There are around 38,000 asylum seekers in Israel, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea. Over the past month, their situation has become increasingly tenuous due to new legislation and changes in governmental policy.
Though the Holot detention facility reserved for asylum seekers is now closing, their situation has worsened in new ways.
The government is now advancing plans—announced on January 3rd—to deport thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese nationals who have not yet succeeded in applying for asylum status or who have applied but were rejected.
For those who have applied, most of the applications have never been reviewed, and only a handful have received answers. Thousands of asylum seekers have been prevented from filing applications. Once they receive a deportation order, they have between 30 and 60 days to leave the country or else face indefinite imprisonment. Sadly, asylum seekers who are deported could end up returning to the same dangers from which they ran, or worse.
To learn more about the situation:
• Jewish Canadians urge Israel to back off plan to deport African refugees – The Toronto Star
• This CBC radio show features Professor Galia Sabar, Chair of African Studies at Tel Aviv University, and board member of our partner organization Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
• A letter from Jewish Clergy against the deportations
• A podcast about Eritrean hostages and the journalist who tries to help them. From This American Life: This Call May Be Recorded… To Save Your Life
• This report, “Better a Prison in Israel Than Dying on the Way,” was compiled from testimonies of refugees who were “voluntarily” deported to Rwanda and Uganda.
• NIFC’s partner Hotline for Refugees and Migrants issued a point-by-point response to a message from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
NIF’s Global Response to the Refugee Crisis
Since 2007, the NIF family of affiliates has assisted human rights organizations working with asylum seekers, including Hotline for Refugees and Migrant, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, ASSAF (Aid Organization for Refugees), Worker’s Hotline, and the African Refugee Development Center.
As the situation has deteriorated in recent weeks, branches of NIF in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia have mobilized:
Emergency Funds: $15,000 in emergency grants has already been allocated to organizations that are assisting thousands of refugees in their asylum application process or in appealing the decision to deport or jail them; running public opposition campaigns; doing advocacy and legal work.
Community Action: NIFC and NIF branches have joined the global Jewish community to express opposition to the practice of deporting asylum seekers into situations that place their lives at risk. We have signed a series of open letters asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse the plan.
Supporting Israelis: Core NIF grantees—and others supported by Shatil—are mobilizing Israelis to speak out against the deportations.
Legal Action: Legal options are being pursued. The Hotline is now seeking an injunction to prevent deportation of refugees who have attempted to apply for asylum status.
Spotlight: New Israel Fund of Canada
Refugee rights are important to the Canadian Jewish community. In recent years, synagogues and Jewish groups have mobilized to sponsor Syrian and other refugees from war-torn countries.
That is why NIFC has funded Shatil, NIF’s own organizing arm on the ground in Israel, to provide training and services to organizations that work with and on behalf of asylum seekers. This capacity-building
NIFC’s project supports the work of five of Israel’s leading refugee rights organizations: the Hotline for Migrants and Refugees, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Elifelet – Citizens for Refugee Children, ASSAF – Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, and the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC).
Future funding by NIFC will support Shatil’s work to coordinate among these organizations in a rapidly-changing situation.
Current Funding Needs
With the impending closure of the Holot facility, NIF branches worldwide are currently seeking funds to provide additional funding of $50,000 to support emergency needs.
These funds will be used to support the public advocacy campaign and other activities in the field, to fight the deportations and to provide vital assistance to the asylum seekers whose lives are in jeopardy.