UN warns Israel not to deport Eritreans en masse

Warning follows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow to enact 'harsh measures' against Eritreans who rioted in Tel Aviv at the weekend

Israeli security forces detain an Eritrean protester in Tel Aviv. AFP
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The UN on Tuesday urged Israel not to undertake wide-scale deportations of Eritreans after riots broke out in Tel Aviv at the weekend following an event at the African country’s embassy.

More than 200 people were injured when anti-Eritrean government protesters clashed with supporters of the country’s regime at an event to mark its 30th anniversary.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would pursue “harsh measures against the rioters, including the immediate deportation of those that took part”.

The UN’s refugee agency on Tuesday warned Israel’s government that mass deportations could “contravene international law”.

“UNHCR calls for calm and restraint, and on all parties to refrain from taking any steps that could aggravate the situation further,” the agency's spokesman William Spindler said.

Mr Netanyahu's hardline approach could also create more friction between the government and the judiciary, which has on a number of occasions overturned efforts to clamp down on illegal migration and limit the number of asylum seekers.

The Prime Minister’s right-wing coalition is currently trying to pass a radical overhaul of the judiciary, which opponents say could spell the end of democracy in the country.

Israel’s police have also come under fire for being underprepared to manage the event, which Eritrean community leaders warned could become violent.

About 25,000 asylum seekers from Africa live in Israel, mostly coming from Eritrea and Sudan.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 3:59 PM