Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers

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The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants is a human rights organization in Israel whose aim is to protect and promote the rights of refugees and migrants.

The dire situation of asylum seekers in Israel

Behind barbed wire in the Negev desert there are approximately 2,200 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers being indefinitely held without trial, in an Israeli detention facility, Holot. Their “crime” is seeking safety in Israel.

The situation in Holot encapsulates the desperation of the asylum experience in Israel. Asylum seekers held in Holot are from Sudan and Eritrea, states where there are brutal dictatorships and repression of human rights. The rest of the international community accepts asylum seekers from these states in strikingly higher numbers than Israel, which has not even recognised one single Sudanese refugee. Some of those detained are victims of torture. Many in Holot have been on hunger strike and have launched other forms of civil disobedience protest over the poor conditions that they are now being held in.

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants launched legal action to end the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, resulting in an historic ruling of the High Court in September. The High Court recognised that the Government’s policy on indefinite detention was against Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty and has set a date in December for the closure of the detention centre.

A key success of the Hotline has been its work with migrants, leading to the granting of residence status to the children of undocumented migrants, most born in Israel, and all studying or have studied in the Israeli education system. The Israeli authorities often turn a blind eye to the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers both by those who bring them to Israel and once they are within the country. This success is a step towards migrants’ children having a brighter future in a more just Israeli society.

The Hotline also tries to shape the public discourse around asylum and migration through its research and campaigns.  The Hotline documents racist incidents and hate crimes that flow from racial incitement and discourse in Israeli society. It aims to inject fact-based, rational arguments into an Israeli public discourse on migration that can too often be characterised as racist.

Why vote for the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants?

The Hotline has given a voice to those whom the Government has attempted to lock out of the sight of the Israeli public, some of the most vulnerable people in Israeli society. Since the decision the Hotline has secured the release of 138 asylum seekers from Holot, some of whom were detained for over 2 and a half years.

Through providing crucial support and legal advice to asylum seekers and migrants, The Hotline’s litigation gives hope to reforming the Israeli asylum system that is not fit for purpose. The backlash against the High Court’s decision shows that there is still much more to be done to secure the basic rights of those seeking asylum in Israel. The decision of the High Court has given a window of opportunity to campaign for a fairer alternative to the detention of asylum seekers. The Hotline is leading a campaign to rehabilitate south Tel Aviv, legalise the work of asylum seekers and support municipalities in absorbing them.

I hope that Israel starts to assume its responsibility for asylum seekers. The moral clarity of any society is measured by how we treat the most vulnerable people within it. The right to security and a decent life belongs to all those in Israel, especially those fleeing from persecution. Asylum seekers always need exceptional help from exceptional people. Please support The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants that helps to make this happen.

By Aimee Riese

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants website.

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