Israel to Give 300 Asylum Seekers From Sudan Temporary Residence

New status is identical to that of individuals who have been recognized as refugees ■ Some 2,500 migrants from Darfur have been waiting for years for Israel to process their asylum requests

Darfuri asylum seekers attending a festival held for them in south Tel Aviv.
Daniel Bar-On

The state told the High Court of Justice Sunday that it will extend legal protection to 300 asylum seekers from Sudan’s Darfur, Nuba and Blue Nile regions – areas where genocide has occurred.

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The news came in a response to petitions against the state demanding that it decide on individual asylum applications from members of this population or grant them special humanitarian status as a group. The new status for the 300 Sudanese is identical to that of an individual who has been recognized as a refugee. It will give these individuals the right to work in Israel and to receive social benefits such as national health insurance. In addition, they will be permitted to return to Israel after leaving the country.

Some 2,500 asylum seekers from Darfur and Sudan’s Nuba Mountains have been waiting for years for Israel to process their asylum requests. The state’s latest decision follows two similar ones this year giving legal status to 500 Darfuris.

The new status will be granted within 30 days, in accordance with criteria that have not yet been established. In its response to the petition, the state did not say how these criteria will be determined and why it decided, for the third time, to extend these protections to a small group only and not to all Darfuris living in Israel.

In its response to the High Court, the state said that extending the status was “another stage in the process of creating Israel’s comprehensive policy regarding the population of infiltrators and asylum seekers living in Israel.” The response also said the decision was taken in the light of the state’s announcement in April that it would no longer expel asylum seekers to a third country against their will, in the wake of the refusal of Uganda and Rwanda to accept asylum seekers deported from Israel.

Two of the petitions were submitted by Carmel Pomerantz and Michal Pomerantz. A third was submitted by Tomer Warsha.

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“We protest the foot-dragging and demand justice for all Darfur and Nuba Mountains,” the Pomerantzes said in a statement. “The ‘salami tactics’ are aimed at wearing down [the applicants], and they meet this goal. This decision joins the two earlier decisions taken in the past year, extended legal status to 500 Darfuris. It appears that the respondent is trying only to continue to rebuff judicial review by issuing humanitarian decisions that will solve the problem in the most partial manner.”

In February the state told the High Court that any legal decision that is made regarding the entire population of asylum seekers from Darfur will also apply to asylum seekers from the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile in Sudan, who were subjected to genocide.

In July 2017 the state took the first decision to grant “humanitarian status” to 200 Darfuris. The previous government, under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, granted refugee status to the first 600 Darfuris to enter Israel. Apart from this group, Israel has recognized only one refugee from Sudan, and that too was under pressure from the High Court.