Darfur Asylum Seeker Suing Israel Over Year-long Mistaken Detention

Authorities admitted that man sent to desert facility had been eligible for temporary residence.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

An asylum seeker from the Darfur region of Sudan is suing the state for 2.5 million shekels (nearly $650,000) for unlawful confinement. As reported in Haaretz in January, the asylum seeker, identified only as Ahmed, was held at the Holot detention center for a year due to an error on the part of the Population and Immigration Authority.

He was released only after contacting a lawyer who appealed to the population authority. The authority admitted its mistake and released him, granting him temporary residence status. It turned out he had been eligible for this status seven years earlier, but never received it. Instead, he was repeatedly made to apply for a temporary visa, ending up in Holot.

Ahmed, 41, is diabetic. He entered Israel in 2007, among the first 600 Darfuris to reach Israel. The Olmert government gave them temporary residence status as a humanitarian gesture. After he learned of this, Ahmed went to the Interior Ministry offices in Tel Aviv but didn’t succeed in meeting with anyone. Appeals to the “Sons of Darfur” non-profit organization, and to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, proved fruitless as well. He remained with a temporary visa for all those years, which protected him from deportation but did not afford him the rights of a temporary resident.

For six years he lived in Eilat, working at one of the hotels there. “The appellant lived a quiet life, rehabilitating himself to the best of his ability after the horrors he had been through,” said his lawyer Galit Lubetzky in a petition filed at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.

“His imprisonment totally disrupted his life, cutting him off from home, work and friends,” the petition continued. “His diabetes deteriorated due to poor nutrition, his blood pressure rose and the cold conditions were damaging. He is now taking pills to treat his physical condition, but his mental state was also affected.”

Ahmed has suffered from depression since his release and lived with friends until he found work again. “He is receiving no treatment for mental rehabilitation since he lacks the means,” notes the petition.