Darfur refugees Tel Aviv 311 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski)
In writing this article, I am not using my real name because I live here in Israel as a refugee and revealing my identity may put my family and I at risk.
My family left behind in Darfur lives in refugee camps, and if it is known that I am here, the Janjaweed [a blanket term to describe armed men in Darfur and the rest of Sudan] and the Sudanese government will find them and they will be in grave danger.
Another reason for not using my real name is because it would risk my status here. I have a threemonth temporary visa, and my refugee status has not been determined yet. Since my status is unclear, I do not know what the implications of revealing my whereabouts would be and I can’t afford to take the risks.
The authorities do not recognize me, as well as most others in similar situations in Israel as refugees. I was never questioned about the reasons I came here – I was never given the opportunity to prove who I am and get refugee status. Instead, I was given the temporary visa that allows me to stay three months at a time, but not a formal and clear status that would allow me to feel safe. The current situation, in which I need to repeatedly renew the visa that grants me nothing other than being able to stay here, is unsustainable: It does not allow me to have a stable job, no education prospects, no health care or any other rights granted to refugees. These opportunities would enable me to rebuild my life.
It is a very difficult, frustrating situation. Sometimes I am able to find a job, but most places don’t allow people with this kind of visa to work. The authorities treat us not like refugees escaping danger and death, but like criminals and infiltrators or like people who came here for work. It seems that they could not care less about our welfare.
The local community, on the other hand, seems to understand that we are, indeed, refugees and accepts our situation. But, by labeling all foreigners as immigrant workers, I sense that the authorities are trying to set Israelis against us, as a threat to their work places and homes, and I deeply regret that. Without the ability to work steadily, many of my friends are at risk of becoming homeless, roaming the streets of southern Tel Aviv like criminals, becoming exactly what the local community members fear and being pushed there due to government negligence.
I am no criminal, no infiltrator and no immigrant worker. The truth is that I am a refugee, looking for a safe place. This situation was forced upon me, and I escaped Darfur because my life was in danger.
I still suffer from the genocide happening in Darfur. Back home, my family is always at risk and many people are dying. I will not die here, but I worry about the most basic needs like finding food and shelter.
At least in Darfur the UN provides the people with food. Here, we must fend for ourselves with whatever meager means we have.
I would like to be able to think of the future, to think of ways to help
my community in Darfur. Not having formal refugee status puts me in a
dangerous situation should I speak publicly about the horrors happening
I am a man seeking asylum here and should have all the rights that are
accorded to people fleeing their countries for fear for their lives.
Sunday was World Refugee Day and I'd like to take this opportunity to
remind the authorities that being a refugee is not a choice. By next
year, I hope to be able to go back home and not need to be called a
refugee.The writer has been in Israel since