High Court Slams Israeli Government for Failing to Develop Policy on Darfur Refugees

State says new policy will be made after deportations begin, court to be updated in three months

Israeli border police officers stand guard over Sudanese refugees who crossed into Israel illegally north of Nitzana, near the border with Egypt, August 20, 2007.
REUTERS

The High Court of Justice criticized the government Monday for dragging its feet on setting a new policy on granting residency in Israel to asylum seekers originally from the Darfur region of Sudan. But the High Court did not set a deadline or schedule for the government to present such a policy.

The great majority of the asylum requests from Darfurians have been waiting for an answer for years, and over two years ago the government told the High Court it would decide on the matter.

At the hearing, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut asked the government for a schedule for setting a policy on the matter, but did not receive an answer. “The matter is under examination,” said Hadas Eran from the State Prosecutor’s Office.

Hayut said the government has been giving this same answer for over two years and pressured her to provide an answer, and Eran then asked for a break to consult with her office. She then told the court that developments are expected within the next few weeks concerning the treatment and deportation of asylum seekers.

Two weeks ago, the government informed the High Court that the deportations would begin within a few weeks. Only after these deportations begin will the state formulate its new policy concerning asylum seekers in general, and Darfur residents in particular, Eran told the High Court.

Hayut ordered the state to provide an updated response within three months. She said the High Court is waiting to hear the new policy, and then it will examine it. The justices said they will follow the developments in the case closely: “There are people here whose situation is unique and we want to see how this is expressed in the overall policy,” said Hayut.

Last week, Haaretz reported that Israel will grant temporary residency status to a second group of 300 asylum seekers from Darfur, as part of its response to the petition asking the High Court to order the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to decide on the asylum requests of Darfurians staying in Israel.

So far, the government has not released what its criteria are for deciding who will be deported and who will be allowed to stay. But it is likely that asylum seekers whose requests have not yet been decided on, similar to the cases of those from Darfur, will not be deported to Africa.

In June, Israel granted temporary residency to about 200 people from Darfur. They had submitted requests to be recognized as refugees years ago, but had not received official responses. That decision, made on “humanitarian” grounds, marked the first time in a decade that a large group of refugees had been granted residency status by Israel.