Denying the Right of Appeal for Asylum Seekers

A new Knesset bill denies the right of asylum seekers to appeal the decision of border authorities.The Ministry of Interior claims that all can re-apply for refugee status after they have been deported. Yet, the more flawed the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process in Israel is, the more individuals will be persecuted after return, and the fewer will be able to apply for re-entrance in Israel after return, precisely because they are persecuted. The whole point of an appeal process is that deportation is often irreversible for those who are genuine refugees. After all, appealing from prison in one’s country of origin can be difficult. It is impossible for those who are killed as a result of persecution or war.

Even in scenarios where individuals are not imprisoned or killed, those most at risk from war and abuse may also be the least able for re-entry.

For example, South Sudanese who have returned to the more remote northern towns of Aweil and Wau regretted ‘voluntarily’ returning to South Sudan far more than returnees in Juba, the capital, where an application process for returning to Israel would presumably take place. In the northern towns I witnessed children being severely beaten in and outside of schools, including in football practice, where the coach holds a rubber whip to make children run faster.  Those living far from the capital in the north are also more at risk from the war with Sudan, both directly and indirectly. Yet, the toll of the war on the economy means that many in the northern towns of South Sudan do not have money to travel to Juba to appeal a decision.  Nor is it clear that applications, in general, will truly be accepted in Juba and other capitals.

Even if the government has no sympathy for those who have failed to prove that they are refugees, surely the government should support inspecting if its own RSD process is functioning. The only way to do this would be to see if deportees are persecuted or even alive. Such an evaluation for deportees from Israel has yet to be undertaken by the government, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), or the International Organization of Migration, which one op-ed suggested can be used by Israel ‘to develop more sustainable management of regional flows.’  Any management that relies on the ability to determine who is and is not a refugee must also verify if decisions were accurately made.

Such an evaluation might not always be possible. Perhaps there should be a limit in the expense that the government is morally and legally obligated to invest in such an evaluation. Yet, there is currently no evaluation to speak of, let alone a low-expense one, such as calling deportees once a month, or even once a year. The reason such an evaluation should be done is not only so that those who have failed to be granted refugee status can apply for re-entry.  Rather, such an evaluation would allow the government and concerned public to know if the RSD process is working. Nor is this to see if the government can justify denying appeals, because a safe return for one person does not indicate that others can be safely returned. The government now both fails to find out if deportees are persecuted and, in the same breath, claims that it knows that deportees will not be persecuted.The denying of the right to appeal does not make the RSD process more efficient. Rather, it adds expedience to ignorance, and the process remains a poor to non-existent mechanism for protecting those most at risk.

About the Author
Mollie Gerver is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics where she researches the repatriation and resettlement of African migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Israel.