In Be'er Sheva, Refugees Have Two Hours Daily to Seek Interior Ministry Aid

African refugees seeking services from the Interior Ministry's Population Administration offices in Be'er Sheva shouldn't bother trying to get in after 10 A.M., despite the fact that the offices are open throughout the day, according to employees.

Darfuri refugees waiting to receive visas yesterday in Be’er Sheva.
Eli Hershkovitz

"We received instructions, the security guards too, that we are to receive the refugees only for two hours in the morning, and then we remove them from the site," one employee told Haaretz. The Population Administration denies that office hours have been limited for refugees.

But a second employee confirmed that an order was given to kick them out mid-morning.

"We did not receive anything in a written document, but it was a clear order not to receive refugees after 10 A.M. because of the enormous workload at the office during the summer," he said.

"We were told that because we were issuing passports and various other permits, we need to reduce the number of hours during which we received refugees. If we are not done giving them service by 10 A.M., we simply ask them to leave. If they come after 10 A.M., we do not allow them in," he said.

"Just so you don't misunderstand, we behave nicely to them. They are offered courteous service and they are not being discriminated, but just like I said, only for two hours," the employee added.

At the entrance to the office of the Population Administration in Be'er Sheva, Muhammad, a refugee, waited with three friends. He said that they came in the morning because that is what they had been told to do.

"We do not live in Be'er Sheva and come here in the morning because we are afraid we won't be allowed in. Our friends were removed from here because they came late and they did not give them service," he said.

An hour later Muhammad emerged from the office. "We finished our arrangements here but it is clear we will have to come back soon," he said.

In response the Population Administration said that "contrary to your conclusion, the bureau receives people during all office hours. These are refugees and they receive service in all our offices, throughout the country, like all citizens, and the aim is not to make it more difficult for the citizens in the summertime when the workload is heavy.'