Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Petition to Grant the Discount in Public Transportation Use to Children of Asylum Seekers (February 2019)

For years, ASSAF received reports about discrimination against underage asylum seekers when it comes to the discount in use of public transportation. In February 2019, we filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on the matter.

Unlike other students in Israel, because underage asylum seekers lack legal status, they do not benefit from the 50 percent discount on use of public transportation enjoyed by other students in Israel. The discount is made possible by adding value to a personalized Rav Kav smart card, which is then doubled for those eligible to receive the discount. The issuance of a personalized smart card, however, requires a form of ID.

This means that asylum seekers are forced to pay the full and costly fare of public transportation for their children. This is a particularly heavy burden due to economic sanctions imposed on asylum seekers to compel them to leave Israel, and in cases when children attend schools far removed from their homes. Multiple appeals to Israeli authorities with regards to this policy failed to convince officials to alter the policy.

Thus, ASSAF and the NGO HIAS, alongside families of asylum seekers affected by the discriminatory policy, filed the case and were represented by the Law Office of Guy Brand. The suit, directed against the minister of transportation, the director of the National Authority for Public Transportation and the minister of interior, demanded that children of asylum seekers who are attending Israeli schools enjoy the full discount in public transportation use granted to all other students in Israel’s education system.

The petition was based in part on the fact that the minister of transportation decided to grant discounts to other groups that are not entitled to residency, such as foreign students. Therefore, the petition argued that preventing the children of asylum seekers from enjoying the discount is a form of illegal discrimination.

On January 8, 2020, a hearing was held with regards to the petition. The response filed by the State shortly prior to the hearing, and in the hearing itself, the State announced that the decision of the minister of transportation to grant discounts to foreign students was wrong, and the State declared that the decision has been rescinded. Therefore, there was no longer any ground for the claim about illegal discrimination between different groups of non-residents.

In other words, the State preferred to abrogate the discount given to foreign students, only to ensure that this discount is not also given to children of asylum seekers, despite the fact that refugee children were often born in Israel, have grown up in the country and are educated in the same school system as Israeli children. Thus, the State doubled-down on its policy of violating the rights of migrant communities.

In light of the decision of the State, the Court recommended that Assaf and fellow petitioners withdraw the appeal, and continue promoting the matter through other avenues.