HIAS Celebrates Legal Victory for Eritrean Asylum Seekers in Israel 

The HIAS team in Israel is thrilled with the ruling in the Jerusalem District Court that Eritreans who fled forced conscription under slavery-like conditions should be recognized as refugees. The ruling, a monumental legal victory, could apply to many of the Eritreans currently in Israel.

There are approximately 30,000 African asylum seekers who sought safety in Israel, after fleeing conflict and persecution in Eritrea and Sudan. Since arriving over a decade ago, African asylum seekers have made Israel their adopted home, speaking Hebrew, raising children, and contributing to the workforce and society. Yet, at the same time, the vast majority have not been officially recognized by the Israeli government. They have lived in a constant state of instability and insecurity, denied access to basic rights and social services.

“We are overjoyed with yesterday’s ruling, as Eritrean asylum seekers have been in Israel more than 10 years without recognition of their refugee status,” said HIAS Country Director for Israel, Sivan Carmel. “Israel has one of the lowest recognition rates of refugees in the world, and we are happy to be part of changing that.”

HIAS has had a presence in Israel since 1950 and has worked primarily with the asylum seeker community since 2014, providing legal services and other forms of aid. “We are optimistic about the future,” said Nimrod Avigal, HIAS Israel’s Director of Legal Aid. “This ruling has the potential to impact many Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel, providing them with refugee status which would affect all aspects of their lives, from healthcare to employment and economic wellbeing.”

Carmel added, “When we stand with the rights of asylum seekers, we are on the right side of history. Israel can and should act with integrity and justice toward asylum seekers, and this decision is a meaningful step in that direction.”

HIAS is grateful for dedicated partners in the pursuit of justice for refugees. This accomplishment is possible thanks to the work of advocate Michal Pomeranz, who represented the case on behalf of HIAS, and advocate Anat Ben Dor, from the Clinic for Refugee Rights at Tel Aviv University.

Search HIAS