Israel Should Recognize Darfur Migrants as Refugees, Says Lapid

But the state should treat Eritreans as illegal immigrants, the outgoing finance minister says on his Facebook page.

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African migrants at the Holot detention center in the Negev Desert, southern Israel, Sept. 23, 2014.
African migrants at the Holot detention center in the Negev Desert, southern Israel, Sept. 23, 2014.Credit: AP
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Departing Finance Minister Yair Lapid has said that Israel must recognize refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. “We must treat these people as Holocaust survivors. On the other hand, Eritrean labor migrants, who constitute the majority of those who infiltrated into the country, should be treated as illegal immigrants.” Lapid posted these words on his Facebook page on Friday, in response to surfer Sharon Livne who had criticized his conduct.

Lapid declared last week that his party would support the amendment to the anti-infiltration law if it comes to a second and third reading at the Knesset under the same formulation that was approved by the government and by the Knesset at its first reading.

The new amendment approves the continued operation of the Holot detention facility, limiting remand there to one year and eight months. The facility currently holds 2,200 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, 70% of whom are from the Darfur region. Israel has so far not granted refugee status to even one Darfuri, although many of them have requested asylum here.

Some of these requests were submitted months and even years ago, but the state has not responded. Israel claims the reason it has not expelled Sudanese citizens, including Darfuris, is that it has no diplomatic relations with Sudan - rather than out of concern for their wellbeing.

An asylum seeker from Darfur who has been held for over six months at Holot also appealed to Yair Lapid on his Facebook page on Friday.

Lapid speaking at a press conference one day after he was fired by Netanyahu, December 3, 2014.Credit: David Bachar

My name is Mutasim Ali, an asylum seeker from Darfur, Western Sudan. I’ve been in Israel since 2009. I requested asylum in 2010 but there has been no decision in my case since then. I’m but one case out of thousands of Africans who have been living in Israel for several years. I ask you to vote against the bill since I cannot go back there now. So why am I in jail even though I’m from Darfur? It’s a waste of money – the government is out of touch. The government is seriously infringing on our rights, as well as those of the residents of southern Tel Aviv, since it is so out of touch,” he wrote. There has been no reply yet to Ali’s appeal.

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