The first deportation orders have been distributed, starting with the refugees imprisoned in the Holot detention facility. As of the 1st of February 2018, as men above the age of 18 go to renew their visas in Bnei Brak, they too will be subjected to receiving deportation orders. Those who are unmarried, without children, above 18, and have either not yet submitted refugee status determination applications, or whose applications have been rejected, or those who submitted their forms in 2018, will be subjected to choosing between deportation and indefinite imprisonment.
Submitting a refugee status determination application (RSD) is not nearly as simple as it may sound. For years in Israel, there was no way to submit RSD forms, no system for it whatsoever. Then, thousands were submitted, many have gone unchecked for years on end have remained so to this day, and others were rejected immediately.
Many people use the fact that thousands of asylum-seekers have not submitted their applications as a way to prove they are not refugees. However, submitting an RSD form is not as simple as saying you are a refugee and requesting status. You must be able to tell your story, look back upon traumatic instances in your life, and share that trauma. Additionally, the applications are submitted in English, a language that many of the refugees are not able to fully express themselves in, and therefore need the assistance of a volunteer to fill out the forms.
The system has been broken from its inception, and it is now being used as “proof” that the refugees in Israel are work migrants, and as an excuse to deport them. There was a period of time where Eritreans who submitted RSD applications would receive a rejection letter, because Eritreans in Israel receive group protection and are not eligible for refugee status. This same rejection letter now being used to “prove” they are not refugees and can therefore be deported.
JACC’s Rights Advocacy Center is working to assist individuals who are receiving deportation orders (see photo), in filing for appeals and acquiring any necessary paperwork for those who are not eligible for deportation but have still received the orders. Additionally, JACC has tripled the capacity of the RSD program.
In 2017, JACC assisted in filing just over 100 RSD applications. In the first month of 2018, we have already surpassed this number. Additionally, many staff and volunteers are actively working to stop the deportation, taking part in “עוצרים את הגירוש” and other ad-hoc movements against the deportation, protests, petitions, and political advocacy.
JACC has served the community in Jerusalem as a home away from home for the last three years, and we will continue working to provide the community with the services they need and deserve. In spite of the challenging times, our work continues and the center’s activities have expanded to be bigger then ever before.