According to data released by Israel’s Ministry of Interior, there are about 55,000 people in Israel who had irregularly entered via the Egyptian border. Of these, 66 per cent are Eritreans, and 25 per cent are Sudanese.
Most of the asylum-seekers arriving in Israel come from Eritrea and Sudan. Eritrea has long been known as a country where grave violations of human rights take place: religious and political persecution, disappearances of citizens and use of torture by the government. The asylum-seekers from Sudan include survivors from the Darfur region who have escaped continuous persecution and mass murder of civilian populations perpetrated by the government and armed militia groups.
For several years, the Egyptian border has been the main entry point for most refugees. Many asylum seekers are abducted and held for randsom in camps in Sinai for long periods before they reach the Israeli border. Since the building of fence along the border, the number of asylum seekers entering Israel has reduced significantly: from the beginning of 2013 until the end of August, only 36 people have entered Israel this way.
Amnesty International has long-standing concerns that Israel’s asylum system lacks transparency, does not offer asylum-seekers access to fair proceedings, and is ineffective in ensuring protection. The state’s brief to the High Court of Justice submitted in May 2013 admitted that it had not finished examining any of the more than 1,400 asylum applications filed by detainees held under the Prevention of Infiltration Law, 2012, despite the fact that under the law, such examinations must be completed within nine months of the asylum claim being filed.
For several years, Israel categorically denied Eritreans and Sudanese access to refugee status determination procedures, in violation of its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, instead granting them temporary collective protection while simultaneously implementing a growing number of punitive measures against “infiltrators” in an effort to pressure them to leave. Although the Israeli authorities have begun to register asylum claims submitted by Eritrean and Sudanese detainees, Israel’s ongoing attempts to deport Eritreans and Sudanese or transfer them to a third country prove that their temporary protection status is not enough to protect them from refoulement.
Concerns about Israel’s asylum procedures are particularly acute for those in detention. Israeli authorities have not consistently informed detainees how they can request asylum, even when detainees have told prison authorities that they face danger if returned to their home countries.
Ministry of Interior officials have denied that such declarations mark the beginning of an asylum process and instead demanded that those wishing to claim asylum fill out specific forms which were generally not provided to the detainees.
In June 2012, Israel began implementing the Prevention of Infiltration Law, 2012, adopted in January 2012. This law allows for the automatic administrative detention of anyone, including asylum-seekers, entering Israel without permission, and allows detainees to be held without charge or trial for three or more years. Such prolonged detention was recently called "unconstitutional" by the High Court of Justice.