Government Shirks Responsibility towards Eritrea/Sudan Refugees

The Interior Ministry continues to ignore Eritrean and Sudanese refugees’ applications for political asylum, despite the Supreme Court’s 2015 request that it expedite such potentially life-saving protection, an Israeli NGO claims.

Attorney Reut Michaeli, CEO of Hotline for Refugees and Migrants – which sent a brief to the court Monday, July 31, to intervene in the matter – said Thursday that the Anti-Infiltration Law is creating a humanitarian crisis. The law presently allows the Interior Ministry to detain 3,360 of the approximately 38,000 African refugees at the Negev’s Holot Detention Facility, managed by the Israel Prison Service, for up to 12 months.

African refugees and Israeli activists during the last May Day rally in Tel Aviv

African refugees and Israeli activists during the last May Day rally in Tel Aviv (Photo: Hotline for Refugees and Migrants)

Last January, over 1,000 refugees confined to the desert facility held a rally outside the Knesset asking the Supreme Court for political asylum amidst threats of deportation. Nevertheless, the number of application approvals by the ministry remains anemic.

“As of September 2016, two refugees from Sudan and eight from Eritrea have been recognized in Israel, while approximately 10,000 asylum applications are pending, of which 2,541 have been pending for over two years,” said Michaeli.

“Israel’s acceptance rate is lower than one-half of 1%, while in other countries, such as Germany, America and Britain, the refugee status acceptance rate – or complimentary protection for Eritrean and Sudanese refugees – is between 60%-90%.”
Following a 2015 intervention by the court requesting that the ministry deliberate on thousands more applications within one year, the Population and Immigration Authority committed to review 3,300 annually.

However, Michaeli said over two years later only a fraction of that number has been reviewed. “The court asked the state to prioritize the applications of those in detention, but most of the applications have not been reviewed,” she said. “So, we went back to the court and said, ‘Listen, the ministry has made a commitment and they are not implementing their commitment. People are still waiting years for its decision on their applications.”

In the meantime, she said the migrants who are not in Holot live under the constant threat of deportation, unless they update their visas every month at overcrowded centers with extremely limited hours of operation. Moreover, the activist noted that since 2012 the number of African refugees in Israel dropped from 65,000 to 38,000 after asylum seekers left the country due to a pronounced lack of support.