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Statement from the Hotline – World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is held annually on June 20 and celebrates the contributions refugees make to the countries receiving them. This year, we mark this special day in the shadow of the Coronavirus crisis that has profoundly affected asylum seekers in Israel and the millions of people seeking refuge throughout the world, in search of nothing more than a safe and quiet life. On the eve of World Refugee Day 2020, some 30,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan are living in Israel, most of whom have been in the country for approximately a decade. The data that follows provide a window into the lives of asylum seekers in Israel:

– According to data the Population and Immigration Authority provided to Israel’s High Court, the asylum applications of 13,467 Eritrean citizens and 4,673 Sudanese citizens remain pending decisions. These numbers represent approximately a third of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers living in Israel.

– Of all the open asylum requests, over a thousand are applications submitted by Sudanese citizens from Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile. These three regions are internationally known to have been the sites of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and their natives are recognized as refugees worldwide.

– In a report released by the State Comptroller in May 2018 on the conduct of the asylum system, a Deputy Attorney General was quoted as saying: “There is real difficulty in legally defending the Israeli asylum system due to the failure to respond to Eritrean and Darfuri asylum requests filed years ago.”

 – Fifteen years have passed since the first genocide survivors arrived in Israel in search of asylum. Since then, only one Sudanese citizen has been recognized as a refugee in Israel, and as of the end of 2019 only 13 Eritrean citizens had been recognized as refugees in Israel.

The Executive Director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Dr. Ayelet Oz stated:

“World Refugee Day should be a day of reckoning and a holiday alike. A day of reckoning is called for following over a decade of a dysfunctional asylum system that undermines its own purpose and does everything possible to avoid deciding on the asylum cases of Eritrean and Sudanese citizens. A holiday is justified to celebrate and appreciate the inexhaustible strengths of the community of asylum seekers who continue to survive and have built lives in Israel against all odds and despite many obstacles.