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Diasporian News of Tuesday, 15 July 2003

Source: Haaretz

Reporting a suspected crime can get you deported

Illegal foreign workers fear going to the police. Apparently, for good reason
Tel Aviv, Isreal -- A deportation order has been issued against Nimo Benjamin, a foreign worker from Ghana, who is now packing his bags to leave. He was arrested a few days after he complained about a Nigerian woman, also residing in Israel illegally, who was operating a smuggling network for bringing workers to Israel via Egypt and the Sinai Desert.

Benjamin told Haaretz newspaper that he complained after he was exposed to the extortion methods the women uses against on foreign workers. "I tried to mediate between her and a young Ghanaian woman, in order to settle a debt," he said last week. "The Ghanaian worker had promised to pay the smuggler $3,000 for bringing her here, and I wanted to reach a payment arrangement for her. When I went to speak to the smuggler, she told me that since the woman had not paid her on time, the debt was now double and she threatened that if she did not receive the money, she would make sure that the woman would be deported."

Since he was afraid of going directly to the police because he was wanted for being an illegal alien, he went to the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

Benjamin took the information to Sigal Rosen,director of the hotline, who went to the police. Rosen says that the police actually expressed an interest and pressured her into finding other witnesses who would back up Benjamin's story. Rosen asked Benjamin to use his connections and to convince other victims of the smuggler to overcome their fear of the police and come forward with testimony.

Benjamin tried. At one point he went back to Rosen and told her he had been threatened, that he had been told that the smuggler knew that he was gathering information and that he was due to be arrested.

Rosen calmed him down and explained that the police were interested in his assistance and were not cooperating with the smuggler. This did calm him down, but he did have the chance to be of much help to the police. A few days after that conversation with Rosen, he was arrested and served with a deportation order.

"I served as a personal example in order to convince others to testify," he said last week. "I am not angry at my deportation; it was expected. But now, after others saw what happened to me, no one from the Ghanaian community will testify. That woman can ask any price and those whom she is blackmailing will pay up and keep quiet. The most frightening thing for our people is deportation."

The Immigration Authority responded that in Benjamin's case he had not filed any complaint, was not connected with any investigation and that there was no connection between the investigation and his arrest and deportation.