El Al airlines, Israel
Pilots from Israel's national airline, El Al, are refusing to deport asylum seekers to countries where their lives may be in danger. Reuters

Israeli pilots are refusing to help deport asylum seekers to countries where their lives might be at risk.

A number of pilots working for Israel's national airline El Al have have said they will not take part in the deportations of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. Earlier this month, the Israeli parliament passed a bill to indefinitely detain asylum seekers or deport them.

The pilots said that Israel should show understanding towards the plight of asylum seekers as Jews themselves have fled persecution and lived as refugees.

Captain Yoel Pitarberg wrote on Facebook: "Israel is populated primarily by Jews who, in their near and distant pasts, were refugees in countries around the world.

"Most went through the Holocaust, many were forcefully expelled from their countries, and many others emigrated out of a desire to improve their lives in better countries that agreed to accept them.

"Out of all people we, the Jews, must be attentive, empathetic, moral, and leaders of public opinion in the world in how we treat the migration of refugees who have suffered and continue to suffer in their countries of origin," he wrote.

Another pilot, Shaul Betzer, said: "There is no way that as part of the flight crew, I will take part in flying refugees/asylum seekers on their way to a destination where their chance of survival after arrival ("a third country") is close to zero."

Iddo Elad said that agreeing to "flying refugees to their death" was "barbarism."

Earlier this month, more than 7,500 Israelis signed a petition calling on the Israeli Pilots Union and ground staff at Ben Gurion airport to "stand on the right side of history and refuse to participate in this immoral deportation".

Pilots in other countries have also refused to carry out deportations. In December, it was revealed that pilots working for the German airlines Lufthansa and Eurowings had blocked at least 222 planned deportation flights.

A large number of the flights were scheduled to repatriate refugees to Afghanistan, a move which has been widely condemned by human rights organisations.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International called on European governments to "implement a moratorium on returns to Afghanistan until they can take place in safety and dignity".