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Eritrean Asylum Seekers in Israel: ‘Our Second Country Is Bleeding’

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Eritreans who fled their native country for Israel have experienced further displacement following Hamas’s surprise attack.

Around 18,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea, East Africa, live in Israel.

They fled persecution and compulsory military conscription in one of the world’s most repressive countries.

Following air strike on southern Israel, Eritrean asylum seekers told the BBC about relocating yet again.

Teklit said his home was “totally damaged” by a Hamas rocket on Sunday night.

“God forbid I was able to escape, but I was there, the situation was dire,” he said.

“There had been shelling the whole day. Usually, in such circumstances, we get signals and may evacuate our homes. Unfortunately, there was no signal when that rocket came.”

Teklit, who has been living in the southern city of Ashkelon for 13 years, said everything of his has been “destroyed”.

Another Eritrean told the BBC he feels like a “new refugee” after fleeing Ashkelon for the safer city of Netanya.

“My house is destroyed and I’m displaced, but at least I’m safe and away from the terrible noise for the time being,” he told the BBC.

He is among several Eritreans who have been displaced by the violence, Berhane Negassi, an Eritrean refugee rights activist living in Jerusalem, told the BBC.

Mr Negassi said no Eritrean fatalities have been reported, but he indicated that some asylum seekers are missing.

“We are working with Israeli security forces, police, army and other government institutions to confirm their whereabouts,” said Mr Negassi, who leads the Eritrean New Hope Organisation.

“Israel is our country and we will not tolerate that our second country is bleeding” – this was the general sentiment from Eritrean asylum seekers, he said.

Israel is still reeling from last weekend’s surprise attack, which killed more that 1,300. Daily life has been disrupted – schools have been shut and many employees have been ordered not to attend work.

Life is a struggle, Mr Negassi said, especially for refugees, who may be “troubled single mothers” or have “health or economic problems”.

Eritreans and Sudanese began arriving in Israel in 2006, having journeyed through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in large numbers.

Once entering Israel, many spend time in a desert holding centre, waiting for their asylum requests to be considered. In 2020, Israel had granted asylum to less than 0.1% of applications.

The war between Israel and Hamas continues – more than more than 2,300 people have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has also warned 1.1m Palestinians living in north Gaza to evacuate south, and thousands have been fleeing by vehicle or on foot.

Source: BBC

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