Israel plans to grant temporary residency status to 300 Sudanese asylum seekers from the Nuba and Blue Nile region, people who have not been granted legal status until now despite having fled from genocide. Interior Minister Arye Dery approved the move last week, Haaretz has learned.
The decision was prompted by a petition to the High Court of Justice, submitted by lawyers Michal Pomerantz and Carmel Pomerantz, demanding the state grant the Nuba people temporary residency status. The move will enable the asylum seekers to work and receive social benefits such as health insurance, as well as to leave the country and return.
About 400 of them are currently staying in Israel, and they have not received residence rights for humanitarian reasons like the 1,100 Darfurian asylum seekers, although their legal status and background is very similar. Of these 400, the ministry decided to grant this status only to 41-year-old and older refugees who entered Israel by 2012 and applied for political asylum, or to 40-years-olds who entered by November 2011. “The criteria are based on a combination of the refugees’ time of entry and their age,” the Population and Migration Authority said. Last July, for example, refugees from Darfur over the age of 45, who had entered Israel by 2011, were granted temporary residency status.
The Nuba Sudanese struggle has not received the same global resonance as that of the Darfurians, although they fight in the same national liberation organizations in Sudan and are both persecuted by Omar al-Bashir’s government. One reason is the Nuba people’s smaller number. The petition said the Nuba region people are “clearly refugees fleeing from an ethnic war and genocide, which is still ongoing in Sudan. The interior minister refuses to decide on their requests for political asylum. Despite the legal and circumstantial similarity, only the refugees from Darfur receive humanitarian residence status, while the Nuba Sudanese remain with no legal status.”
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The petition maintains that this constitutes blatant discrimination even compared to the partial, unsatisfactory response the state gives the Darfur refugees.
At the end of May the state told the court it will grant status to 300 additional asylum seekers. Earlier this year the state granted temporary residency status to 500 Darfurians. Some 2,500 Darfurian and Nuba region asylum seekers have been waiting for the state’s decision on their asylum requests for many years.
The Pomerantz lawyers commended the decision to grant the asylum seekers residency status and redeem them from the bereft condition Israel had forced on them. They wondered, however, why 40-year-old refugees were entitled to residence, while 39-year-old ones were not, and why a 40-year-old is more in need of humanitarian consideration than a younger single mother.
“Those who receive residency are the ones who survived the journey of suffering Israel has inflicted on them, and didn’t despair and leave on another refugee journey,” their statement said.
They said many asylum seekers who are not included in this decision are still on the brink of despair and called on Dery to hurry up and implement his declaration to grant asylum to war refugees.
Lawyer Nimrod Avigal, deputy director of HIAS Israel, said the state’s granting recognition to a group at a time, which was recently called in the appeals court “an obscure salami policy,” is “more foot dragging in dealing with the asylum requests, which leaves many waiting without any hope seen on the horizon.”