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Human rights organizations in Israel to the Minister of Interior: freeze the decision to remove the temporary protection from deportation given to citizens of DRC

The human rights organizations in Israel (the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, HIAS, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights–Israel) are demanding the following of the Minister of Interior and the Head of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA): freeze the decision to remove the temporary protection from deportation given to citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) until after the planned elections in that country next month.

In the past 20 years several hundred asylum seekers from the Congo have lived in Israel, most of them having submitted requests for refugee status that have been ignored by PIBA. During this period the Congolese in Israel have raised families and rebuilt their lives. On the 7th of October, 2018, without any apparent change in the situation in the Congo, PIBA announced that it would rescind the temporary protection from deportation provided to the Congolese, which had been in place for almost 20 years. We demand that the Minister of Interior and the head of PIBA freeze this decision until a thorough investigation of the situation in the Congo has been made after the elections planned for the 23rd December, 2018 have taken place.

The letter from the human rights organizations highlights the fact that rescinding the temporary protection from deportation of the Congolese runs counter to the numerous international sources indicating that the situation in the Congo is highly volatile and could explode at any time into civil war. Historic elections are scheduled to take place this December in the Congo, which has been ruled for many years by the dictator Joseph Kablila. Numerous reports have surfaced of the brutal arrest of political opponents, false accusations against members of the opposition, executions without trial and acts of torture being perpetrated by government forces. In addition there have been armed clashes in various regions of the Congo that include serious war crimes, leading to the flight of millions of displaced persons ad refugees to neighboring countries. Last October the World Health Organization warned of the spread of the Ebola epidemic throughout the Congo. Congolese women are exposed to rape, a common tool of war in the clashes raging over the countryside. Also prevalent is trafficking in which women are sold for sex and forced into hard labor, another form of torture by the different forces, which has become widespread throughout the country.

The amount of time given by the Ministry of Interior for the Congolese to leave Israel, 3 months from the announcement’s publication date – which was not communicated directly to the Congolese community, but rather placed on the ministry’s website – is not sufficient.  It also contravenes the 2012 ruling by the Supreme Court, which, in the case of a citizen of the Ivory Coast, determined that, that six months is a reasonable amount of time in which to prepare to leave Israel, from the announcement’s publication date. For years the State has neglected to make decisions regarding the asylum requests, and now, suddenly, tells them to uproot themselves within 90 days and return to a country in chaos, where their lives and liberty are in real danger.

Taking the above into consideration, we demand that the Minister of Interior delay his decision until there is a new, in-depth and transparent review of the situation in the Congo following the planned elections. In addition, we demand no one who has applied for asylum be deported before their status has been determined. If we do not receive an answer to our letter by the 112th of December, 2018, we will take legal measures.