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מרכז לקהילה האפריקאית בירושלים

Director's Note -- December 2017

Stopping the Deportation

In Israel today are approximately 34,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eretria. Over the last few months, the Israeli government has been declaring that it is working on signing a new agreement with Rwanda to expel them by force.

According to several publications, Israel intends to pay $5000 for every person that Rwanda will accept. This is literally human trafficking.

The government claims that it intends to deport those who haven’t applied for asylum, or those whose request has been denied. If you understand the way the Israeli asylum system works, or should I say “doesn’t work”, you understand immediately that this is a lie. The Attorney General of the Population Authority, Attorney Daniel Salomon said himself that the goal is first deport and then examine who is a refugee, and not the contrary.

It is important to mention that the state comptroller is currently examining the Authority of Population and Migration’s treatment of the asylum requests. He is expected to publish his findings in May 2018. Unfortunately, May 2018 is too late to save the lives of refugees who came here seeking temporary asylum. The Israeli Government announced recently that they will start the deportation of 15,000 asylum seekers in 90 days, so it is therefore imperative that we do all in our power to stop this crime and stop the illegal deportation of refugees which could put them into a new dangerous and despairing refuge journey.

In 2008 the state comptroller issued a report on the conduct of the unit handling asylum applications, the report results indicated faulty and prolonged treatment. The auditor's report of 2014, "Foreigners without Removal" indicates that there has been no change for the better in the department's activity. With years the situation has only become worse; in the discussion held on 23.03.2017 at the State Control Committee, the following data was provided:

The picture that rises from the data is a difficult one, out of 64,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Israel in the last ten years those who received a refugee status were no more than ten. A few received other things, but this is the number of the refugee status receivers. Today in Israel are approximately 40,000 asylum seekers. Out of 19,000 applications for refugee's status in the last year, the Population Authority examined in the last year, or to stand correct till last November, 19 applications. I ask here. is it reasonable? Are the numbers reasonable? The RDS, the Refugee Status Determination, is the organization responsible for examining issues of asylum seekers and forwarding them to the committee which is headed by a retired judge that then forwards them to Minister of Internal Affairs.

On June 28th, 2017 a follow-up meeting was held at the State Control Committee, the meeting was characterized by complete disregard by the Population and Immigration Authority of all the instructions and comments received six months earlier. Eyal Ben Reuven, the chairman, said among things in his opening remarks that "In the absence of policy, I can finally see that the policy is to treat the asylum seekers as badly as possible in order to get them out, without trying to make a real test of who is and who is not a refugee."

The total disregarding of the Population and Migration Authority is clear. This is the same policy that Eli Ishai phrased so accurately during his term as the Minister of Internal Affairs; "to make their lives as miserable as possible, so they will leave". This is the same policy that Miri Regev sees them "as the cancer of the nation". As long as we do not recognize them as refugees we can continue calling them infiltrators, trade their lives and deport them to a third country.

It's important to understand the consequences of the non-treatment policy by the Population and Migration Authority on the asylum seekers' communities. First, de facto you cannot today submit asylum requests. The Population Authority makes it possible to file such applications only at the Interior Ministry at 53 Salame Street in Tel Aviv (or in the sand for those imprisoned there). The situation in Salame has never been brilliant, but in the past two years asylum seekers have been unable to file applications there.

The lines are very long, only few are allowed to enter every day and those who were declined do not receive a new appointment. People are required to arrive multiple times, mostly to hold a place in line in the early evening hours of the prior night, in order to have a chance to enter. Let's remember: entering is not for an interview or receiving a status but merely to file the motion. Moreover, all the asylum requests (but ten) were declined…, there are also men, and women who applied more than four years ago and still were not answered. The average asylum seeker, who lost long ago his trust in the Israeli government, has lost all hope in the asylum system in Israel and does see any reason to submit an asylum request.

In addition, in the absence of an organized immigration policy many asylum seekers believe that they have already submitted their asylum request years ago therefore they do not re-submit. Whether they were registered and interviewed at the UNHCR before 2009, or whether they were interviewed throughout Israel at the Population Authority and believed that it was an asylum interview.

Last, it is important to remember that for long months during 2015 the asylum applications processing unit rejected asylum applications out of hand with the ridiculous claim that they were filed too late. This argument did not hold in court, which rejected it and demanded from the Population Authority to re-examine all the applications. The logical thing to do was to re-open automatically all the rejected applications. However, the Population Authority again chose to make it difficult for the asylum seekers and declared that those who had been rejected out of hand should approach the authority and actively ask them to open their file.

All these should be added to the hidden opinion of the Immigration Authority regarding the eligibility of Darfuris to refugee status, and the opinion of the Court of Appeals, which held that asylum applications by Eritreans who had fled the Eritrean army could not be rejected. The state appealed this ruling to the District Court of Appeals, but the District Court returned the hearing to the court. So far, no new ruling has been made.

If the court stands behind its first decision, it will be grounds for reopening the asylum applications of a majority if not all Eritreans in Israel who have been rejected to this day. The government of Israel is of course in a hurry to expel them as soon as possible, before these issues become clear in the courts, before more people demand that the judicial authority do justice to them.

The declared policy of the Israeli governments in the last decade was to do everything possible in order not to recognize people as refugees. It is unthinkable that the state will now deport these people to a second refugee voyage, a journey that will include pain, torture, and even death.

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