High Court Gives Israel 30 Days to Check Darfurians’ Asylum Requests

Supreme Court chief criticizes state’s claim that there isn’t enough manpower to examine requests, calling it an 'exhausted excuse,' but accepts state’s position that each request be examined individually

Asylum seekers waiting outside the Population, Immigration and Border Authority office in Bnei Brak, April 2018
Moti Milrod

The High Court of Justice on Monday gave the state 30 days to submit a timetable and work plan for examining the asylum requests of Sudanese asylum seekers from the Darfur region.

The announcement by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut was made at a hearing on petitions asking that they be granted refugee status.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Arye Dery and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked no longer wants to give the Darfurians special humanitarian status; instead, the state will monitor the situation in Sudan to see if it has improved enough, in their view, so that the Sudanese in Israel can be deported.

One of the petitions asks the High Court to order the state to respond to all the asylum requests from the Darfurians, which the authorities have ignored until now.

Another petition asks that all the Sudanese from Darfur be granted temporary resident status, at least until their individual asylum requests are evaluated.

There are currently 3,500 people from Darfur in Israel. Some 2,300 of them have requested asylum, but only one request has gotten a response. Most of these asylum requests were submitted years ago.

At the hearing, Hayut criticized the state’s claim that there wasn’t enough manpower to examine the requests, saying, “This [excuse] has been exhausted. It’s impossible to continue this endless waiting.” Yet Hayut called for acceptance of the state’s position, submitted Sunday, that each request would be examined individually.

She said the petitions would be made superfluous if this indeed occurred.

In the response submitted to the court, the state said, “From now on, asylum requests from Sudanese who come from the Darfur region, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile will be decided in accordance with the circumstances of each case.”

Human rights groups, including the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Assaf, a migrant aid NGO, and Physicians for Human Rights called Monday evening for the state to immediately decide on these asylum requests.

“This hearing is a resounding reminder of the helplessness of the Israeli asylum system,” the groups said in a statement. “We hope that the High Court justices will reach the only reasonable conclusion – and this isn’t to allow the state to procrastinate any more, but that requests for asylum must be immediately decided upon according to international standards and that refugee status be granted to those entitled.”