Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

UN Committee Summons Israel to Explain Sweeping Asylum Rejections

Date: 24.9.19 Source: Haaretz, Lee Yaron

A United Nations committee is demanding that Israel provide explanations regarding its policy toward asylum seekers, Haaretz has learned.

Israeli government representatives will be asked to supply clarifications to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights next week in Geneva, after which it will likely issue recommendations and demand regular updates.

Israel will have to respond as to whether its asylum policies and practice follow the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is a signatory.

Israel will be asked to explain its policy of “temporary non-expulsion” with regard to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan, as well as why so few of their requests for asylum – only 13 – have been approved.

The state will have to make representations on how it will deal with more than 15,000 requests for asylum by natives of Eritrea and Sudan still to be processed, and what has been done to streamline the process after it was criticized in a May 2018 state comptroller's report.

The panel will also address drastic economic measures imposed on asylum seekers, such as the deposit law, or its policy to deny asylum seekers access to basic social and health services.

Under the 2017 law, 20 percent of a worker's salary is seized and returned only upon volutary departure, or refugee status being granted. 

In a response sent to the UN last month, Israel said it was coping with a particularly large number of asylum applications, given its size. According to data presented by Israel, 90,000 applications have been submitted since 2009. Within a year and a half, some 800 asylum seekers from Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Nile region were granted temporary residency on humanitarian grounds.

This status grants social benefits, health insurance and the right to work. The state, however, did not reveal it had granted status to these asylum seekers without examining requests individually, and the issue was subject to legal challenges by human rights organizations.