An Open Letter to the Pilots of El AL Airline Who Have Refused to Enforce the Israeli Government Policy of Flying Eritrean Refugees to Countries in East Africa Where Their Lives Would be Endangered

Most Respected Pilots of EL Al Airline,

May we express our admiration and full support for your principled stand against the Israeli Government decision to expel asylum seekers and refugees from Israel and forcibly repatriate them to African countries where their lives will be in great danger. It takes courage to oppose your own government’s policy, especially in the political climate prevalent in Israel today. We commend wholeheartedly your decision to put international law and moral justice before the narrow considerations of political expediency.

Your decision recognises that refugees from Eritrea and Sudan who are fleeing from such widespread and consistent human rights abuses must be justly accorded the protection of any state to which they have fled. As Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This is a universal right. The persecution referred to, from which they are fleeing in Eritrea, has been proven beyond the slightest doubt by the Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights in Eritrea. These African refugees in Israel are not economic migrants but genuinely need protection and asylum from the dangers they face in their home country and other African countries, such as Rwanda and Uganda, where no recognised status or guarantees of safety would be offered to them. They would again be vulnerable to the kidnap, slavery, extortion and torture from which they fled.

Thank you for making it clear that you adhere to these international principles of justice, whether the current policies of your state recognise these or not. Thank you for recognising that no refugee or asylum seeker should ever be forcibly returned to another country, under threat of permanent imprisonment, without proper consideration being given to their request for asylum. Your recognition of this international principle does you great credit.

Human Rights Concern Eritrea wishes to put on public record its gratitude for this signal declaration by pilots of Israel’s airline that principles of international law must take precedence over narrow political convenience when the lives and safety of vulnerable refugees are at stake. We commend your stand to officials dealing with the lives and personal safety of asylum-seekers and refugees across the world.


Respectfully yours
Elizabeth Chyrum
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

25 January, 2018