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|2020 year-end results|
|2,936||asylum-seekers received legal assistance and representation, and a further 5,444 received paralegal support and advice|
|1,343||children with special needs received diagnosis, care and treatment|
|1,285||people of concern received medical care, including mental health support and treatment|
|1,172||asylum-seekers completed vocational training courses funded by UNHCR|
|123||individuals departed for resettlement to third countries|
|39||cases (82 individuals) were referred for resettlement, and 259 people were assisted by UNHCR to access complementary pathways|
|2021 planning figures|
|5,000||people of concern will be supported through advocacy, legal interventions and information provided on refugee status determination|
|2,500||persons at heightened risk will receive psychosocial assistance|
|1,400||people of concern will have access to medical interventions, including care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS|
|600||people of concern will receive multipurpose cash assistance|
|50||refugees will be referred for resettlement|
People of Concern
Operational contextIsrael hosted 44,461 adult refugees, asylum-seekers and others of concern, as well as some 8,500 children. Fewer than 1% are estimated to have obtained refugee status. To date, some 667 Sudanese nationals from the Darfur region have been granted humanitarian status. Those with refugee status or humanitarian protection enjoy socioeconomic rights on a near equal footing to citizens. Asylum-seekers however have few rights beyond permission to remain in Israel for the duration of their refugee status determination. The majority of asylum-seekers pursue informal work, including in the hospitality, hotel and restaurant sectors, which were all closed to varying degrees in 2020 due to COVID-19. The pandemic and associated movement restrictions meant that many asylum-seekers who had been self-reliant suddenly become entirely dependent on assistance from UNHCR and partners. The most vulnerable resorted to harmful coping mechanisms such as begging or reducing their food intake, inability to pay rent having resulted in homelessness for some.
Population trendsThe majority of asylum-seekers in Israel are from Eritrea and Sudan. At the end of 2020, there were 21,807 Eritrean and 6,285 Sudanese asylum-seekers in Israel. Both nationalities have been granted temporary group protection owing to the situation in their countries of origin.
Around half the asylum-seekers in Israel resided in Tel Aviv, mostly in the poorer areas in the south of the city, with smaller groups located across the country, mostly in Petah Tikvah, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Netanya.
- Israel continued its tolerant policy towards refugees and asylum-seekers during the Government’s national response to COVID-19, including them in testing, screening and quarantine measures, as well as the national vaccine rollout.
- UNHCR Israel launched a $840,000 cash assistance programme in 2020, supporting 2,400 extremely vulnerable asylum-seekers whose livelihoods were impacted by the pandemic.
- UNHCR distributed 465 laptops to primary- and secondary-school aged asylum-seeking students to support remote learning during periods of national school closures.
- The Supreme Court of Israel’s annulment of the Deposit Law, under which 20% of the salaries of asylum-seekers was withheld by employers, resulted in the refunding of over 205 million Shekels to asylum seekers by the end of 2020.
- Asylum-seekers in Israel lacked sufficient services for both clinical treatment and community-based mental health. UNHCR worked to strengthen partnerships and programming to address this issue.
- Gaps remained in the availability of HIV testing and awareness-raising among populations of concern, as publicly-funded HIV services were mostly unavailable to asylum-seekers.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)During 2020, UNHCR Israel was able to rapidly adjust its programming to prioritise COVID-19 response measures thanks to the largely unearmarked budget.
Working environmentIsrael hosts approximately 34,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese, who arrived in Israel more than a decade ago. Labelled as “infiltrators,” their access to the asylum procedure was restricted until early 2013. Those who managed to apply have not benefitted from secure residency or sufficient basic services while awaiting an outcome.
The protection environment has deteriorated during the past few years following the introduction of additional deterrence policies and legislation. Asylum-seekers are living in an impoverished state, which has been exacerbated since the implementation of the so-called “deposit law” that obligates employers to deduct 20% from the salaries of asylum-seekers––to be returned only upon leaving Israel.
UNHCR has been involved in protection monitoring, providing guidance and capacity-building. It has also implemented projects relating to education, health, SGBV prevention and response, legal representation, psycho-social counselling, and vocational and language training.
Key prioritiesIn 2020, UNHCR will focus on:
- Strengthening public understanding of, and support to, refugees and asylum-seekers, to counter prevailing negative perceptions and discrimination.
- Advocacy and capacity-building to ensure the available national health care and education institutions and social welfare structures are accessible to refugee and asylum-seeker children.
- Promoting fair, efficient and effective asylum procedures that meet international standards through capacity-building, expert advice and technical support.
- Advocating durable solutions, as outlined by the short-lived Framework of Common Understanding UNHCR reached with the Government of Israel in 2018, which provides a fair and effective solution for the thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese currently in Israel, namely resettlement and complementary pathways.