In the country a spirit of coexistence, accepting others and those who are different, is missing. African refugees are in a legal "limbo". Christian migrants are pained by the rejection of the "Country of Jesus, the Gospel and the Bible". Many in Israel help, but "these" many "must be multiplied, because they are a drop in the bucket.”
Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – "We are all refugees in this world,” believes Sister Azezet Kidane, a Comboni nun active since 2010 together with other Israeli NGOs among the victims of human trafficking. Hers is a commitment that today runs counter to a climate of rejection by part of Israeli society and the current government.
"Here in Israel, a spirit of coexistence, accepting other people who are different in colour, culture and language, is missing. Others are not considered as someone who can help you grow, but a problem, a challenge. Others are considered enemies."
In January, Israeli authorities issued an ultimatum to some 45,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees living in the country, telling them they had to leave Israel by April or face prison indefinitely.
At present, the situation is at an impasse. The agreement with the UN to relocate half of them has fallen through, whilst "voluntary deportation" has been suspended by the Supreme Court.
Everyone is waiting for the final ruling and what the future has in store for the refugees who arrived between 2005 and 2012 through the dangerous Sinai routes.
"Right now, we are in a sort of limbo,” said Tal Steiner, member of the legal department of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
“On the one hand, applicants do not receive answers to their asylum request," which can take years, and is usually negative. Only about ten have been recognised as refugees so far.
"On the other hand, people are stuck here. They cannot be deported to a third country, not forcibly, not voluntarily. The UN deal is not valid right now. So, people are in a limbo, waiting to see what their next step will be in Israel.”
“Their situation is very difficult. The visa they have ensures nothing more than not being detained. They are barely allowed to work. They do not get any social benefit. The most basic medical insurance is not even granted to them.”
"They do not have the right to develop themselves here, get an education, form a family, bring their families with them. They don’t even have the right to a driving license. They live in very difficult conditions where everything is up to them and NGOs”.
For Sister Azezet, "all of this is painful and frustrating. People feel threatened, unwanted, seen in a bad light." What is more, for the Comboni sister, Christian migrants are pained by the thought that it is the "Country of Jesus, of the Gospel and of the Bible" that rejects them.
"They had so much hope and trust that by coming here they would be comforted, after suffering so much in the Sinai. Now they feel unwanted."
Depression and anxiety are aggravated by difficulties in finding a job. Even when they find it - humble and low-wage - they are forced to pay 20 per cent of their salary into a fund that should be returned to them when they leave Israel.
“These people have no valid option to leave Israel. They can’t go back to Eritrea or Sudan. No one else will accept them,” Steiner said. Thus, the deduction means impoverishment that pushes "many families below the poverty line".
"It is no coincidence that their life is so hard in Israel. We see it as a plan by the Israeli government to deter people and push them out of Israel. And this what we are working against and trying to fight.”
For Sister Azezet, "it is important to understand that others are not a 'challenge'. God created everyone in His image and we all have a piece of God and we complete each other.”
“There are many people who have a different view [from the government], like Physicians for Human Rights, with whom we work to provide medical care. There are many people, but these ‘many’ must be multiplied because they are a drop in the bucket."