Israeli gov’t must pay Swedish woman held at airport

Ben Sales

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority was ordered to pay damages to a Swedish citizen of Eritrean descent who was held at Ben Gurion Airport for five days.

In addition, Lod District Court Judge Avraham Yaakov on Monday scolded the authority for discriminating against the woman based on her being Eritrean, according to Haaretz.

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The woman, Azeb Gebreegziabher, arrived in Israel to visit family and tour the country, according to her testimony, but was detained on suspicion of wanting to live and work in Israel illegally.

Responding to the court, the population authority claimed Gebreegziabher had told airport authorities that she heard Eritreans could work and live well in Israel. But Yaakov questioned the authority’s account of her testimony, as Swedish citizenship offers more benefits than living illegally in Israel. He ordered that the state pay her damages of approximately $7,000.

Authorities “apparently referred to the one characteristic that is not typical of Swedish citizens — that the petitioner is of Eritrean descent,” Yaakov said in his decision, according to Haaretz. “The respondent may not discriminate against citizens of the same country based solely on ethnicity.”

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