Israel Won't Grant Work Permits to Palestinians Who Fled Homophobia, Domestic Violence

The state tells High Court of Justice that it fears automatic work permits for LGBTQ asylum seekers that would reduce the chances of those Palestinians finding a permanent solution outside of Israel

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LGBTQ+ protest in the Arab community in Haifa in 2019
LGBTQ+ protest in the Arab community in Haifa in 2019Credit: Amir Levy

Israel will not issue work permits to all Palestinian members of the LGBTQ community or victims of domestic violence who have received asylum in Israel, the state informed the High Court of Justice on Thursday.

Instead, the state said it would grant such permits on a case-by-case basis to individuals who can show that they have an employer willing to hire them. The court accepted the state’s position, although there are only 66 such individuals in Israel at this time.

Responding to a petition filed by rights groups, including Hamoked Center for the Defence of the Individual and Physicians for Human Rights, the state said that it feared granting a sweeping permit would encourage other Palestinians to seek asylum in Israel for similar reasons.

“Creating a welfare apparatus that would include additional arrangements, including employment, could significantly increase the chances that additional requests would be filed for residency and employment in Israel,” the state wrote.

The organizations petitioned the state to issue work permits to Palestinian collaborators who sought asylum in Israel and those seeking asylum for reasons categorized under “welfare,” such as members of the LGBTQ community and victims of domestic violence. In July, the state said it was prepared to grant work permits to Palestinians who had fled to Israel over suspicion by their communities of having collaborated with Israeli authorities, but that it would not grant such permits to people in the other categories.

Palestinians who flee to Israel are not eligible for refugee status because the state claims the UN refugee convention does not apply to them. They can, however, be classified as “threatened” and receive temporary residence permits if they prove to Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank that their lives are in danger.

These permits do not let Palestinians work in Israel or receive non-urgent medical services. As a result, these asylum seekers live in Israel for extended periods without jobs or basic medical care. If they return to the West Bank or Gaza for a visit, their permits are often revoked.

The state noted in its response that in such cases there is “significant practical difficulty in checking the factuality of the claims,” adding that acceding to the request would “very significantly” reduce the chances of those Palestinians to find a permanent solution outside of Israel.

In the partial ruling handed down in July, the court asked the state to provide the number of people the permits would involve. The state responded that there are currently 90 people who sought asylum for “welfare” reasons who hold temporary permits, 66 of whom are members of the LGBTQ community or victims of domestic violence. Among these, only 14 have asked for work permits in Israel, and 13 were approved. The state also said the permits were granted for a period of six months, and the average stay according to permits issued is 16.4 months.

Attorney Lustigman, representing the petitioners, told Haaretz that the state’s response “showed that its position is to abandon persecuted Palestinians without the possibility of a fair livelihood, shelter and healthcare services. The response reveals that only 13 people out of 66 were able to find an employer willing to take part in the extraordinary process that would allow them to be employed. Fifty-three others were left without the possibility to work, eat and drink.”

Lustigman added that she hoped the High Court would intervene to “protect the rights of Palestinian members of the LGBTQ community who are persecuted and women persecuted on the basis of gender.”

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