ASSAF - Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel | The Association for Civil Rights in Israel | Kav LaOved/Workers Hotline | Physicians for Human Rights | African Refugee Development Center (ARDC)
On April 6, 2022, the Minister of the Interior decided to rescind group protections that had applied to asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to date. Upon the publication of the announcement, approximately 300 Congolese asylum seekers living in Israel, some for 20 years, became deportees. Per the announcement, the removal of protections would take effect after a mere 30 days.
This is a twofold, substantive and procedural injustice. There is fundamentally no justification for lifting protections. The circumstances in the Congo have not improved sufficiently in recent years, as recent reports indicate, including those from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the US State Department. Among other things, the country’s residents suffer from ongoing instability and grave human rights violations. The assurance not to deport those whose asylum applications remain pending is insufficient, as in any case, 99% of those who apply for asylum in Israel are rejected. The shortcomings of the asylum system are grave and well-known, and have been severely criticized by the State Comptroller, members of the Knesset, the courts, and the UNHCR.
Furthermore, it is worth considering the legal duration of asylum seekers’ stays in Israel, most of whom have pending asylum applications that await decisions for years on end. Some of the Congolese asylum seekers have already lived in the country for 20 years, and most of them have been present for over a decade. In other Western countries, such a prolonged legal stay would have warranted permanent status.
Procedurally, a decision to remove protections, insofar as the decision concerns human life, must not be made recklessly or hastily, in a manner that lacks public transparency and doesn’t leave time for in-depth examinations by the Knesset and judicial review. First, 30 days (including the Passover holiday) constitute an egregiously short period of time. Second, the factors in making the decision and the opinions on which they’re based, must be disclosed to the Knesset and the public.
The mistaken deportation to South Sudan must not be repeated. In 2012, shortly after the establishment of the state of South Sudan, Israel rushed to deport asylum seekers who were originally from there. The war in the country is known to have resumed quickly, the difficult situation there further deteriorated, and many of those deported from Israel, including children whose first language was Hebrew, were found dead as a result of combat, disease, or starvation.
On the eve of Independence Day, the Forum of Refugee Organizations and Asylum Seekers in Israel calls on the government to annul the decision to remove the group protections from approximately 300 Congolese asylum seekers who have lived in Israel for several years.