Refugees International (RI) is dismayed at the sudden announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel the April 2 agreement between Israel and UNHCR regarding Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers.
RI welcomed the earlier agreement, detailed just hours prior to this cancellation announcement, which would have not only opened up additional refugee resettlement opportunities to Western countries for more than 16,000 African asylum seekers but would have provided temporary status inside Israel for more than 16,000 members of this vulnerable population.
RI urges Israel to recommit to the earlier agreement, which was a positive step forward to support and provide protection solutions for African asylum seekers who have often fled repressive conditions, persecution, and torture. As RI witnessed during a March 2018 mission to Israel to research the African migrant issue in more detail, the fear and uncertainty within the African asylum seeker community has taken an enormous toll on both the physical and mental well-being of both individuals and families. Over the past decade, this population has been deprived effective access to asylum in Israel, only underscoring the moral imperative of the kind of resolution that the Israeli government first accepted and now appears to have canceled.
The principles of protection and asylum are clear. Any decision that would further weaken protection measures for this population in Israel, including revisiting the previous policy to expel or imprison African asylum seekers within a matter of weeks, must not happen.