February 18, 2019 (Ezega.com) - A Niger national, who was expelled from Israel has been stranded at Bole International Airport since November as his home country is unwilling to accept him back.
24-year-old Eissa Muhammad has been staying at the airport under inhumane conditions, as reported by the BBC.
His predicaments began last April after he was apprehended for being in Israel illegally. He had been residing in the Middle East since 2011, having fled his home country at the age of sixteen in search for better fortunes.
He informed the press that he’d paid traffickers to take him across Egypt and Libya before entering Israel on foot. In Tel Aviv, he survived by doing odd jobs in a sweet factory and hostels until his arrest in April last year for lack of the necessary documentation.
He was detained for several months in Israel before he was issued with an emergency travel document and put on an Ethiopian Airlines plane, via Addis Ababa, to Niger in November last year. However, on arrival to Niamey –Niger’s Capital – the authorities refused him entry because his travel documents were questionable.
“They didn’t want me in Niger. They didn’t accept me,” he told reporters.
After a week in detention, he was deported from his home country to Israel, but the Israeli authorities refused to accept him back and, further, detained him for weeks.
“They tied my hands and legs and forced me into a plane back to Niger which refused to accept me again,” says Eissa Muhammad.
The travel documents issued by Israel expired while he was stuck in transit at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa after Niger refused to let him enter the country for a second time.
Surviving on Food Donations:
Since the end of November, he’s been at the airport. According to the BBC, Niger’s foreign ministry and it’s embassy in Ethiopia are yet to respond to media phone calls and emails regarding the validity of Muhammad’s travel documents, which authorities said were fake.
Mr. Eissa Muhammad spends his time wandering from one corner of the airport to another, where he begs for food from well-wishers in the airport lounges.
“Sometimes the airline people give me food. It’s the same every day but I’m grateful to them,” he said.
He sleeps in a corner of the Muslim prayer room, with a small shawl and a couple of belongings, and he’s not had access to a shower for months now.
He has since appealed to anyone who’ll come to his rescue. “I can’t stay at the airport because it’s not my home,” he told reporters. “I miss my home. Everyone loves their home. Your home is your home. But this condition here is very hard,” he added.
Israeli Authorities’ Response:
In a statement to media houses, Israel’s Immigration department defended itself saying they deported Mr. Muhammad for being in the country illegally.
“He’s a citizen of Niger. It has nothing to do with us because he was expelled from here and when he arrived in Niger, he refused to co-operate with the authorities. How is Israel connected? He is not Israeli,” reads the statement.
When Mr. Eissa Muhammad arrived in Niger the second time, immigration officials requested proof of citizenship but he didn’t produce any valid document in response.
Israel also rubbished claims that his emergency travel documents weren’t valid, stating the travel document issued was specially designed for cases such as his.
Israel Tough Move on African Immigrants:
As per Reuters, more than 34,000 African migrants braced the treacherous journey to Israel in search of better opportunities in life last year. Israeli authorities claim many are economic migrants who put pressure on its economy. Those who choose to stay risk being locked-up, with the chances of resettlement being minimal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud party are determined to deport those they term as “infiltrators.”
According to research conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, 66% of the Israeli citizens support the policies adopted by their government towards illegal immigrants.
Muhammad argues he’s been legally living in Israel, where he was working before the state revoked his residence status and threw him out.
The Option of Asylum:
Technically, Ethiopia is a signatory to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, together with the 1967 Protocol, which addresses detailed characteristics of issues affecting refugees. Furthermore, almost all the refugee entering Ethiopia are granted asylum on a prime basis.
Mr. Muhammad says he’s cooperated with all the relevant authorities in Ethiopia, Niger, and Israel but according to the Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative, he’s unwilling to apply for asylum in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia in a Peculiar Position:
Mr. Muhamad’s case has put the country in an awkward position bearing in mind it recently adopted a new refugee policy that allows immigrants to access work opportunities and education.
An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said they can only intervene once he submits a formal request for asylum, which he’s unwilling to do.
Until a solution is provided, Mr. Eissa Muhamad will continue roaming around Bole International Airport like a homeless person.
By Solomon .O for Ezega News