Sudanese, Eritreans struggle at Interior Ministry
They arrive at Tel Aviv office at 5 am, sometimes just to wait in line and return empty-handed without new visa. Hotline for Migrant Workers says State knowingly abusing them, Israeli employers also being hurt. Ministry: Service is efficient, fast, and dedicated
If one were to go to the Interior Ministry in Tel Aviv in the early morning hours, one would encounter a strange sight. At 5 am, some three hours before the ministry's offices open, refugees, asylum seekers, and foreign workers start gathering outside the locked office. Most of them need to renew their monthly visas.
Standing quietly or dozing off on the floor, they wait to receive a number to go in and see a clerk. "Sudanese and Eritreans to the right and everyone else enter on the left," called one of the clerks. And they fall in line and wait.
Waiting in line. 'A lot of complaints from refugees' (Photo: Amir Levy)
The number of entrants is sometimes capped, and they are forced to return with empty hands. Those who live in faraway cities such as Eilat often can't find a place to stay for the night so they can return the next morning.
The situation also places a burden on Israeli employers who have a hard time employing workers who have visas for just one month. The worst situation is currently in Eilat, where the ministry branch burned down and will only reopen to the public after the Passover holiday.
The Hotline for Migrant Workers estimates that some 200 refugees in the city will be without a place to work. One employer said that she was forced to put some 50 workers on vacation merely because their visas expired. Under the circumstances, if she were to continue employing them, she could be fined by the Interior Ministry.
"The State is knowingly abusing them and making the refugees' live very difficult," said the hotline. "This is abuse consisting of all kinds of phenomena, and we receive a lot of complaints from refugees. If MK Katzeleh (Yaakov Katz) says they must make it difficult for the refugees, it simply happens in reality."
The Population, Immigration, and Border Authority said in response that services for the Darfur refugees and Eritrean citizens has been transferred from the visa department to a different department within the authority in order to improve it.
"We believe that the treatment and service provided to the Darfur refugees and citizens of Eritrea are efficient, quick, dedicated, and far beyond reasonable. The Population, Immigration, and Border Authority invests much thought in improving its service and takes action to examine new methods of providing the best service. It is unclear what the basis of these complaints is," reported the authority in response.