Israel Ignores Court Order on Jailed Refugee Leader

Mutasim Ali's refugee status application has gone unaddressed for over 2.5 years - despite being backed by the UN's Refugee Agency.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Mutasim Ali
Mutasim AliCredit: Moti Milrod
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

State authorities have disregarded a court order to respond to an asylum request by Mutasim Ali, an asylum seeker from the Darfur region of Sudan.

Ali, who is 28, is one of the leaders of the asylum seeker community and has been in Israel for six years. For over a year he has been forced to remain in the Holot detention center. He says that already in 2010 he tried to apply for asylum in Israel, but the state prevented him from submitting the request. Two and a half years ago he finally managed to submit his application, but the Population, Immigration and Border Authority has not addressed it since then.

No decision has yet been made, despite the fact that the UN Refugee Agency examined his case and recommended that he be recognized as a refugee.

Over the last year Ali has petitioned the courts to get released from Holot. His petition is based on the fact that his application for asylum has not been answered. Justice Yosef Alon, president of the District Court in Be’er Sheva, partly accepted his petition a month and a half ago. In his ruling he commented that Ali’s application should have been handled more quickly.

“The respondent should make every effort to reach a decision on this asylum request by May 31,” determined the judge. He added that the state should reevaluate the continued detention of Ali in Holot, and make a decision on it by June 15.

Last Sunday, in the absence of a response to the asylum request, Ali’s attorney, Asaf Weitzen from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, appealed to the State Prosecutor’s Office. He wanted to know why the state has not obeyed the court’s ruling. He also threatened to take legal action based on what he called the contempt of court shown by state authorities.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority replied to these charges, stating that “Without going into the details of this case, we can note that it is being brought before the incoming minister and is being handled professionally and efficiently, as required. A detailed reply will be given to the State Prosecution.”

According to the Authority, 3,165 citizens of Sudan, mostly from the Darfur region, applied for asylum in Israel between July 2009 and early this year. By February, the state had replied to only 45 of them – and refused refugee status to all 45. One third of asylum seekers from Sudan have either left in the meantime or canceled their applications. The others are still waiting for a reply. Human rights NGOs say Israel’s policy is to avoid recognizing the Sudanese as refugees and thus avoid having to give them their rights as such.

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