Israel is unlawfully coercing almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into leaving the country at great personal risk, Human Rights Watch says.
They have been denied access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and detained unlawfully, a new report says.
Earlier this year, African asylum seekers in Israel staged mass protests over their treatment.
Israel says its policies on illegal immigrants and refugees comply with international law.
It insists that the Africans are not asylum seekers but economic migrants who see Israel as an attractive destination because it is the nearest developed country where they can find jobs.
Eritreans and Sudanese began arriving in Israel through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in large numbers in 2006. By December 2012, about 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese had entered the country.
HRW says that over the past eight years, the Israeli authorities have employed various measures to encourage them to leave.
They include “indefinite detention, obstacles to accessing Israel’s asylum system, the rejection of 99.9 percent of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum claims, ambiguous policies on being allowed to work, and severely restricted access to health care,” it alleges.
In September 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that a 2012 amendment to an anti-infiltration law, which allowed for the indefinite detention of people for illegal entry, was unlawful.
In response, the Israeli parliament passed another amendment to the law in December that established the Holot facility in the remote Negev desert for those considered “infiltrators.”
Hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese have since been ordered to report to the center, where they live in conditions that HRW says breach international law on arbitrary detention.
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