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Cablegate: Israeli Ngos Frustrated with Current Asylum System

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #0909/01 1091501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181501Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6394
INFO RUEHAB/AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN PRIORITY 0016
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA PRIORITY 0039
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 3979
RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA PRIORITY 0068
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1993
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM PRIORITY 0070
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 9557
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0594

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000909

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PREF PHUM IS AF SU EG
SUBJECT: ISRAELI NGOS FRUSTRATED WITH CURRENT ASYLUM SYSTEM

REF: TEL AVIV 891 - NOTAL

THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE TREAT
ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) Summary. At an April 6-7 Tel Aviv University
Conference on "Designing an Asylum System in Israel," Israeli
human rights advocacy NGOs expressed dissatisfaction with the
existing asylum system, describing it as biased and lacking
transparency. The NGOs also are disappointed with the
absence of government assistance for the growing number of
African asylum-seekers in the country. UNHCR plans to
mobilize emergency funding to support medical care,
psycho-social counseling, legal aid, and shelters for this
population. End Summary

Visit of PRM DAS Ryan
---------------------

2. (SBU) PRM Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Ryan and DHS
Director for Asylum Joe Langlois participated in an April 6-7
conference hosted by Tel Aviv University entitled "Developing
an Asylum System in Israel" and attended by academics from
the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Denmark, Israeli human
rights organizations and academics, and GOI officials. On
April 9, DAS Ryan met with GOI officials in the Ministries of
Justice, Interior and Foreign Affairs as well as with
Director General of the Prime Minister's office Raanan Dinur
to discuss the development of an asylum system to cope with
the rising numbers of African asylum-seekers in Israel
(reftel).

The Existing Asylum Process
---------------------------

3. (SBU) Over 9,000 African asylum seekers are currently
registered with UNHCR in Israel with between 30 - 60 new
arrivals every day. Over 95 percent arrive by land across
the Israel-Egypt border; some are interdicted and detained in
Ketziot prison in the Negev, others are interdicted and
released due to lack of prison capacity, while others make
their own way to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. UNHCR registers all
new arrivals. Thus far, UNHCR has focused its resources on
conducting refugee status determinations (RSDs) for
asylum-seekers of nationalities that are less likely to have
refugee claims, such as the roughly 1,200 Cote d'Ivoire
nationals and 400 Nigerians.

4. (SBU) Although Israel has not adopted enabling legislation
related to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the GOI issued
regulations in 2002 "Regarding the Treatment of Asylum
Seekers in Israel." According to these regulations, UNHCR
will present RSDs to the National Status Granting Board
(NSGB) comprised of government officials from the Ministry of
Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs. The NSGB decides
whether or not to grant an applicant refugee status. The
regulation prohibits UNHCR from issuing "documents
recognizing the refugee status of applicants present in
Israel." Israel also reserves the right not to grant a
permit to enable the stay in Israel of nationals of an "enemy
state."

5. (SBU) According to Israeli regulation, an applicant
rejected by the NSGB may petition to the same body for
reconsideration. If rejected again, the applicant's last
opportunity for appeal is to the Minister of Interior. The
regulation does not allow for an applicant to have legal
representation nor the opportunity for rebuttal prior to an
NSGB decision.

Israeli NGOs: Shortcomings of Current System
--------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In the April 6-7 Tel Aviv University Asylum
Conference, Israeli human rights and advocacy NGOs expressed
serious dissatisfaction with the existing asylum system.
They claim that the system lacks transparency; is based on
Israel,s foreign policy; and fails to provide for judicial
review of NSGB decisions or legal representation. When NSGB
Chairperson Ofra Friedman gave a conference presentation
describing two specific asylum cases that the NSGB had
rejected, the Director for Hotline for Migrants Workers noted
that one of the cases involved her client and that neither
she nor her client had been informed of the NSGB's negative
decision.

7. (SBU) Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Director Ran Cohen
cited problems faced by asylum-seekers in obtaining health
care, education for minors and legal aid. The government, he
said, has failed to provide a social safety net for this
population. African Refugee Development Center (ARDC)
Director Yohannes Lemma reported that the GOI had recently
closed down all but one of their shelters with the promise to
provide work permits to the residents. However, he said,
work permits were distributed unequally and in an ad hoc
manner. In many cases, the permits were given directly to an
employer, thereby limiting the asylum-seekers' freedom of
movement and encouraging worker exploitation. On April 11,
UNHCR Representative Steven Wolfson noted that some
asylum-seekers who had received permits for work in Eilat
were returning to Tel Aviv after encountering poor conditions
or no work opportunities.

UNHCR To Mobilize Emergency Resources
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) UNHCR's Wolfson told DAS Ryan April 7 that UNHCR
will mobilize emergency resources to assist roughly 10,000
asylum seekers in Israel. Wolfson reported to RefCoord April
11 that UNHCR/HQ had approved emergency funding of $600,000
for programs while another $600,000 in administrative funding
is pending approval and would support staff salaries and the
move to a new office building. If the total $1.2 million is
approved, it would bring UNHCR's 2008 budget in Israel to
$1.9 million. Wolfson also noted that a TDY UNHCR program
officer is in Tel Aviv to design projects with four NGOs:
ARDC for shelter support, PHR for medical care, Hotline for
Migrant Workers for legal aid, and AASAF for psycho-social
counseling. However, Wolfson said, UNHCR is reluctant to
provide material assistance to asylum-seekers in "the 28th
wealthiest country in the world."

9. (U) PRM DAS Kelly Ryan has cleared this message.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
JONES

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