| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

Israel Aims to Force Sudanese Refugees Back Home

The Israeli Interior Ministry resumed interviewing asylum seekers from Sudan’s Darfur region to pressure and persuade them to return to their homeland after the new regime established relations with Tel Aviv.

In April, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to resume examining 2,445 asylum requests, some of which have been pending for eight years or longer.

The court gave the government until the end of the current year to complete the examination procedures. It clarified that if decisions haven’t been made by then, it will grant them temporary residency until decisions are made in their cases.

Over the last two weeks, the ministry summoned dozens of Darfuris for interviews. However, the sessions were interrogations aimed at pushing them to emigrate and relinquish their asylum applications.

One asylum seeker said he was interrogated about why he was still in Israel and whether he should go home.

They told him there’s peace in Sudan, and he should return there. They also asked about his political affiliations.

Another said the interviewers treated him like a suspect under interrogation. “They asked me to answer questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” he said. “I couldn’t talk freely, and I didn’t manage to tell them my problems.”

He was told that the ministry is in contact with several people who returned to Sudan, noting that they are fine.

He indicated that the point of this whole process is to pressure the Sudanese to emigrate without any consideration of their conditions and what might happen to them back home.

New Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked says that doing so is part of her policy.

Shaked’s office said in a statement that the Refugee Status Determination Committee interviews every applicant personally.

“The minister attaches supreme importance to dealing with the issue of the infiltrators,” it added. “Therefore, in line with the High Court’s ruling, she is working to carry out thorough, professional, individual examinations of Darfuris’ asylum requests.”

After the toppling of the regime of Omar al-Bashir, discussions were suspended, hoping that hundreds of Sudanese will return home.

However, Nimrod Avigal, who runs the legal aid program at the refugee assistance organization, claimed that all the interviews being conducted now are intended not to examine the applications seriously but to create a deceptive picture of the Sudanese who did return home and the impact of the establishment of relations between Jerusalem and Khartoum.

He said that the asylum seekers are living “with no basic rights, in poverty and despair,” he said.

“Even today, none of the many people who have already had asylum interviews has gotten a decision on their application.”

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants welcomed the resumption of interviews, adding, “an honest, professional examination of the applications will reveal once and for all what Israel has refrained from saying for years – the asylum seekers from Darfur are refugees.”

There are 28,000 African asylum seekers in Israel, most of whom are from Eritrea and Sudan. Half of them live in Tel Aviv, and the rest live in the Arab towns.

The Sudanese are mainly from Darfur, and they reached Israel via the Egyptian Sinai.

The Israeli government built a wall along the border to prevent them from seeking refuge there. Over the past few months, dozens of them arrived by infiltrating through the Lebanese border.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat