Israel’s real refugees

There are refugees who want to live in Israel, and there are “refugees” who want to destroy Israel. An article in the Jerusalem Post last week dealt with the first category. The Post reports:

Disagreement on terminology and lack of accurate entry registration makes determining the exact number of refugees in Israel difficult, but according to a recent Knesset Research Department report on the matter, in the beginning of May, there were 24,399 infiltrators and asylum-seekers in Israel. [The Knesset is Israel’s parliament.]

Of them, 18,959 cannot be expelled from the country, as they hail from Eritrea (13,310) and Sudan (5,649), where they may face harm if they return. The remaining ones, mostly asylum-seekers or economic migrants from central Africa, await status determination and will either be recognized as refugees or be subject to expulsion.

The report also indicates that the number of people crossing over the Egyptian border has been consistently growing. In January 866 people crossed over. In February, 904 and in March and April the numbers were 1,158 and 1,258 respectively.

So Israel, whose enemies are engaged in a worldwide campaign to brand it an apartheid nation, has refugee laws much like other civilized nations’. Those who deserve real asylum because they are in real danger in their home countries receive it by law. The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Israel, William Tall, commented:

“In the last couple of years, Israel has begun experiencing flows, similar to those in southern Europe, of mixed migration. Depending who you talk to, determines how you call them,” he said.

“Some people in the government call them infiltrators, some people call them economic migrants, some call them asylum-seekers, refugees and some say they infiltrated to do harm to Israel,” said Tall. “What’s happening is that Israel is groping for tools in how to address the issue and how to stem the flow.

“When a person comes into the country, they can become an asylum-seeker and they go through a process to determine whether they have a valid asylum claim. If they do, they become a refugee,” said Tall.

He explained that over the last year, Israel has taken over the responsibility for conducting the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process, a job that was previously done by the UNHCR. This, said Tall, has generated mixed results.

“They are quite serious in how they approach it, but the biggest drawback in how the government is approaching RSD is that there is no legal framework in place. There are no published procedural guidelines on their work,” said Tall.

Unlike most UN officials, Tall is treating Israel realistically, not as spawn of the devil. He seems to understand, furthermore, that Israel doesn’t have laws that cover these refugees because kind of migration is new to the country. He went on:

“A lot of ideas are coming up, but what’s needed is some sort of comprehensive legal framework, which is missing,” said Tall. “The rate of the people coming here is a big concern to the government and I fully appreciate that concern. Israel has a lot of different issues and challenges on its plate. It doesn’t need the added one of huge mixed migration coming from Africa.”

“Our major objective in Israel now is to ensure that the asylum process here develops with integrity, that the structures are in place and that they operate according to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. We also advocate that a refugee law will be put in place, which will ensure the integrity of the system,” said Tall.

Such a law has been promoted by the Prime Minister’s Office, but nothing has been passed yet, the article says. It goes on to discuss the protests of Israeli refugee aid and human rights organizations who think the proposed law is draconian.

What a normal country Israel is, despite the way it is depicted. It has a refugee problem, the government is trying to deal with it, there are groups operating within the democratic process to argue about the proposed law. The UN representative is sympathetic to the problem of the influx of refugees.