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Seeking Asylum in Israel

There are tens of thousands of African asylum seekers in Israel, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan. Israel cannot deport nationals from those countries, but is pursuing a string of measures to stop new arrivals and encourage those already here to leave. +972 tracks the developments and challenges faced by a status-less community under increasing pressure. 

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  • It's been 10 years since I applied for refugee status in Israel

    It’s been exactly 10 years since I crossed the border into Israel. I’ve been imprisoned, I've become ill, I was forced to renew my visa 62 times, and now I’m back in a detention facility — Holot. Is seeking asylum a crime? By Hassan Rahima This Sunday marked 10 years since I applied for refugee status in Israel. I’ve been waiting since December 6, 2005, the day I crossed the border from Egypt. My journey into the unknown continues. I was 17 years old when my village, Smasm, in the South Kordofan province of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, was attacked. Most…

  • Activists alter sign at entrance to Jerusalem: ‘Welcome Refugees’

    Drivers entering Jerusalem this week were greeted by an unusual message, which activists hope will jump-start a public discussion about the Israeli government's treatment of refugees. By Raanan Shemesh Forshner A group of activists from Jerusalem altered the official sign at the entrance to the city this week so that anyone driving in saw an unusual message: “Welcome refugees.” The addition of “refugees” was removed after a few hours. [tmwinpost] “We felt like we had to do something for the wellbeing of asylum seekers,” the activists explained. “Dozens of asylum seekers have been killed on Israel’s southern border in recent weeks,”…

  • Israel’s ultimatum to refugees: Indefinite detention or danger

    An Israeli court upholds the government’s policy of indefinitely imprisoning African asylum if they don’t agree to ‘voluntary deportation’ to third countries with no legal status. The xenophobia driving Israel's policy is top-down, but there is another way. By Anat Ovadia-Rosner The Be’er Sheva District Court rejected a petition filed by human rights organizations earlier this month, thereby green lighting the indefinite imprisonment of asylum seekers unless they agree to leave Israel for a third country. The term “voluntary deportation” has always described a dubious state of affairs: people who risked their lives to get to Israel, whom the state…

  • Asylum seekers mourn ‘lynched’ Eritrean man

    Asylum seekers hold a memorial service for Habtom Zerhum, who was mistakenly shot and then severely beaten by Israelis at the scene of a terrorist attack in Be'er Sheva earlier in the week. Hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese nationals gathered in south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park Wednesday evening to mourn Habtom Zerhum, the asylum seeker who was shot and severely beaten Sunday night during a terrorist attack in the Beer Sheva bus station. They lit candles and wept. Desale Tesfay, 35, from Eritrea, explained to +972 that the gathering also served as a moment for members of the community to…

  • Four simple things Israel can do to help refugees

    There's no reason contributing solutions needs to be scary. Here are four viable steps Israel can take that will actually help the various refugee populations in its midst. Israeli politicians and prominent figures in the local media have begun paying attention to the refugee crisis playing out in Europe in recent days. Well, actually, that’s a misnomer. Europe is starting to pay attention to the Syrian refugee crisis because massive numbers of Syrian refugees are now arriving on its shores and borders. In recent days, one set of prominent figures has called on the Israeli government to start absorbing in…

  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of asylum seekers released from Holot — with nowhere to go

    Approximately 600 African asylum seekers were released from Holot on Tuesday morning, following a High Court ruling. But their ban from entering Tel Aviv or Eilat — where much of their community lives — left them feeling helpless and confused. By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org Hassan, a Sudanese asylum seeker, looks on as he stands outside Holot detention center, where he has been held for the past 20 months. Tuesday was supposed to be a happy day for him — the day he was being released following a High Court ruling two weeks ago. But the decision by Interior Minister…

  • Exclusive: Despite dangers, Israel sending asylum seekers to home countries

    For the first time, new statistics reveal that nearly 4,600 Sudanese and 1,000 Eritreans were sent back to their countries of origin, possibly against international law. Israel's Interior Ministry claims they are returning 'voluntarily.'  A +972 Magazine exclusive. By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org Israel has been sending thousands of African asylum seekers back to their home countries as part of a plan for "voluntary return." According to new statistics, which are being published here for the first time, most of the returnees have been sent back to their countries of origin — Sudan and Eritrea — rather than "third countries,"…

  • High Court approves detention of asylum seekers without charge, but only for 12 months

    The High Court of Justice capitulates to the threats of Israel's right wing and approves the prolonged detention of asylum seekers. By Haggai Matar Israel's High Court of Justice approved on Tuesday the third and latest version of the Prevention of Infiltration Law, after it struck down the two previous versions passed by the Knesset. In doing so, the justices have approved the law, which would see asylum seekers who reached the country temporarily jailed for three months, while limiting imprisonment at the Holot detention center — for all asylum seekers — for a period of a year, rather than…

  • A year since protests, detained asylum seekers hint at new strategy

    When I meet Jack outside the “Holot” desert detention facility in southern Israel, currently home to some 1,900 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, the first thing he wanted to tell me is what bothers him about the Israelis that come to visit him and his friends. “Not many people come to visit us at Holot. The few that do come — they help us, and that’s great. But that is not going to change our situation here in Israel. We expect every Israeli to try and affect change through the political system — specifically, the government’s policy toward us, the…

  • Israel doesn't need to deport asylum seekers to make them leave

    Six ways the Israeli government is intentionally making the lives of asylum seekers unbearable. By Elizabeth Tsurkov Since 2008, the Israeli government has been implementing several policies whose purpose is to make the lives of African asylum seekers miserable, in the words of former Israeli Minister of Interior, and to coerce them to leave Israel. Both Israeli and international law prohibits the state from deporting asylum seekers to their countries of origin, leading Israel to adopt the following policies that would compel asylum seekers to leave without forcibly deportation: [tmwinpost] 1. Denial of basic rights: Since 2008, asylum seekers who…

  • Asylum seeker who left Israel: 'I believed them when they said I could stay in Uganda'

    The following is a redacted version of an affidavit that was attached to a petition filed by Israeli human rights NGOs and the Tel Aviv University Refugee Rights' Clinic against the recently announced policy of indefinitely incarcerating Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who refuse to leave Israel for Rwanda or Uganda. Under a new policy announced on March 31, 2015, asylum-seekers detained in Holot will be offered to leave Israel for an unnamed third country. If they refuse to do so, after 30 days, they would be incarcerated in Saharonim prison. Dozens of Eritrean asylum-seekers in Holot have since undergone interviews in…

  • PHOTOS: Hundreds protest deportation of asylum seekers in Tel Aviv

    The Israeli government announced plans to offer asylum seekers a stark choice: self-deport to a third country or face indefinite imprisonment. Residents of south Tel Aviv, where many asylum seekers live, stage a counter-protest. By Oren Ziv/Activestills.org Some 300 Israeli activists staged a protest against the Israeli government’s stated future policy of deporting asylum seekers back to Africa Saturday night in central Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. Around 100 residents of Tel Aviv’s southern neighborhoods, where many asylum seekers live, staged a counter-protest. Click for +972's full coverage of asylum seekers in Israel Refugee activists shouted, "no to deportation," and called…

  • Uganda denies agreement with Israel on asylum seekers

    The Ugandan government officially denies claims it has signed an agreement with Israel, whereby it would absorb forcefully deported Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers. The Israeli government has resisted calls to divulge the details of the agreements it had allegedly signed with 'third countries.' Government officials in Uganda deny there is any agreement with Israel on the deportation of asylum seekers into the country, according to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, citing Ugandan daily New Vision. In the report, published Tuesday, Uganda's Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs James Mugume is quoted as saying: "Neither the minister [of internal affairs] nor…