After Long Legal Battle, Israel to Free Darfuri Refugee Leader

Mutasim Ali, from the Darfur region of Sudan, applied for asylum more than 2.5 years ago, and has been held in the Holot detention center since May 2014.

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

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered the immediate release of one of the leaders of the asylum-seeker community. The state confirmed Monday it is freeing Mutasim Ali from the Holot detention facility.

Ali, 28, is originally from the Darfur region of Sudan and has been held in Holot since May 2014. He has been conducting legal proceedings against his incarceration since he first received the summons ordering him to report to the facility. His primary argument was that he had submitted a request for asylum more than 30 months ago, but never received a response from the state – even though the UN Refugee Commission determined that he meets the conditions for obtaining refugee status. This is the first time a person has been released from Holot due to bureaucratic delays in examining an asylum request.

In the main arguments presented to the Supreme Court, attorneys Yochi Gnessin and Ron Rosenberg from the prosecution said the chief border inspector at the Population, Immigration and Border Authority had decided not to extend the directive ordering Ali’s stay in Holot, which expired Monday. The state said it had taken into account the length of time since he had submitted his asylum request and the length of time he had been in Holot.

Ali had been appealing a decision by Be’er Sheva District Court President Judge Joseph Elon, who had advised the state to speed up consideration of his asylum request and respond by May 31, and reconsider his stay in Holot by June 15. Despite this, the state had still not responded to Ali’s asylum request, and extended his stay in Holot by three additional weeks.

In a response early last month to a query by attorney Asaf Weitzen of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (which is representing Ali), population authority lawyer Shunit Shahar admitted the state hasn’t formulated a policy on Darfur refugees.

The authority also stated that the interior minister’s advisory committee on refugees believed Ali’s asylum request couldn’t be decided upon before the status of former Darfur residents in general was determined.

Authority data indicates that 3,165 Sudanese nationals, mostly from Darfur, filed asylum requests between 2009 and the beginning of 2015. As of February, the government had responded to 45 requests and hadn’t granted any of them refugee status.

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