Israel to grant temporary residency to 2,440 Sudanese asylum seekers

Status will grant almost all the same rights as citizens, except voting in elections; can be renewed after 6 months if they prove their lives are centered in Israel

Sudanese refugees demonstrate in front of the Knesset in protest of the new "Holot" detention camp for illegal migrants, on Monday, December 17, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sudanese refugees demonstrate in front of the Knesset in protest of the new "Holot" detention camp for illegal migrants, on Monday, December 17, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel will next week begin granting temporary residency to 2,440 Sudanese asylum seekers who have been waiting several years for a decision on their requests to stay in the country, the Haaretz daily reported Saturday.

The status, which is being allowed in accordance with a High Court of Justice ruling earlier this year, will be granted until a final decision on their fate is made.

The temporary status will be given to asylum seekers from the Darfur, Nuba Mounts and Blue Nile River regions in Sudan who filed their applications before 2017, according to notifications sent to various courts that were dealing with the petitions filed by the asylum seekers.

It grants the recipients almost all of the rights of Israeli citizens other than voting in elections or running for office, the report said.

After half a year has passed, recipients will be able to apply for an extension from the Population and Immigration Authority if they can show that their lives are centered in Israel, and upon payment of a fee.

The process will begin in the coming days with the publication of a list on the Immigration and Population Authority website of all those entitled to temporary status. The individuals will be called into the authority where they will be given certification by the end of January, Haaretz reported.

Sudanese asylum seekers gather on October 25, 2020 in an area in the southern part of Tel Aviv where thousands of them are living. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

In April the High Court had demanded that a decision on the asylum requests be made by the end of this year or the applications must be automatically granted temporary status.

The ruling pushed the Immigration and Population Authority to carry out a curtailed security check into candidates. Rather than holding a personal interview with each applicant, their details were passed to police and the Shin Bet security service who did background investigations. Those with a significant criminal past or other security issues will not get the temporary status, the report said.

Read more: Offered little hope, African migrants despair of Israel as a refuge

Sudanese immigrant Monim Haron, a key figure in the community, last week told Haaretz that the developments are “a significant step for us as some are waiting more than eight years for a decision on our requests.”

He said asylum seekers had hoped Israel would recognize the genocides that they escaped from and grant the status without the need for a High Court decision.

Immigration lawyer Tomer Warsha, an immigration lawyer, told Haaretz that he welcomed the “victory for human rights.”

“We prevented prohibited discrimination, and people who have lived for years as legal refugees in Israel will receive, after a long campaign, the minimum rights that they deserve,” Warsha said.

The state also notified the courts that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is in the final stages of putting together a list of updated criteria for deciding asylum requests by Sudanese seekers in accordance with developments in their home country.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a Yamina faction meeting at the Knesset on July 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Attorney Nimrod Avigail, from the Israel branch of the US-based HIAS non-profit providing humanitarian aid to refugees, said in a statement to Haaretz that aside from those who are to receive temporary status there are many more “left without rights just because they filed their requests a day, week, or month after” the 2017 deadline.

“We hope that a decent and equitable policy will be formulated and that asylum applications will be reviewed and decided as is done in countries that respect the Refugee Convention,” he said.

The state has yet to formulate an official policy for adjudicating asylum requests, despite multiple pledges to the court that it planned to do so, the most recent of which came in October 2018.

Most of the Sudanese refugees in Israel fled because of the 2003 genocide in Darfur and have since resided in Israel without official status and therefore haven’t had access to many basic social services.

Conditions have worsened for asylum seekers since the start of the pandemic, with many losing work as a result of lockdowns. But unlike Israeli citizens, migrants have no unemployment benefits or national insurance to fall back on, leaving many in a desperate economic state.

The situation in Sudan remains tentative after earlier this year a military coup first deposed and then reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under military oversight in a deal that many in the pro-democracy movement oppose.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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