High Court to State: Give Darfurians, Nubians refugee rights, or deport

In a groundbreaking ruling, the High Court of Justice told the state that if it doesn't figure out a way to give illegal Darfurians and Nuba Sudanese refugee rights, they will get deported.

Sudanese demonstrate in support of their people in South Tel Aviv, June 30, 2019.  (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Sudanese demonstrate in support of their people in South Tel Aviv, June 30, 2019.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
The High Court of Justice on Sunday issued a groundbreaking ruling and ultimatum that if the state has not figured out a legal way to deport Darfurians or Nuba Sudanese by December 31, it must grant them full socioeconomic rights as if they were given refugee status.
The court did not say how long such persons could have their visas extended, so their status will still not be entirely permanent like that of a refugee.
However, according to lawyers Carmel and Michal Pomeranz, the expectation was that visas for such persons would be virtually automatically extended for at least one year and possibly for multiple years at a time.
For the first time, this places intense pressure on the state to either figure out a legal way to deport the Darfurians and Nuba Sudanese to Sudan or face long-term legal consequences concerning their integration into Israeli society.
Late last year, Israel normalized relations with Sudan, leading to speculation on October 25 that the state might finally be able to deport Sudanese migrants who came into Israel without authorization.
According to Yonatan Jakubowicz, executive director of the Israeli Immigration Policy Center, an NGO that campaigns for deporting Africans who arrived in Israel illegally, the state should seize the opportunity and make a hard push to deport all remaining Sudanese.
He cited rulings abroad for permitting the return of Sudanese migrants, including Darfurians and Nuba, to calmer regions of Sudan, if not to their home regions.
Migrant groups have challenged many of these rulings as different from the Israeli scenario.
Since the normalization deal, little has been heard about moving the issue forward, and it appears that the High Court was close to losing patience on the issue.
The High Court’s ruling applies to persons who filed a refugee request prior to 2017, meaning the state has already delayed determining their status for several years.
In 2018, the High Court urged the state to grant these migrants special humanitarian status, including a visa that could be extended annually.
However, until this ruling, there was no concrete prospect of granting the migrants broad socioeconomic rights equal to those of Israeli citizens.
Unlike most of the 30,000-plus migrants in Israel who will not benefit from this ruling, approximately 4,400 Sudanese from Darfur and the Nuba Mountains would.
Still, the ruling could pave the way to similar rulings for other Sudanese migrants and the largest group of migrants from Eritrea.
Until the Sudan-Israel normalization deal, Israel’s main legal argument against sending Sudanese migrants home was the absence of diplomatic relations.
Besides the additional war crimes and safety issues involved, pro-migrant groups have said 5,119 Sudanese migrants have filed requests to be recognized as refugees. These requests must be individually reviewed and processed, according to the migrant hotline.
The ruling was split, with High Court President Esther Hayut and Justice George Kara in the majority. Justice Yael Wilner ruled that regardless of the state’s extreme delay, migrants cannot be granted socioeconomic rights without a specific evaluation of each person’s individual circumstances.