After years of advocacy efforts by NIF grantee the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Israel will grant temporary residency status to 200 Darfuri asylum seekers.
The news is a major breakthrough for the 8,000 Sudanese who have requested asylum in Israel and came ahead of the United Nations World Refugee Day.
Only about 800 Darfuris have been given temporary residency since they began immigrating to Israel in 2004. One has been granted refugee status.
“We congratulate the 200 Darfuris,” the Hotline spokesman Dror Sadot said. “Over the past year we have continually put pressure on the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice to stop dragging their feet and to provide answers on the asylum claims of Darfuris.”
But, Sadot added, the Ministry of Interior’s decision is “small, arbitrary and discriminatory.” It is not yet clear who the 200 will be, nor what criteria will be used to choose them.
The Hotline had exerted strong pressure on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to get the Ministry of Interior to approve the asylum applications.
“We are going to continue fighting for a just asylum system for those fleeing persecution because today shows us that we are making change and that a different reality is possible,” Hotline Executive Director Reut Michaeli said.
Adam Ahmed arrived in 2008 from Darfur seeking refugee status. On his way to Israel he came through Egypt where he witnessed the murder of 27 people simply because they sought asylum there. The high numbers of those attempting to reach Israel has abated since 2013 when Israel completed a fence along its border with Egypt.
“I left [Sudan] because the government was after me,” said Ahmed, 37. “They arrested my uncle and my cousins and I had to leave.”
Ahmed teaches English in a community center in south Tel Aviv. He has written a book on his experience called The Nightmare of Exile that is available on Amazon.
The Israeli decision came as Israel’s High Court of Justice approved an expansion of space for some 4,000 asylum seekers detained at Israel’s Holot facility. This change was requested by NIF grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in a legal challenge. Detainees must be allowed more private space, including that the facility can house only six to a room, down from the ten now, the court ruled.