Israel will grant temporary resident status to 200 out of 8,000 refugees from Darfur who have been waiting years for a decision to be made on their request for asylum.
Temporary resident status is the same as the status given to refugees recognized by the state. The status will allow the asylum seekers to work and grant them social rights in Israel. The new temporary residents will also be able to receive a laissez-passer travel document allowing them to leave Israel and return. While this status is not limited by time, the state can revoke it.
The asylum seekers, who fled the ethnic cleansing in Sudan's Darfur region, petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court citing extremely long waiting periods—sometimes reaching three years—for an answer from the Population and Immigration Authority on their asylum request.
Israel has been dragging its feet for years on responding to asylum requests filed by some 8,000 refugees from western Sudan, despite the fact that the department dealing with asylum seekers in the Population and Immigration Authority determined they should be granted refugee status.
Several hundred refugees initially petitioned the appellate court, which ordered the Population and Immigration Authority to grant the petitioners temporary work permits for as long as a decision on their request is still pending.
The asylum seekers then petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court, demanding to be given a temporary resident visa, which is customarily given to refugees.
In its response to the petition, the state decided to grant 200 of the Darfur refugees the temporary resident status "out of humanitarian concerns."
The state said this was only a first step, adding that it was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on a plan to deport asylum seekers to Uganda and Rwanda, after which "the policy will be examined in its broader sense and further steps will be decided upon."
This is the first time in a decade the State of Israel grants a temporary resident status to such a large group of asylum seekers. Ehud Olmert's government granted refugee status to the first 600 Drafur residents to flee to Israel. In the interim period, only one Sudanese refugee was recognized—Mutasim Ali.
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants welcomed the decision to "grant 200 Darfur refugees a status that would allow them to live a fuller and better life in Israel," noting, however, that it is "regretful that even though the government is making a step in the right direction, it is too small a step, which is in practice both discriminating and arbitrary, because it is unclear what criteria was used to select one refugee over another."