07.11.21, Bar Peleg, Haaretz
Israel will issue temporary resident visas to residents of Ethiopia’s Tigray region living in Israel who have applied for asylum due to the worsening civil war in Ethiopia. The new policy applies to individuals whose asylum applications were refused in the past, and will prevent Tigrayans from being expelled.
According to figures obtained by the Hotline through a freedom of information request, as of December 2020 some 8,700 Ethiopian nationals were living in Israel, including 640 minors. The great majority entered Israel on tourist visas, and 771 applied for asylum between 2013 and 2020. At the time the figures were prepared last year, 565 applications had been processed, of which 516 were refused. Another 17 applicants “left voluntarily,” 18 received nonrefugee status and nine refugee status. The figures do not break out from which parts of Ethiopia the applicants came from.
“The Population Authority has done well to recognize in a humane and just way the crisis in Ethiopia between the Tigrayans and Amharas that has turned into a civil war,” said Tomer Warsha, a lawyer whose office specializes in immigration law and has represented many Tigrayans. “We in our office are ready to provide legal representation and assistance to ensure the full rights that come with such protection.”
Barrel, who is head of the legal team at the Hotline, told Haaretz she had mixed views on the new policy. “We’re glad that the Population and Immigration Authority will be granting visas to Tigrayan, even if they had rejected their applications in the past,” she said. “However, the declaration is self-evident and requires the authority not to expel people to a place where their lives are in danger. In light of the difficult war in Tigray – a war that is expanding to other parts of the country – it would have been appropriate for the authority not to condition protection on an application already undertaken by asylum seekers and declare that it does not intend to carry out deportations to Ethiopia at all at this time.”
The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency last week as Tigrayan rebels were advancing on the capital of Addis Ababa. A spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said its forces had occupied the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha in the Amhara region.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week appealed to citizens to take up arms to block advancing rebel fighters. Citizens must “organize and march through [any] legal manner with every weapon and power … to prevent, reverse and bury the terrorist TPLF,” according to a translation on the Addis Standard news website.