Refugees in Israel

When Israel was founded a few short years after the Holocaust, few imagined that it would be a sought after refuge for many non-Jews from all over the world. However, the world has changed, and unlike Israel, many new countries created since the second world war have failed, leaving entire populations vulnerable to poverty, hunger and victims of regional violence resulting in an increase in refugees worldwide.

In the last decade, tens of millions of displaced people have migrated to the Global North in search of a better life. These people can be divided into two main groups, refugees and migrant workers. According to the UN Refugee Convention which Israel is a signatory, refugees are eligible for all of the rights outlined in the convention. Whereas migrant workers, who have not left their country because of persecution, are considered to be illegal immigrants and are not eligible to enjoy the freedoms outlined in the convention. 

Tens of thousands of African refugees and migrant workers who have come to Israel in recent years has presented Israel with major challenges both morally and practically.

On the one hand, our heart goes out to them, these people have fled harsh life of poverty, persecution, torture and war. On the other hand, Israel is a relatively small country that is unable to solve this global problem on its own. Also, it is clear that opening up Israel’s borders, even on a small scale, will have a significant impact on the identity of Israeli society. 

To cope with this challenge, we have established a task force of activists and organizations to brainstorm solutions to this complex issue. The task force that is sponsored by the Institute for Zionist Strategies is made up of representatives from across the political and religious spectrum. Our recommendations, which we believe will be supported by the majority of Israelis, are based on four main components:

· Fairness and respect for all people

· A commitment to those fleeing genocide and other atrocities 

· Recognizing the special nature of Israel and its limitations in dealing with this refugee crisis

· A commitment finding an urgent solution for the residents of south Tel Aviv and other areas with large refugee populations

 In Dinei Nefashot the blood of the accused and the blood of his offspring will be charged to you to all eternity. In the case of Cain who killed his brother we find it written that ‘Your brother’s blood cry out’ and it does not say ‘Your brother’s blood cries out’ – ‘cry’, not ‘cries’ – his blood and the blood of his offspring. (Sanhedrin Mishna Ch. 4)

Coalition Basic Principles

 1. The State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic nation-state.

 2. Establishing a quick and effective solution to the residents of south Tel Aviv and residents of other areas with large numbers of refugees and undocumented immigrants.

3. Providing asylum to a set number of refugees determined by a quota within the framework of legislation that will regulate the status of refugees and asylum seekers in the spirit of UN Refugees conventions, to which Israel is a signatory.

 4. Recognizing that refugee status is temporary, which will expire when refugees return to their home countries.

5. Assisting and cooperating with international efforts dealing with refugee resettlement within parameters determined by the state.

6. Determining in due process the status of individuals requesting refugee status. Those who are not eligible for refugee status should return to his/her country as soon as possible. Those who are unable to return to their country should be allowed to remain in open detention facility until circumstances allow them to return.

7. Send all undocumented persons who are not refugees away.

8. Encouraging the independent emigration from Israel of undocumented persons providing it does not pose a threat to their lives. The state should limit economic incentives by establishing a fund that will hold a portion of their earnings until they leave the country or refugee status is determined.

Signed by:

1. Institute for Zionist Strategies
2. The Combat Genocide Association
3. The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel
4. Kohelet Policy Forum
5. The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
6. Israel Immigration Policy Center
7. Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
8. Otef Central Station
9. Dror Israel Movement
10. My Israel
11. Hashomer Hatzair
12. Yad Mordechai Holocaust Museum
13. HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed
14. Hamachanot HaOlim
15. Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide
16. Tarbut Movement
17. Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah

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