20090813

"The Promised Land"

"The Jewish past makes us particularly mindful of the dangerous plight of exiles and refugees and the need to help them. But the smallness and siege mentality of our country given its hostile environment make us more committed to maintaining our majority."
Mr. Yaron Ezrahi, a political science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, speaking to the Associated Press about the influx of more than 16,000 asylum seekers into Israel in recent years, mostly from Africa. Israel's current refugee influx started in 2005, when Egyptian smugglers helped a few hundred Africans sneak into Israel. The government arranged jobs for some, and as stories of their new lives spread, more came. Just under half are from Eritrea, whose repressive government often detains returned asylum-seekers, according to Amnesty International. About one-third of them are from south Sudan and Darfur, whose conflicts have left millions dead and homeless, according to the United Nations. Under the UN's Refugee Convention, all those claiming to be refugees should have their cases reviewed, said Sharon Harel of the UN refugee agency. Israeli refugee advocates criticize the state, saying stints in jail and the scant support asylum seekers find in Israel fail to honor the memory of Jewish persecution through the ages. "I think it's a great shame the way we're behaving," said Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. "We have an extremely short memory." Source: Global Development Briefing. By Ton.

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