Editorial

Your Place Is Unknown

Israel, which was established by refugees, must fulfill its responsibility and maintain an efficient and serious asylum system

Asylum seekers demonstrate against the deportation of refugees to Uganda, Sudan and Eritrea in Jerusalem, April 17, 2017.
Emil Salman

The ways Israel has of making life difficult for asylum seekers, and in so doing avoiding its legal and humanitarian obligations toward them, are proliferating. As reported by Ilan Lior in Haaretz, the Population and Immigration Authority has for the past three months restricted the ability to submit new applications for asylum. It has also ceased issuing the ad hoc notes that temporarily protected asylum seekers who had yet to fill out an application.

As a result of this, many asylum seekers who have been unable to submit their applications are now without residency permits and are open to arrest and deportation.

The Authority has stopped issuing official appointment dates for submitting asylum requests. Asylum seekers must appear at its offices without an appointment, and many of them are turned away and must return on another day, and then too, they might not get in. Twenty-two thousand asylum applications are waiting for a response.

This compounds other familiar problems in the Israeli asylum system. Reports published in 2012 and 2014 by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants highlight the many faults in procedures for examining asylum requests, including providing information about the procedures and supplying translators, as well as a lack of research about conditions in countries of origin of asylum seekers and a focus on marginal details during interviews to try to find contradictions. In addition, legal interpretations sometimes restrict the chance of asylum.

The rate of recognition of asylum seekers in Israel is much lower than in other countries. The harassment of asylum seekers manifests itself in their incarceration without trial in the Holot detention facility in the Negev. The High Court of Justice ruling restricting such detention to a year notwithstanding, this is still a serious and unacceptable blow to their freedom. And in addition to all of the above is the threat hanging over the heads of asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan that they will be deported to Uganda and Rwanda, a procedure whose legality is now under judicial scrutiny.

Israel, which was established by refugees, must fulfill its responsibility and maintain an efficient and serious asylum system, which will fairly examine applications within a reasonable time period and according to accepted worldwide criteria. As for groups that Israel does not deport to their countries of origin because of conditions in those countries, that is, asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, Israel must allow a well-ordered examination of individual requests. It must also provide proper temporary protection as required by the principle of non-repatriation that prohibits sending people back to places where their lives and liberty are at risk. Such protection must include access to health services, proper work permits (and not a hazy policy of “non-enforcement” of prohibitions on employment as is the case at present), protection of their freedom – that is, no more incarceration in Holot, and lifting the threat of deportation. Alongside a comprehensive reform of the system, the problems uncovered involving submission of asylum applications must be immediately fixed.