19 January 2018

Africa: The Misery of Israel's 38,000 African Asylum Seekers and the Dubious 'Third Country' Solution

Photo: Mya Guarnier/IRIN
African asylum seekers sleep in a Tel Aviv park in 2012.
analysis

African asylum seekers living in Israel are being asked to choose between deportation or prison as authorities in that country crack down on "infiltrators". But as several asylum seekers tell KRISTEN VAN SCHIE, it's no choice at all.

Muhtar Awdalla was given a choice: Leave Israel, or go to prison.

It was early 2014 and the Sudanese asylum seeker had already wasted months of his life behind bars - in Libya, in Egypt and, when he finally crossed the border, in Israel.

Having fled the conflict in Darfur as a teenager in 2003, the whole point of the years-long journey was to find a better life.

"There were so many people crossing to Israel," Awdalla said. "They said the country really respected human life."

But when he arrived there in 2009, he found the experience "opposite - totally opposite".

For eight months he languished in a detention centre. It took months more to get a temporary visa - he couldn't work without one. Even when he got it, he couldn't study. Dreams of becoming a lawyer stagnated as his 20s ticked by in restaurant jobs and Hebrew classes and days and days spent queuing to renew his papers.

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