African refugees demonstration in front of Jerusalem Supreme Court.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There is no quick fix or time frame for resolving the backlog crisis of addressing refugee status requests from African migrants, the Population Immigration and Border Authority told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants slammed the state’s handling of the matter to date as inadequate, saying it was a symptom of an ongoing agenda to discourage refugee requests and coerce African migrants into leaving the country.
“Israel’s obligations under international conventions require it to review refugee status requests” within a reasonable time, the Hotline said, adding that the backlog could easily be resolved by opening Internet registration to migrants.
The backlog crisis was first reported by Haaretz
on Friday as dating back around three months.
In recent months, it has become near impossible to submit a request for refugee status, with migrants forced to wait in line for several hours to do so at relevant government offices.
The situation further deteriorated when migrants were unable to schedule appointments the first day they came and instead received handwritten notes from building guards allowing them to return to file their requests at a later date. Recently, the guards stopped handing out the notes, and migrants say they were told that the uptick in requests meant they could not file requests at the present time.
The Population Immigration and Border Authority said refugee status requests had skyrocketed to 1,600-1,900 per month since January 1. This jump has caused an unavoidable backlog beyond its control, it said, and handing out notes for later appointments was a failed experiment to cope with the situation. At an undefined time in the future, the PIBA said, it will expand to a larger office to take in more requests.
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants said that all of the above were excuses, and that online registration, among other solutions, could quickly alleviate the problem if the PIBA were not intent on using red tape to block migrants from gaining refugee status.
The Hotline also said the state was delaying and rejecting most applications, and that at the very least, it needed to permit migrants to file their requests.
Asked why it had not opened online registration, PIBA said: “We are doing the best we can to handle the issue to the best of our ability.
Providing a ‘band-aid’ solution to the problem will not solve it... The situation does not revolve around registration but around capacity to receive requests and other issues.”
When asked what would be a reasonable time frame for resolving the backlog, PIBA said it would not “toss out fake times. At this moment we are working on it as much as possible.”