Editorial

Israel’s Bureaucratic Trick Against Asylum Seekers

Under an extreme right-wing government whose lust for 'national purity' has made it lose its moral compass, the Interior Ministry is failing to meet its commitment and refusing to decide on the asylum requests

Sudanese refugee walks past red flags fly in the city of Eilat where the municipality hung 1,500 red flags around the city as a sign of warning gainst "the infiltration," February 2011.
Olivier Fitoussi

The other day the Population and Immigration Authority said it was reexamining 1,500 asylum requests by Sudanese from the Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions. The authority admitted that the interviews it had conducted were “not in-depth enough for making a decision on a request for political asylum,” and that additional material was needed – also considering the great amount of time since these interviews took place.

This statement shouldn’t be viewed as any soul-searching by the authorities or a change for the better at the Interior Ministry and its Population Authority, which so far have rejected Israel’s commitments to international agreements. This admission of failure and the re-examination of requests are simply another bureaucratic maneuver designed to keep delaying the approval of requests.

The Population Authority’s statement is another reminder of the incompetence of Israel’s asylum system. The asylum seekers are survivors of attempted genocide, most of whom have been living in Israel with no status for more than a decade. Under an extreme right-wing government whose lust for “national purity” has made it lose its moral compass, the Interior Ministry is failing to meet its commitment and refusing to decide on the asylum requests.

Israel has approved only one request out of around 3,400 filed by Darfurians. The others remain unanswered; they have been neither rejected nor approved. In 2015 the High Court of Justice sought an explanation from the state on how it could imprison people whose requests were not handled for so long a time, and the state committed to deciding on the requests by February 2016. It did not meet this commitment.

Since 2016, some 800 asylum seekers from Darfur have been granted a status similar to that of refugees, letting them work and awarding them benefits, as well as the right to leave and return to Israel. In October, Haaretz reported that the government had decided to examine every asylum request. In light of that, the High Court gave the government 45 days to provide a schedule for checking the requests.

Now, in response to petitions to the court on the state’s lag in meeting this commitment, the government has found a sophisticated way to keep stalling: It will name a team of six people, each of whom will examine a file each day for the next six months. At the same time, it will continue to examine whether any change has occurred in Sudan to allow the deportation of asylum seekers back to their homeland.

For how long will asylum seekers have to wait without any status? The state has provided no time estimate for handling their requests.

The High Court must put an end to this farce. Asylum seekers from Darfur have been waiting for years for a decision on their cases. If the state had a legal basis for denying the requests it would have denied them long ago. Instead of dragging its feet and inventing bureaucratic hurdles, it must stop avoiding its commitments and grant all the Darfurians asylum.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.