This report examines the treatment of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea. It builds upon a previous report published by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (then known as the Hotline for Migrant Workers), titled Until our Hearts are Completely Hardened, in which we examined, at length, Israel’s asylum procedures and their shortcomings.
The issues we examined in Until our Hearts are Completely Hardened affect all asylum seekers in Israel, including those from Sudan and Eritrea. Problems with translation, failures to convey information about the procedures, flawed research regarding the conditions in the asylum seekers’ countries of origin, focus on peripheral details in asylum interviews to identify imagined contradictions in the asylum seekers’ stories, and a systemic culture of mistrust were all discussed at length in that report. Interviews with the attorneys representing asylum seekers and recent asylum interview protocols indicate similar findings today still, two and a half years after Until our Hearts are Completely Hardened was published.
Given the great similarity between these issues and those described at length in the previous report, the present report will not repeat that discussion. Instead we focus on the specific issues pertaining to asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea.
The asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea constitute an overwhelming majority of asylum seekers in Israel, and those the authorities call “infiltrators.” Yet until 2012, these two groups were not permitted to submit asylum applications. Only in 2013 did authorities begin examining the applications of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, and then only of those who were imprisoned. Although the State of Israel does not act to remove them from the country, recognizing the danger they face in their countries of origin, over the years the authorities have enacted a policy, continuing still, designed mainly to deter additional asylum seekers from coming to Israel, and to encourage those already in the country to leave. Even though these are groups which receive asylum at very high rates in other countries, in Israel not a single Sudanese asylum seeker has been recognized as a refugee to date, and only three Eritrean asylum seekers have received this recognition.
In this report, we will address the policy applied to this population, as well as the shortcomings of the legal interpretation the State gives the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as other flaws leading to the sweeping denial of refugee claims made by asylum seekers from these two countries.