Academic journal article Refuge

The Psycho-Social Conditions of Asylum-Seekers from Darfur in Israel

Academic journal article Refuge

The Psycho-Social Conditions of Asylum-Seekers from Darfur in Israel

Article excerpt

Since 2003, the war in Darfur has led to more than 300,000 Darfuris' deaths, internal displacement of two million citizens, and led 350,000 refugees to cross borders seeking protection against genocide committed by the Sudanese government and paramilitary groups, including killings, rape, and burning of villages. (1) Many have fled to Egypt. However, violent acts by Egyptian police led many to cross the border to Israel, hoping that Israel would provide them with protection. (2)

The initial few hundreds of Sudanese who crossed the Egyptian border were placed under administrative detention in line with the "Entry into Israel Law." (3) In 2006, their custody was prolonged under the Anti-Infiltration Law--legislation allowing the indefinite detention of those crossing the Israeli border illegally. After a petition to Israel's Supreme Court, asylum-seekers were released. They were provided with a temporary group protection, defending them from deportation, but denying them access to refugee status determination (RSD) and the rights associated with legal residency. In 2008, the government of Israel granted 490 temporary residence visas (A5) to Darfuri asylum-seekers. This group is identified in this study as "refugees" (or as "with visa") and is entitled to public services. The other group is identified here as "asylum-seekers" (or as "without visa") and is holding a temporary protection visa (A2-5 A), which grants them only protection from deportation.

The Darfuri community in Israel consists mostly of men. They encompass the majority of the 12,825 Sudanese asylum-seekers registered by the Israeli Population, Immigration and Borders Authority. (4) Many initially settled in the southern city of Eilat, where employment in the hotel industry was accessible. With the saturation of available work in Eilat, many moved to Tel Aviv, establishing their lives in the southern neighbourhoods around the central bus station, where accommodation was cheaper and humanitarian assistance was available by Israeli NGOS. Regrettably, the Israeli government refuses to develop an asylum policy, while it continues to impose punitive measures intended to deter further asylum-seekers from arriving in Israel. (5) These measures included geographical restrictions, blocked access for asylum-seekers to RSD; prohibited employment; forced return of asylum-seekers from the border into Egypt; and adoption of the anti-infiltration law in 2013. The law allows the Israeli authorities to hold individuals whom they regard as "infiltrators" in detention centres without charge or trial. (6) Many Darfuris were transferred to the new centre of Hollot in the Negev Desert, built for this purpose. This act was followed by an opposition of the detainees and by a protest of human-rights NGOS. (7) The consistent pressures, insecurity, and increasing xenophobia led many to return to Sudan. Some have since disappeared or have been imprisoned. (8) In September 2014, the Israeli High Court of Justice invalidated the anti-infiltration legislation and ordered the state to shut down Hollot and re-examine the cases of all those detained within ninety days. (9) This decision was ignored by the Knesset, which in turn approved an amended law, reducing detention at Hollot to twenty months. (10) Apparently, new attempts by the Israeli government to keep asylum-seekers in detention centres are expected, as well as struggle to release these persons and provide them with basic human rights. In addition, Israel's Immigration Authority has been promoting a policy of "voluntary" return/deportation, which provides an alternative to detention, offering $3,500 and a one-way ticket to Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, or Rwanda.

In this article, we describe the refugees' experiences in Israel, their psychosocial functioning, and their quality of life in order to shed light on their plight. The study was conducted prior to the decision to detain asylum seekers in Hollot. Thus, our findings do not reflect the current experience of the Darfuris who are afraid of incarceration or have already been transferred to Hollot. …

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