want to because of these concerns enjoy the protection of that country, or who has no nationality and being the result of such events, outside the country of his former habitual residence is unable or unwilling to return because of these concerns to the state. “

Since the inception of the State of Israel, the refugee status was granted to 190 people , while according to UNHCR, more than a hundred of them already live in Israel. The Olmert government decided to give the temporary status to the first 500 refugees from Darfur, but most of them had left Israel, or are getting ready for departure. Therefore it is an abuse which is based on telling people that the greatest dream of asylum seekers in Israel, is to remain in this country forever. The exceptional uncertainty about the fate makes it impossible to build a normal future there and refugees above all need a sense of security, not speculations concerning any future prospects. The reality of refugees in Israel is not optimistic one because their status is a kind of limbo – the abyss without the possibility of change, or the situation, of which they are often well aware.

Refugees from Africa usually receive conditional release visa, which must be renewed every three months what in practice means the only protection against deportation. The basic problem is that the vast majority of refugees is deprived of the opportunity to find legal employment, thus they are forced to work on the black market without any guarantee of receiving compensation or they appeal to doomed to charity organizations which have limited possibilities and thus cannot meet the needs of the number of people who currently stay in the Israel limbo. Some of the refugees are highly educated people and if they can count on any kind of work in Israel, it is usually the worst sort of physical work. Lawyer washing dishes at Tel Aviv’s lovely restaurant may not complain about his fate, but I look at it in disbelief and I wish that people changed their residence to a country that will reward them for their work, not only providing the basic rights, but also opportunities for development, according to their qualifications. Not only stalemate situation in the labor market is degrading for them – hundreds of refugees are becoming homeless, what can be seen around the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station . Every day late in the evening I pass people sleeping on playgrounds for children, the station building, in almost every available shelter. No one knows the number of women and children who live on the streets of Tel Aviv, and yet I know that most women in shelters, were taken there straight from the street. Refugees left to themselves are not able to meet the high cost of living. Sometimes I wonder if tourists and residents of the “white” and “bauhaus” Tel Aviv, know this. Perhaps living in the center or north of the city makes you unaware of the seriousness of the situation and labeling the refugees as economic migrants does not help them.

With all this discussion in the Knesset the law allowing to put in the prison all those who cross the Israeli border illegally in search of a safer piece of land, sounds like a gloomy joke. The people helping the opressed – often the ones that avoided being the victims of genocide – may also land in prison. How is it possible that in a democratic country such solutions are being discussed?

During my first visit in Israel I took part in the meeting for the new olim and one sentence is still in my memory:

“Israel is a country where everyone can make phone call to the Prime Minister”.

And I thought how it was amazing and quite comparable to Poland, the country where I was born. Now I think about – everyone or who? Maybe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, instead of going to Africa, could explore neglected southern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv? Maybe the politicians instead of repeating the data, could meet real people and ask them who are they and why they are in Israel? And finally, whether the scars remaining after excision of the kidneys are convincing?

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