As of 2020, some 30,000 asylum seekers live in Israel. These individuals and families, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have escaped persecution and genocide. Israel recognizes that due to risks in their home countries, they are not deportable. However, the state does not grant them the status of refugees, considers them ‘infiltrators’, subjects them to discriminatory policies, does not provide them with social, health or welfare rights, and implements policies designed to promote and facilitate deportation. Most asylum seekers live in poverty and struggle to survive; they work long hours at difficult physical jobs in which they are vulnerable to employer-abuse. As a result of these conditions, spouse abandonment, domestic violence, substance abuse, and child-neglect are widespread.
Asylum seekers and migrant workers in Israel
Today approximately 98,000 authorized migrant workers reside in Israel. An additional 16,000 migrant workers who have lost their legal status and 67,000 undocumented migrants reside in Israel and work illegally. The main problem faced by this community is the ‘Binding Policy’, which binds workers’ visas to their employer. Under this policy, migrant workers who leave an employer lose their legal status and face deportation. A 2006 high court ruling labeled this policy ‘modern-day slavery’ and ordered the State to develop alternative policies within six months. To this day, the ruling has not been implemented.
Children of migrant workers born in Israel do not receive any legal status. Prior to 2011, following public pressure, some 3,000 children were granted permanent status. However, this was a one-time decision. Since then these children, who speak native-Hebrew and who feel Israeli in all aspects of their lives, do not receive status or social benefits accorded to Israeli children and are subject to arrest, imprisonment and deportation.