07.04.22, Bar Peleg, Haaretz
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has ordered an end to a freeze on the repatriation of refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, citing an upswing in the conditions in the country.
In light of the change, the cases of those in Israel illegally will be examined on an individual basis within the next 30 days, including any request for asylum that they have filed.
In 2018, the Interior Ministry attempted to lift the ban on repatriation which has been in effect since the early 2000s, but the government reconsidered and deferred any such decision after court petitions were filed challenging any change.
The U.S. State Department described what it called “significant human rights issues,” including “unlawful or arbitrary killings; … forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; [and] arbitrary detention,” in the human rights report that it issued on the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, in March of last year.
In February, members of the CODECO militias attacked and killed at least 58 civilians and injured 40 at least more at the Savo camp for internally displaced persons in Congo’s Ituri province, according to the UN Security Council.
According to the UN agency, there were 918,000 Congolese refugees in various African countries as of February and five million people who were displaced from their homes between October 2017 and September 2019. That’s in addition to half a million displaced Congolese inside the country. The country is considered one of 15 emergency areas of the world considered to be in an ongoing crisis.
The executive director of Israel’s Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Ayelet Oz, said there are several hundred Congolese asylum-seekers in Israel, the vast majority of whom have been living in Israel based on the government’s policy of not returning them to the Congo due to the disturbing situation there. “There is no guarantee that the situation in Congo has improved, rather the opposite,” she said.