There are currently an estimated 60,000 African asylum seekers in Israel. Without a proper and fair immigration policy, the asylum seekers are unable to obtain refugee status, nor are they able to work or receive any social services. They are perpetually in a state of limbo and uncertainty. Recently, the Israeli government, calling the asylum seekers 'infiltrators' is criminalizing people who are not to be considered criminals in accordance with international law.
The government's policy of deterring asylum seekers is inhumane and unjust. It includes the recent passing of the amendment to the Anti-Infiltration Law, making it so that 'irregular migrants' can now be detained for 3 years or more just for crossing the border, without any opportunity to apply for asylum in Israel or elsewhere. The policy also includes the building of a massive detention facility that will be run by the Israeli Prison Services. The government has expressed that those in the facility will not be permitted to work. And most recently, the government has deported almost all South Sudanese and Ivorians from the country without ample time to prepare themselves for departure, and without adhering to the US State Department's warnings that both countries are dangerous to return to at this time.
The Right Now campaign is comprised of a coalition of Jewish Americans Advocating for Asylum Seekers in Israel. We are increasingly concerned about the escalating levels of violence, hatred, and discrimination toward the asylum seekers. As Jews we know that it is our duty, our obligation, to treat others as we would want to be treated in a foreign land, especially if they are people who have been oppressed, like we were so many times in our long history.
While we understand and respect that Israel is a small country with limited resources and we believe that concern for asylum seekers need not come at the expense of Israel’s urban poor, we do believe that the Israeli government can make the following changes, which we feel would not be detrimental to Israel or to the Israeli people.
We call on the Israeli government to:
• Develop a fair Refugee Status Determination procedure that allows for each individual to apply for asylum and provides protection and support for refugees in line with all other Western, democratic countries in the world.
• Change its deportation process so that asylum seekers are not deported and that they have ample time to prepare for deportation if they are being deported.
• Cease to build the massive detention center in the Negev desert that arbitrarily imprisons asylum seekers indefinitely.