I’ve just had a meeting with Amnesty International and several human rights organisations from Israel. They wanted to discuss the severe situation for migrants in the Sinai Peninsula. It is an issue that I brought up with various ministers in Cairo when I was there to visit last year, but since then the situation has gotten worse. It’s about migrants and refugees, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, who try to get through the Sinai desert in search of asylum in Israel. Most people fall prey to smugglers who run a particuarly obnoxious game in Sinai, charging migrants for letting them through and then holding them hostage and demanding a ransom from them or their families. It involves quite a lot of money and many of the refugees testify about horrific torture, rape and various forms of degrading treatment. Obviously this can not continue. Israel and Egypt must cooperate in cracking down on this disgusting business.
And even for the refugees who do not fall into the hands of these violent smugglers, the situation is very difficult. They have no opportunity to seek asylum in Egypt. Asylum policy as such does not exist and the only possibility is to seek shelter with the UNHCR. There are several cases where the military has fired on the refugees.
The possibility of a legally secure asylum management in Israel is also very scarce. Sudanese and Eritreans get a temporary permit to stay in Israel, however, without going through any form of asylum procedure first, and without getting the right to medical care or to work. The new law, the Anti-infiltration Law, which was passed in February this year, makes it possible for the Israeli authorities to immediately detain anyone who illegally enters Israeli territory, often indefinitely, and in many cases for life. In addition, Israel is now building a long fence along the border between Israel and Egypt. It is important that, despite this, there will be possibilities for people to seek asylum in the country.
For over a year now I’ve been trying to get the Egyptians interested in a Mobility Partnership where we discuss migration, asylum, visa issues, etc. in a broad sense. We are now very close to achieving such an Partnership with Tunisia. From Egypt’s side, it has so far been turned down. We’ll see what happens after the presidential elections in June.
Valentine’s Day is a day to praise love in all forms. It was very pleasing to see that Washington will be the seventh state in the U.S. to acknowledge same-sex marriages. Now we are also waiting to see what will happen after the court decision in California last week that says the ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
Within the EU, there are still several Member States that don’t acknowledge same-sex marriages: Poland, Italy, Malta, Latvia and Lithuania, for example. Here, you can find more information about countries that do not acknowledge same-sex marriages. On ILGA’s webpage you can also find more information about the situation on equal rights in different countries.
Reading about the situation in different countries can be discouraging, but things are actually moving forward. It is important, not just today, the 14th of February but every day, to continue the struggle for equal rights for all and the right to love. It is not as if there is too much love in the world.