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Sudanese refugees in Israel

File:African Refugees walking from Egypt to Israel.jpg
Sudanese refugees at the Egypt-Israel border, April 2012

Sudanese refugees in Israel refers to citizens of Sudan who have sought refuge in Israel due to military conflict at home, and to those who moved there illegally as migrant workers. In 2008, there were 4,000 Sudanese refugees in Israel, 1,200 from Darfur and the remainder Christians from South Sudan. The majority infiltrated through the Israeli-Egypt border. Most live in Tel-Aviv, Arad, Eilat [1] and Bnei Brak.[2][3]


The civil wars in Sudan that have been taking place on and off since 1955, the subsequent destabilization and economic collapse caused by the country's infrastructure and economy, and the fighting in Darfur, forced millions of Sudanese civilians to flee their homes and cities.[4] In 2006, largely owing to the extensive flow of Sudanese and Eritreans crossing into Israel by land from Egypt, Israel witnessed a significant rise in the number of asylum seekers. While in 2005 only 450 applications were registered, the number for 2008 had risen to 7,700.[5]

The increase in Sudanese entries to Israel since 2006 is attributed to a demonstration by Sudanese refugees outside UNHCR‘s offices in Cairo in 2005, where Egyptian police killed 28 asylum seekers. Sudanese asylum seekers also say that deteriorating asylum conditions and lack of durable solutions in Egypt has played a major role in their decision to come to Israel. Since the majority have been living in Egypt since the 1990s, their crossing into Israel can be described as a case of onward secondary movement.[5] Israel is also perceived as a bridge to Europe, and its strong economy compared to neighboring countries has encouraged asylum seekers to pursue their luck there.[5]

In 2008–2009, around 30 migrants were shot and killed by Egyptian security forces as they attempted to cross into Israel.[5] In addition, many African migrants en route to Israel face torture, organ theft, rape and assault by traffickers in the Sinai who hold them for weeks, sometimes months, to demand more money. A survey of 284 migrants published in late February 2011 found that over half told of abuse by the smugglers that included being burnt, branded, hung by the hands or feet and raped.[6][7][8]

In 2012, due to a near-doubling in the flow of African seeking refugee status, Israel began building a fence along the border and publicized plans to build a detention facility for infiltrators.[6]

In spite of the risks and abusive treatment by smugglers, smuggler networks run by Bedouin groups in the Sinai desert have transported growing numbers of Sudanese and other African asylum seekers across to Israel.[5]

Legal status

Israel supported the founding of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, becoming a signatory to the Convention in 1954. But although it actively participated in the development of the international refugee system, Israel did not institute the corresponding legal framework at home.[5]

Following pressure from UNHCR, a temporary humanitarian protection arrangement was established in 1999, benefiting refugees from war-torn countries in Africa. In 2002, an Israeli asylum procedure was established with the launch of the National Status Granting Body, an inter-ministerial agency responsible for assessing asylum applications processed by UNHCR Israel, advising the minister of the interior, who held the authority on final decisions.[5]

However, Israeli authorities have yet to devise and implement a clear approach towards asylum-seekers. Due to authorities’ inexperience with asylum, early official responses to the new arrivals from the Egyptian border included conflicting and ad hoc policies. Finally in July 2008, the government established the Population, Immigration and Border Crossings Authority, responsible for processing asylum requests and determining refugee-status. In July 2009, Israeli authorities officially took over this responsibility from UNHCR, and since then asylum policies have become clearer.[5] The Israeli have granted temporary protection, assistance, and work permits for asylum seekers, but they have also detained thousands and forced hundreds of Sudanese and other African asylum seekers to return to Egypt.[5]

Among Sudanese refugees in Israel, 850 are asking for asylum from persecution in Sudan, including 200 children.[9] The fact that Israel and Sudan lack diplomatic relations have complicated the status of Sudanese asylum seekers. Since Sudan is considered by Israel as an "enemy state", many Sudanese refugees have been detained according to Israeli law. But detainees were sometime released in order to make room for new arrivals. Additionally, Sudanese have avoided detention by registering with UNHCR in Tel Aviv.

At the same time, Israeli authorities have partnered with UNHCR in Israel to grant some form of temporary protection for thousands of asylum seekers, even granting them access to social services and allowing them to work.[5] Although Israelis are legally barred from employing Sudanese asylum seekers, the ban is not enforced, as it is in the authorities’ interest for asylum seekers to support themselves financially.[10]

According to a Supreme Court of Israel decision on 13 January 2011,[11][12] the employers of refugees and asylum seekers will not be fined; thus, de facto, they can legally work in Israel.

In February 2015, the government provided figures to the High Court regarding requests for asylum from Sudanese citizens.[13] Since 2009, there were 3,165 such requests, but only 45 received a reply. Of those 45, 40 were rejected and 5 were granted temporary residency.[13] In addition, 976 of the Sudanese asylum seekers withdrew their requests or left Israel.[13] Only four Sudanese or Eritrean persons have been granted refugee status.[13]

Reactions in Israel

File:Meeting between Sudanese refugees and Israeli students.jpg
Israeli students meeting between Sudanese refugees, 2007

There are mixed reaction in Israel: Large protests against the presence of them mainly organised by citizens of neighborhoods in South Tel Aviv who claim that their safety and life quality was ruined by the presence illegal immigrants from Sudan and Eritrea.[14][15] Also there have been demonstrations in support of the refugees.[16]

Recent trends

According to the Israeli Interior Ministry, the number of African migrants entering Israel illegally through Egypt has fallen drastically since Egyptian political upheaval began in January 2011. Around 700 migrants entered Israel in January and February, less than half the average monthly number in 2010. The decrease in migrant flow is attributed to the increased violence in the Sinai desert between Egyptian police and Bedouin smugglers.[6]

In February 2012, Israel's Interior Ministry announced that South Sudanese nationals must repatriate by March, arguing they no longer need protection since South Sudan gained independence. They will be given $1,300 and a plane ticket if they voluntarily resettle, but any who do not repatriate will be deported.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Refugees background paper. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  2. ^ Lior, Ilan. (30 November 2010) Ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak moves to evict migrant workers. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  3. ^ Derfner, Larry. When Africa Comes to Israel. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  4. ^ Global Statistics. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Afeef, Karin (December 2009). refugees in Israel "A promised land for refugees? Asylum and migration in Israel". International Peace Research Institute. 
  6. ^ a b c "Egypt turmoil cuts African migration to Israel". Reuters via Haaretz. 1 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Weiler-Polak, Dana (24 February 2011). "Sinai smugglers raped dozens of African women wanting to enter Israel". Haaretz. 
  8. ^ Weiler-Polak, Dana (23 February 2011). "Majority of asylum-seekers in Israel are seriously abused in Sinai". Haaretz. 
  9. ^ ילדים סודנים המבקשים מקלט בישראל.
  10. ^ Weiler-Polak, Dana (10 March 2011). "African refugees hired to build fence to keep migrants out of Israel". Haaretz. 
  11. ^ בג"צ קבע: אסור לקנוס מעסיקי פליטים. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  12. ^ Supreme court resolution. Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d Ilan Lior (February 19, 2015). "Israel has granted refugee status to only four Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers". Haaretz. 
  14. ^ Arad residents protest against refugees. (20 June 1995). Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  15. ^ Lior, Ilan (22 December 2010) Hundreds protest against presence of foreigners, refugees in south Tel Aviv, Haaretz
  16. ^ African Refugees Protest in Israel. (24 December 2010). Retrieved on 13 May 2013.
  17. ^ "South Sudanese refugees must leave Israel". The Global News Service of the Jewish People. 1 February 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 

External links