Hotline for Refugees and Migrants
Civil and Human Rights
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Reflecting on success
When asked about his accomplishments in the past year, Ghebrehiwot Tekle (aka Ghere) says, “My accomplishments are the accomplishments of the Hotline for Migrants and Refugees. We made the government close the Holot detention center and stop the deportations [of asylum seekers] to Rwanda and Uganda.”
Stopping the deportations is the Hotline accomplishment of which Ghere is most proud. In the case Hotline brought to the High Court of Justice that resulted in the closing of the Holot detention center–where asylum seekers were locked up indefinitely–Ghere translated for two Eritrean petitioners and the lawyers handling the case.
“Both petitioners were victims of human trafficking in Sinai, both were imprisoned in Israel for more than two a half years. Both were resettled in America. It’s a big satisfaction,” Ghere reflects.
Hotline has raised public awareness for the plight of asylum seekers in Israel and has put pressure on the government to make the asylum request process–previously very difficult–somewhat easier.
“If people were recognized as refugees, they would get refugee rights as recognized by international law. So far, only 11 [claims] have been recognized by Israel”
“We got government recognition for asylum seekers who were victims of human trafficking, enabling them to get shelter, medical and psychological care. People come to us suffering, and because I am from their culture and speak their language, they are able to trust me, to open up and tell us what happened. We can then forward their cases to legal aid,” Ghere says.
These successes have made the 40,000 asylum seekers in Israel – 73 percent of whom are Eritrean – that much more secure.
What lies ahead
But the larger problem remains: The government doesn’t process the vast majority of asylum requests that it receives.
“We want the government to process asylum requests in a fair, transparent manner,” says Ghere. “That will be the solution. If people were recognized as refugees, they would get refugee rights as recognized by international law. So far, only 11 [claims] have been recognized by Israel.”
The phenomenon has been criticized by Israel’s High Court of Justice, but so far, the government isn’t showing signs of acting to change the status quo.
With more resources…
If Hotline had more resources, Ghere says, he would hire additional translators to help a greater number of asylum seekers understand and fill out lengthy Refugee Status Determination (RSD) forms —a task Ghere does regularly.
Ghere also wishes to expand the work he does at Hotline from tasks within the organization’s Crisis Intervention Center to public advocacy and community work. With greater resources, he would run the RSD clinic more frequently, and travel to the periphery of Israel to help asylum seekers there.
Ghere himself has not had his asylum request processed. Like all the asylum seekers in Israel, he is in limbo.“I’ve been waiting many years for an answer to my request for refugee status. If I had an answer, I could look to the future. I could make plans.”
Written and reported by Ruth Mason.