The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency on Tuesday called on the government to grant legal status to more than 500 minor asylum-seekers from Africa, ahead of the imminent deportation of single adult males.The statement was released out of the agency’s board meetings in Zichron Ya’acov. The number 500 refers to minors who received education from Jewish Agency and state-run programs.The board, the organization’s central policy-making body, also called on the state to ensure that all migrants are afforded a transparent asylum application process.It highlighted the “broad attention” paid to the asylum-seekers in Jewish communities around the world.Appealing to Interior Minister Arye Deri following a similar letter on the subject sent to him by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky earlier this month, the board called on the minister to “grant legal status to the more than 500 young migrants who arrived in Israel years ago as unaccompanied minors and were integrated in the education system of youth villages operated by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Education.“These youngsters have grown up in an Israeli educational environment, speak fluent Hebrew, are imbued with Israeli culture, and are loyal to the State of Israel,” the board said. “Therefore, it is right that they be granted legal status.”In addition, it said it was essential that “every migrant has an opportunity to apply for asylum and receive transparent due process in the examination of their application.”The board announced the establishment of a task force to urgently study various solutions to the matter and issue recommendations to the board.
At the beginning of the year, the Interior Ministry announced its plan to deport African asylum-seekers within 90 days (and paying them $3,500 each), and to imprison those who refused this option. The ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority said that beginning in March strong measures will be launched to begin to identify and deport approximately 38,000, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese, asylum-seekers from Israel, beginning with single adult males, about half of the total.Despite stating that no action will be taken against refugees until their asylum applications are reviewed, the authority has yet to review more than 13,000 applications and has only granted asylum to 11 Eritreans and Sudanese since 2013.Daniel K. Eisenbud contributed to this report.
15,000 protest the deportation of African migrants in south Tel Aviv, February 24, 2018 (Rebecca Montag)