URJ, HIAS & IMPJ Call on Israel to Recognize Refugees
Aug 14, 2015
Reform Movement and HIAS Urge Israel to
Do More to Protect Asylum Seekers
NEW YORK — The Union for Reform Judaism, the North American Reform Jewish movement, the largest movement in Jewish life today and HIAS, the 130 year old global refugee agency of the American Jewish community, are urging the Israeli government to re-examine its asylum policy. They were joined by IMPJ, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism.
The request comes on the heels of the Israeli High Court of Justice’s ruling on Tuesday that provisions of the so-called anti-infiltration law are unconstitutional. The ruling bars holding of asylum seekers for 20 months at the "Holot" Facility, ordering the release of hundreds of asylum seekers who had stayed at the facility for 12 months or more. ”A solution which involves depriving people of their rights for such prolonged periods of time is disproportionate" read the decision. This is the third time a court has found parts of the law to be unconstitutional.
“As longstanding friends of Israel and committed advocates for the well-being of the Jewish state, HIAS, URJ and IMPJ have difficulty understanding and explaining how other countries with more mature asylum systems approve a significant majority of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum applicants, yet Israel approves virtually none. This disparity undermines the international credibility of the Israeli asylum system,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
“We are deeply concerned because Israel currently accepts less than 1% of refugee claims. In other developed countries, 82% of Eritrean applicants and 68% of Sudanese applicants are recognized as refugees. We recognize that, with over 5,500 asylum seekers per 1,000,000 population, Israel has had to deal with more asylum seekers than the vast majority of other democracies. We understand that finding an appropriate solution for all the asylum seekers in Israel makes it desirable to enlist resettlement assistance from additional countries in the developed world. However, we are concerned about the disparity between the approval rates of asylum requests in Israel and in other countries,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS.
“We urge the government to set an example by treating African migrants with dignity and respect. It is our hope that the Israeli government will allow them to contribute to the Israeli economy and society until their status is appropriately adjudicated, rather than forcing them to be housed in the desert at significant government expense or pressuring them to relocate to an unfamiliar and unsafe third countries which offers no durable solution to their plight,” Hetfield said.
“Israel’s shockingly low rate of acceptance casts a heavy doubt on the fairness of the asylum system and may amount, in the words of Justice Hanan Melcer, to ‘deliberate negligence’. We urge the Israeli government to re-examine its asylum policy and realign it with the nation's values and heritage as well as the generous, humanitarian intent of the Refugee Convention of 1951,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the IMPJ.
“Finally, we call on the Israeli government to strengthen the infrastructure of the South Tel-Aviv neighborhoods where Asylum seekers reside and to ensure proper resources are allocated to provide services both to Israeli citizens and to asylum seekers,” said Kariv.