Y. and the additional asylum seeker H. have been in Israel since 2008. They arrived in Israel from the Darfur region where ethnic cleansing and serious crimes against humanity are taking place. The asylum seekers were recognized by the UN High Commission in Cairo as refugees and were among the first to be summoned to Holot detention center.
"I met them there, they were frustrated and were not invited to interviews personally. I connected with them and felt sorry for them," said attorney Michal Pomerantz, who contacted the authorities on behalf of the two and another asylum seeker who had left the country in the interim.
The hearings on the asylum seekers began in 2015, but the state claimed at the time that it was preparing a general position on all the people of Darfur and that within a year it would decide on their status. The Court of Appeals ordered the two asylum seekers to work in Israel.
In another hearing held a few months ago, the State again claimed that it was formulating a general opinion. The opinion, which was revealed in Yedioth Ahronoth, indicated that the people of Darfur are entitled to legal recognition as refugees. It was also revealed that the report was written two years ago, but the state continued to argue that no policy was formulated and refused to recognize asylum seekers as refugees.
In response to an application under Amnesty International's Freedom of Information Act, the State admitted that 2,225 Darfurian requests were being examined and despite the fact that 1,825 full interviews were conducted, only in one case did the Interior Minister approve the status of a refugee. One of the three asylum seekers was recognized as a refugee by the United Nations, though had left the country and moved to the United States.
In the last hearing, the judge ruled that the two other asylum seekers would be granted temporary residency status, which would include all refugee rights if the state neglects to reach a decision within six months. "On the one hand, this is the most that the court has given to the Darfurians, but it is unclear why we have to wait another six months after they have been 'rotting away' in Holot for a year and have been in court for almost three years," said Pomerantz.
"This is a turning point in my life, it will reduce my mental stress because I've been wandering for eight years," said Y. "it's not easy to get the citizenship of another country, and for someone who lives very far from his family it is very difficult. I'll be very happy when my Darfurian friends here in Israel get their status, because they live in a very difficult situation. The people of Israel hear a lot about us, but I know that they are good people. We are here because there is war in our country, and soon we hope it will be over."
H., the second asylum seeker, said: "I left my house because of the ongoing genocide, my village was burned to the ground, my father was killed and my mother lived in a DP camp from 2003. I have been running all my life in search of security, the war doesn't pass over anyone and everyone is suffering. I have request asylum in Israel since it's a state of law. I feel safe here, I want to live a normal life like any other human being. I want to thank Israel and the citizens of Israel for having received us during the difficult time we are going through at home in Darfur."
Meanwhile, a new report published by Amnesty International says that this is not the only asylum-seeker population that the State of Israel refrains from granting its citizens refugee status. Eritreans, who are also religiously persecuted in their home country, have been on the receiving end of a similar 'feet dragging.' "It is important to understand that this is not an exception, but a general one," said Chen Brill Agry, a refugee campaigner at Amnesty International.
(Translated and edited by N. Elias)