The shock that hits the children of asylum seekers when they reach the age of 18 and suddenly discover their lack of status in Israel was aptly described by Venus, the daughter of an asylum seeker from South Sudan. “It already doesn’t hurt as much as the first time, because it’s become routine, but it’s even sadder when you get used to it. It’s a feeling of hopelessness.”
Since Israel’s failed attempt in 2018 to get the United Nations to assist in removing several thousand refugees from the country and then allowing a similar number to enter, it has not taken a single step to help asylum seekers. Although thousands of them have already left Israel for Western countries that have accorded them refugee status, tens of thousands of asylum seekers remain here. There are now 8,252 children living in Israel whose parents are asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan. Most of these children were born in Israel and are under the age of 12. They are accorded group protection that bars them from being expelled to their countries of origin, but they are not entitled to legal status.
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An Israeli study published last week examined the feelings of the children without status and the difficulties they face. It found that in the absence of an official policy granting them status as asylum seekers, the city where they are living plays an important role in integrating the children among their peers and into society. At the same time, an international comparative study showed that in 10 other Western countries, children in similar circumstances are given temporary status or even citizenship.
Only here in Israel they are not granted status. On top of that, children of asylum seekers also encounter bureaucratic difficulties due to the lack of status of their parents. They therefore cannot fly abroad and any outing requiring an ID card is complicated – as is taking matriculation exams.
On paper, they can do both, but when their identity card is a sheet of paper, it’s worth practically nothing. A former senior Interior Ministry official had previously told Haaretz that this group of young people – who don’t follow the path of their Israeli counterparts and can’t even obtain a driver’s license – should receive the government’s full attention “due to the fact that they have no future in the offing here and due to concern that they could sink into a life of crime and life on the margins.”
In practice, despite the understanding within the system of the situation of these young people, who have been condemned to a life without civil status, nothing is being done. Familiarity with the views of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is enough to conclude that there is no reason, certainly not during an election campaign, to actually expect her to do the right thing – granting status to the thousands of these children. But she at least could give each of them an ID number, which would help them in the education system and later on in life.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.