On March 8th, JACC held a fundraising event to raise awareness of the urgency of the situation facing African asylum seekers in Israel. For those of you who missed it, here are a few highlights:
A handful of the JACC’s community members gave lectures on the current situation in the countries of origin, which demonstrated the impossibility and danger of return.
Moonim, a Sudanese-born Israeli resident, gave a well-informed lecture on Sudan’s present-day military and political instability, illustrating how Sudan’s head of state Omar al Bashir, who came to power during a military coup in 1989 and is now being accused of genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
Brahne, originally from Eritrea, gave a presentation on the African community’s day to day life in Israel, and related it to the situation in Eritrea and what is likely to happen to people who go back.
Yael Orgal, one of the JACC’s board of directors, shared the information she collected during her journey to Uganda and Kenya, and explained that asylum seekers previously deported to Rwanda were then immediately forced to flee to Uganda. She is now using all of this information as evidence against the deportation.
Yael also showed a recorded interview of a young man who, upon arriving in Rwanda, had to flee once again, and encountered great dangers before finally being one of the ‘lucky’ ones and reaching Europe.
Gal Dabush, coordinator of JACC’s rights advocacy department, spoke about the legal situation asylum seekers in Israel, the appeals to the courts, and the criteria for deportation. She explained that refugee status is a recognized legal status that allows people to obtain certain rights that vary according to the host country, including work permits, health insurance, education for children, housing assistance and language classes.
She also reminded us that according to the European Stability Institute, The European Union has recognized asylum claims from 90% of Eritreans who apply for refugee status and 56% of Sudanese, as opposed to Israel, which has recognized refugee status for only one Sudanese and 10 Eritreans, out of thousands of applications for asylum, resulting in an acceptance rate of 0.056%. (The rest of the asylum seekers and migrants receive temporary visas every few months, which they must renew in person at the Interior Ministry in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, a visa that does not allow asylum seekers to work. Hence leaving no choice to the asylum seekers but to work illegally, be underpaid, and thus be trapped in poverty.)
Samuel el Shech, a Sudanese born actor, presented an emotional monologue of his arduous journey to Israel and his life.
Josie Mendelson, the director of JACC, presented the work of the center and the many activities, classes, and support offered to the African residents of Jerusalem. She also informed the audience of what they could do to help.
Sernai, who is originally from Eritrea but has been living in Israel for 9 years, presented the current tension the African community has felt since the announcement of the deportation, spoke of the many questions asked by children which are difficult for parents and educators to answer. Sernai painted a picture of a community in great distress.
The event, attended by about 100 people, took place at Kol haNeshama, a reform community in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem whose congregants are very supportive of JACC.
We want to take this opportunity to thank our hosts, our guests, and our speakers.
Please help us continue to fight the deportation by donating to JACC.