Israel has dragged its feet in ensuring the rights of asylum seekers, the US
State Department stated in a report issued last week.
The 2010 Annual
Report on Human Rights states that Israel “has not enacted legislation
implementing the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
Protocol.”RELATED:Anti-infiltrator law passes first reading in KnessetState says courts backing up stricter asylum policies
Countries who have signed the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees,
including Israel, agree not to return refugees to their countries of origin if
they face the possibility of persecution or grave bodily harm. It also ensures
that refugees not face legal penalties connected to the legality of their entry
to the country and are ensured freedom of movement and the ability to work in
their new country.
The report criticizes Israeli authorities for not
ensuring social rights including medical treatment, education, and the ability
to apply for citizenship to asylum-seekers. It also mentions the “hot return” to
Egypt of nearly 150 African migrants in 2010, a decrease from the 517 who were
returned to Egypt after crossing into Israel in 2008-2009.
bases most of its findings on data from NGOs dealing with issues relating to
asylum-seekers and migrant workers in Israel. It quotes the Tel Aviv University
Refugee Rights Law Clinic as saying that the Population Immigration and Borders
Authority (PIBA), the body responsible for asylum-seekers, has done a sub-par
job of conducting interviews with asylum seekers meant to determine whether or
not they can receive refugee status.
According to the report, during the
meetings the PIBA “failed to provide asylum seekers copies of their interview
transcripts or sufficient explanations of their determinations.”
passage adds that “after an appeal by the Refugee Rights Law Clinic and other
NGOs, the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction mandating that
asylum-seekers be accompanied by legal representatives in interviews, but the
government continued to bar paralegals, and most asylum seekers could not afford
counsel for hearings.”
While they aren’t part of any official government
of Israel policy, the report also mentions acts of violence directed against
African migrants over the past year, including the reported beating of two
teenage daughters of African asylum-seekers by a mob of over 20 teens in Tel
Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood on December 18 and the attempted arson of an
apartment in Ashdod housing Sudanese asylum-seekers, which happened on the same
The report also states that over the past year in Israel “rhetoric
by government officials and community protests concerning asylum-seekers also
intensified,” citing a statement by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union), the head of
the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, who in March said that “infiltrators”
could “ruin” Israel.
It also quotes Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s
contention in July that “infiltrators” pose “an existential threat to
The release of the report came about a week before Physicians
for Human Rights- Israel (PHR-Israel) released a statement claiming that a few
days earlier “a group of around 40 Eritrean asylumseekers, including 13 women,
two of whom were with children – arrived to the Egyptian- Israeli border.
According to testimonies, after they crossed to the Israeli side, the Israeli
soldiers returned them to the Egyptian side, allowing only two women and their
children in, leaving the husband of one behind.”
In late March,
PHR-Israel reported that a group of 67 African migrants were returned to Sinai
in February after infiltrating Israel.
Also in March, the Knesset passed
in its first reading a bill which would apply harsh penalties for asylum-seekers
who cross Israel’s southern border and Israelis who assist them.
for the Prevention of Infiltration, which passed its first reading 42-5, would
allow the state to detain for up to three years migrants coming from regions
where there are “activities that could endanger Israeli security.”
the bill, detainees would not have the right to a speedy trail and would receive
official visits only once every three months. If they are convicted in a court
of law, they could face up to five years in prison and those assisting them
could face up to 15 years.
Outside the migrant issue, the State
Department report determined that in Israel in 2010 “there were no reports of
politically motivated disappearances” and “there were no government restrictions
of academic freedom or cultural events.”
It also said that Israeli law
“provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government
implemented the law effectively. There were reports of government corruption
during the year, although impunity was not a problem.”