Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Deri: negotiations with UN on migrants continue

Date: 9.5.18 Source: Jerusalem Post, Tamara Zieve

Negotiations between Israel and the United Nations continue on the issue of African migrants in the country, Interior Minister Arye Deri told a Knesset committee on Wednesday, following a scathing report issued by the State Comptroller the day before on Israel’s treatment of its migrants.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled an agreement he had made with the Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which he had advocated less than 24 hours before, caving to pressure from coalition partners.

During a discussion convened by the Knesset’s State Control Committee, committee chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich of the Zionist Union said to Deri: “You know very well that that framework is the only solution, and I implore you to return it and carry it out and ask you to convince the prime minister to do so.”

The deal would have resettled at least 16,250 migrants in Western countries while granting temporary residency to an additional 16,000.

Deri said that the agreement with the UN was led by the prime minister and after negotiations concluded, he received a draft of the agreement. “I asked for two requests – the dispersal of the population and the cessation of inspections for five years of the agreement. To my surprise one day the UN agreed to the two conditions, and then I supported it.”

He continued that following Netanyahu’s decision to cancel it, as far as he is concerned, it no longer exists. “The tools which exist right now are checking the asylum requests one by one...and the encouragement of voluntary departure via grants... In addition, the discussions with the UN have not ended. As of now, there is no breakthrough, but we will see if there is any news. “ Deri also addressed criticism leveled by the state comptroller that the state rejected nearly all applications for refugee status on which it has ruled, and has refused to decide about requests that date back five years or more.

The minister said that while the comptroller’s report was correct as of the end of the audit – July 2017 – in the past four months 8,000 applications from asylum seekers had been processed and they were open to reviewing applications of those who wish to resubmit applications.

Regarding the situation of refugees from Darfur, he said, Netanyahu would convene a meeting on the subject in two weeks time.

Shani Shabtov, chairwoman of the Interior Ministry’s Law Enforcement and Foreign Workers Committee related the “intolerable conditions” she and her staff work in, telling the meeting that 30 employees had contracted tuberculosis.

Chen Brill of Amnesty International dismissed claims by the Interior Ministry that they had already dealt with the defects in their handling of asylum requests as “simply not true.”

“All requests for asylum are reviewed in hasty proceedings...

Thousands of applications that were ‘checked’ were collectively rejected without a detailed examination,” she continued, adding that rather than there being two committees, there are only two chairpersons who have not made a single decision on applications of Darfurians.

“The bottom line is that the comptroller has revealed that the Israeli government has violated its international obligations and the Refugee Convention and has pretended to be a haven, and unfortunately the minister of the Interior today decided to continue with the pretense and ignore the report’s recommendations and implications,” she concluded.