Israel Likely to Delay Court Order to Grant Temporary Residency to 2,440 Sudanese Asylum Seekers

The High Court says that Israel has been procrastinating in addressing the Sudanese asylum requests

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Asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv, this year.
Asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv, this year.Credit: Moti Milrod
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel's High Court of Justice ordered the state in April to give 2,440 Sudanese asylum seekers temporary residency status by the end of the month, though it is unclear if the government will oblige.

The process of awarding such status will require criminal and security background checks for each asylum seeker. The Population and Immigration Authority says the state is expected to request a delay in implementing the order so that it can conduct the process properly.

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The High Court said that the state has been procrastinating in addressing the Sudanese asylum requests; the oldest request was submitted a decade ago.

Sources say that none of the asylum seekers affected by the ruling have received an answer to their asylum requests. In September, sources told Haaretz that the Interior Ministry had begun interviewing asylum seekers again after a two-year hiatus.

In the current ruling, the court’s president, Esther Hayut, wrote that the state must have gone through the necessary background checks by December 30 to decide whether any of the asylum seekers should receive temporary status.

This is consistent with the Population Authority’s policy that “in the case of an asylum seeker who has been in Israel for more than six months, the Population Authority will send a questionnaire to the police on the asylum seeker’s criminal background and additional information, and to other security agencies as necessary.”

Both the police and the Shin Bet are required to conduct criminal background checks, though sources say the Interior Ministry has not contacted the police on the matter.

While sources say the Shin Bet has sent general assessments to the Population Authority, though it has not yet started assessing individual asylum seekers.

In 2017, the state appealed a case regarding a Sudanese asylum seeker – who was represented by the refugee-assistance group HIAS – after he received temporary status without going through a security background check.

Attorney Inbal Moshe of the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office wrote: “As is customary, before receiving temporary status in Israel, the applicant must fill out a background file, just as [this asylum seeker] was asked to do. This is sent to the security agencies and the police, so they can make a recommendation. The reasoning for this is obvious and does not require an explanation.”

One month later, Israel withdrew its motion, saying the security background check had been accelerated and approved.

Sources familiar with the situation say the chances of these checks being finished on time are decreasing, but a senior official at the Interior Ministry says the ministry is prepared to implement the ruling completely.

Last month, Meretz lawmaker Michal Rozin sent written questions to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on whether the government will be able to implement the ruling. Shaked has not yet responded.

In October, the court was petitioned to order the Population Authority and Shaked to act to implement the ruling in the short time they have left. The Interior Ministry told the court that “the issue is on the agenda of the director general of the Population Authority, which is taking the necessary action to implement the ruling.”

The court rejected the petitioners’ request, writing that it is clear that the Interior Ministry and Population Authority must implement the ruling.

Attorneys Carmel Pomerantz and Michal Pomerantz, who represent some of the petitioners, said in a statement that “this isn’t a breach of duty toward the public but toward the judiciary. The advance toward a blatant breach of the ruling must end.”

Attorney Tomer Warsha, who represents other petitioners, added: “As far as we’re concerned, there is no option where the state continues procrastinating as if there was never a process. The state must adhere to High Court rulings even when it does not agree with them.”

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