From 2006-2012, a large influx of African asylum seekers arrived in Israel, with many having been trafficked through the Sinai Peninsula. An alarming number of these asylum seekers were also survivors of violence and torture. Although the State of Israel ratified both the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its Protocols of 1964, in practice it has been a reluctant host to asylum seekers. Less than 1% of refugee claims have been recognized by Israel, one of the lowest rates in the western world. Additionally, the Israeli government routinely refers to asylum seekers as “infiltrators” and has incited negative public opinion against them.
Status in Israel
Around 90% of asylum seekers in Israel are from Eritrea or Sudan. Though Israel has recognized fewer than 1% of asylum seekers as refugees, it upholds the principle of non-refoulement, acknowledging that some asylum seekers are in danger if returned to their home countries. Therefore, the state policy toward these asylum seekers is one of temporary non-deportation, officially referred to as “group protection.” The only right this status gives them is a temporary stay on deportation, and they must renew their visas every 3-6 months.
The Situation in Jerusalem
There are over 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea, Sudan, and Ethiopia, many of them families with children, currently living in Jerusalem. They live without resolved status in Israel and face many difficulties such as lacking support networks, workplace exploitation, lack of habitable housing options, denial of adequate healthcare and, of course, uncertainty regarding the future. Additionally, language barriers create a further obstacle when dealing with authorities.
Source: “Refugees in Israel”- African Refugee Development Center: https://www.ardc-israel.org/refugees-in-israel