By: Shlomit Sharvit
In a special interview with Ynet, Eritrean envoy blames Israel for recent immigration wave from Africa. ‘You should have deported the first one to arrive, now it is too late,’ he says
While the government of Israel is struggling to find a solution for the African infiltrators flooding the country, Eritrea seems to believe Israel is the one to blame for the situation.
Eritrean Ambassador to Israel Debbas Tessamariam told Ynet that Israel should have turned away the first infiltrator as early as 2006, adding that his country will not accept citizens who were deported from Israel against their will.
“In the beginning we asked them to come back,” he said, “but now it has turned into a mass of 17,000-18,000 people. The solution was very simple from the outset, at the end of 2006 – the first one to arrive should have been sent back to Eritrea.” Now, said the envoy, it is too late.
Eritrean citizens infiltrating Israel via Egypt are not refugees, but work migrants, the ambassador added. “We consider them guests invited by Israel. By deciding not to deport them from the get-go, you have created an ever-growing phenomenon of Eritreans seeking to improve their quality of life and reach Israel.”
Debbas says that Eritrean children learn about Israel in school and the idea of immigrating to the Holy Land appeals to them from a young age.
“During all my years in Israel not one government official has ever consulted with me or any other official in the Eritrean government on how to solve this complex issue,” the envoy claimed, predicting that “this immigration wave will not end soon.”
Debbas stressed that should an Eritrean citizen show up at the embassy and ask to come back home he will be offered assistance, yet “if someone is forced to return from Israel against their will we shall refuse.” The ambassador added, “These are people with different dreams and expectations, they will undermine national morale and bring back with them frustration and bitterness resulting from the great cultural differences.”
The ambassador also warned of a potential security threat. “When these people arrive in Sudan or the Sinai anyone can manipulate them into brining a bomb into Israel or performing acts of espionage. Thank God it hasn’t happened yet. But I presented this problem before the government and warned it that we will not be held accountable should this happen.”
‘Not ready for democracy’
Eritrea gained independence in 1993 but elections have been delayed and there is no free press. “One mustn’t force democracy on those who are not ready,” the ambassador said. “We are building ourselves now. We want to rely on our own resources and become independent.”
Debbas said that the West demonizes Eritrea over its refusal to abide by Western norms. “We are being blamed for not being a democratic country and having no free press. But one must work on education, clean water and employment to be ready for democracy, and that’s what we’re working on now.”
In blaming the West, the ambassador was mostly referring to the United Nations, which he says is giving a false impression of the country and. “They tell citizens that they should come to Israel and that aid groups and attorneys will be waiting for them and will look out for them.”
However, the envoy made it clear that the current state of infiltration is the Israeli government’s fault, blaming it for failing to distinguish between immigrants and infiltrators.
Israel does not distinguish between the various infiltrators. Ethiopians arrive in Israel pretending to be Eritreans to get stay permits. These people have simply come here to work and have a better life.”