“Refugees” or “Intruders”, a battle of terms in Israel’s asylum policy regime

Since the establishment of State of Israel in 1948, it adopted a citizenship management system that was based upon ethnicity. The foundation of this system could be traced from 1950s policy of the Law of Return, which has been the symbolic expression of Zionist Ideology, that specified, every Jew has a right to come to Israel and can take up the citizenship.

The conflict has arisen between the treatment between the people immigrating in Israel and with refugees seeking asylum in Israel. Where the refugee system in Israel has developed some shortcomings due to the political and security conditions of the state, where the government has taken a stringent approach in accommodating any individual in Israel. It has often neglected in differentiating between the treatment with “Asylum seekers” and “Immigrants”, so as to ensure no such security threat is being posed to the country in a broader sense.

Fundamentally, these two concepts are different in nature where immigration policy is governed by principles of sovereignty and refugee law is governed by international legal obligations. The concept of refugee laws is based on the social cause of protecting a person whose life or liberty is in danger and thus providing him civil and socio-economic rights along with the refugee status to settle in the country. The refugee law is governed by international law standards.

Treating the asylum seekers in the same standards for assessing an illegal immigrant raises up a lot of speculations on whether it loses the fairness and sympathetical factor while dealing with such cases. The asylum seeker terminology carries an impression from international law and humanitarian laws, and are exempted from criminal liability that is generally posted on the “illegal immigrant” and the whole reasoning behind one being an asylum seeker is due to atrocities that have fallen on the person’s head and is calling for rescue towards his life and liberty. Imposing a criminal liability or introducing them to harsh conditions just nullifies the whole purpose.

The underlying problems are political in nature and not just administrative. In the asylum or refugee system, the one essential factor that must be recognized is the consideration of human life and liberty above his national identity. A national identity often comes into conflict for a country where a home country may have tough political relations with the country of an asylum seeker. The threat may pose not just towards diplomatic relations but also towards the national security of the nation. However, when a country becomes a part of the UN’s refugee policies it very well addresses and accepts such issues. Question about whether the similar rights and status should be provided to the refugees, it totally depends upon the policies of the country where the rights such as voting right, educational rights etc are funded by the government policies, however, a middle path can be carved out as stated below, in the recommendations. On the broader note, the least that can be accommodated is ensuring liberty and safety to such citizen and a right to sustain themselves in the country without imposing any special sanctions or rules for the people.

Further, the impact of such policies can very easily be seen in the overall situation. One such example is of deposit law that was implemented in May 2017. That made the situation of the African Asylum migrant more challenging, where now 20% of their salaries are seized by the government which shall be returned to them when they leave. Further, it obligates Israeli employers to pay an extra 16% of taxes, even if they employ A5 (humanitarian) visa holders. Therefore the impact and severity of situation increase in manifolds where even if the asylum being granted, such policies make it very difficult for them to survive.

Some of the recommendation that Israeli governance system can adopt:

Therefore, it is necessary now for Knesset and government to bring a change in prejudicial policies, so as to cease and desist them from any detrimental harm, further to put in place a formalised refugee status determination system in accordance with international standards that befits Israel’s political and security conditions and befits a country whose ethos and ethics effectively command it to respect the strangers.

About the Author
The author is Assistant Professor at University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. Pulkit has pursued his LL.M from Tel Aviv University, Israel in Law and Technology and is currently pursuing his Ph.D from University of Ottawa, Canada.
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