Israel Considering Sending Asylum Seekers to ‘Safe Spots’ in Sudan

Sudan bars its citizens from having any contact with Israel, let alone entering the country

Asylum seekers leaving a detention center, April
Eliyahu Hershkowitz

Senior Israeli officials are considering sending Sudanese asylum seekers back to Sudan, a hostile country that has vowed to punish anybody who has set foot on Israeli soil. The officials are examining whether any parts of Sudan could be considered safe areas to which the migrants could be expelled. Sending the Sudanese in Israel to Sudan’s Darfur region, is not under discussion, however.

The U.S. Congress has deemed the killings in the Darfur region of western Sudan as genocide. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed there and millions displaced.

Under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a country where asylum seekers are situated may not send them to a location where their lives could be in danger or where they could be tortured or otherwise treated inhumanely. As of the end of 2017, according to the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority, there were about 7,500 asylum seekers from Sudan in Israel.

From 2009 to August of last year, about 2,500 Sudanese from Darfur applied for asylum in Israel. The applications of five of them were denied. One was approved and the remaining applications were still pending, in many cases for years. The High Court of Justice has criticized the government for its sluggishness in forging a policy on the status of Sudanese refugees, but has not imposed a deadline for such a policy step.

Last week, Israel gave temporary residency status to 300 sudanese asylum seekers. 

Sudan bars its citizens from having any contact with Israel, let alone entering the country. It has vowed to punish any Sudanese national who has visited Israel, and Sudanese returning home run the risk of persecution, arrest and torture. Earlier this month Interior Minister Arye Dery said Israel is in talks with the UN High Commission for Refugees to reach a new agreement regulating the status of all African refugees living in the country after the government in April suspended and then withdrew an earlier agreement with the UN agency. On Sunday, the state informed the High Court of Justice of its agreement to extend legal protection to 300 asylum seekers from the Darfur, Nuba and Blue Nile regions of Sudan, all areas where genocide has occurred. The state’s latest decision follows two similar steps this year giving legal status to 500 Sudanese from Darfur.