An appeals tribunal recognizes an Eritrean man’s refugee status on the grounds that he fled the Eritrean army, rejecting a policy that has resulted in one of the lowest refugee recognition rates in the world. Attorney Elad Cahana, who worked on the case, speaks to +972 Magazine about its implications for the thousands of asylum seekers Israel is planning to deport.
A Justice Ministry appeals tribunal last week handed down what many are hoping will be a groundbreaking ruling for Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel. A judge ruled that desertion from the Eritrean army, which forms at least part of the basis of a great number of Eritrean nationals’ asylum applications, is a valid basis for refugee status. Up until now, the Interior Ministry has refused to recognize desertion as a basis for refugee status in asylum claims.
Under the ministry’s existing policy, Israel has rejected thousands of Eritrean asylum seekers’ requests for refugee status. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 91.4 percent of Eritreans are recognized as refugees in Europe. Israel, in comparison, has granted refugee status to just 11 Eritreans — including the man whose application was validated in court last week.
In Eritrea, ruled by dictator Isaias Afwerki, adult men face indefinite conscription and slavery-like conditions in the army. Fleeing indefinite military service is the basis for the high refugee recognition rates of Eritreans around the world.
So will this possibly precedent-setting ruling spell hope for the thousands of Eritreans in Israel with asylum claims pending, and perhaps even for the thousands whose claims have already been rejected? As Israel prepares to deport tens of thousands of African asylum seekers, these questions are more urgent than ever.
To find out, +972 Magazine spoke with Attorney Elad Cahana of Tel Aviv University’s Refugee Rights Clinic who, along with Atty. Anat Ben Dor, represented the Eritrean man at the center of last week’s case. Cahana, speaking by phone on Monday, stressed that while the decision is an important change, it is too early to say what the precise implications will be.
You had a case recently in which a Justice Ministry appeals tribunal ruled that, contrary to Interior Ministry policy up until now, desertion from the Eritrean army can be part of a valid asylum claim. What does that decision...Read More