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|2019 year-end results|
|5,000||people of concern received medical support|
|5,000||people of concern received legal assistance|
|2,000||people of concern received material and psychosocial support|
|1,500||at-risk and special needs children received protection and care services from UNHCR and its partners|
|1,000||survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) received psychosocial counselling, resulting in 60% of known SGBV survivors receiving support|
|300||people of concern were submitted for resettlement|
|2020 planning figures|
|7,165||people of concern will be provided with material assistance and psychosocial support|
|3,678||asylum-seekers will receive legal assistance|
|1,200||children at risk or with special needs will receive support|
|900||survivors of sexual and gender-based violence will receive psychosocial counselling|
|200||particularly vulnerable cases, including women and girls at risk, will be identified for resettlement|
People of Concern
Operational contextThe protection environment in Israel in 2019 remained challenging, with restrictive policies and practices affecting asylum-seekers' access to gainful employment, public health services, socials assistance and the grant of refugee status.
UNHCR’s advocacy work during the reporting period focused on efforts to revive the “Framework of common understanding” signed between UNHCR and the Government of Israel in April 2018, which had sought to find a durable solution for some 30,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who had faced legal and social uncertainty in Israel for over a decade. The agreement was subsequently cancelled by the Government a day following its signature. after it was signed. Meanwhile, living conditions for asylum-seekers deteriorated even further following the adoption of legislation requiring employers to withhold 20% of net salaries until departure from Israel. The loss of one-fifth of their already limited income considerably impacted asylum-seekers’ ability to afford basic necessities such as food, accommodation, and health insurance.
In a positive development, “conditional release” visas issued to Eritrean asylum-seekers were extended up to a six-month period, and up to one year for Sudanese nationals, allowing the holder to pursue limited employment.
Population trendsAs of 31 December 2019, there were over 50,000 people of concern to UNHCR (not including children born in Israel, who numbered over 7,600). The majority were Eritreans and Sudanese (close to 30,000). No new arrivals of Eritreans or Sudanese were recorded since May 2016. Instead, a reverse trend was observed: since 2014, nearly one-third of Eritreans and Sudanese had left Israel.
- UNHCR provided technical support to improve the national refugee status determination system - a two-month expert study and field mission by an external consultant resulted in a set of recommendations to the Government.
- UNHCR expanded its community outreach activities, participatory needs assessments and new initiatives for community-based protection.
- UNHCR planned and implemented several activities for the prevention of and response to SGBV through multi-stakeholder engagement (including awareness-raising, self-defense training, and safe accommodation).
- Significant gaps remained between the basic needs of people of concern in Israel and the resources available from the Government, UNHCR and refugee-assisting NGOs.
- The number of extremely vulnerable refugees in need of urgent resettlement greatly exceeded available places.
Working environmentThe protection environment in Israel remains restricted. National policies aim at incentivizing asylum-seekers to return to their countries of origin or to relocate to third countries, particularly for Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers. Israel closed Holot Centre in early 2018, ending the relocation of asylum-seekers to detention-like conditions. UNHCR is advocating for the reinvigoration of the solutions strategy, which aims to find durable solutions for the majority of asylum-seekers, either through resettlement or integration in Israel.
Throughout 2018, Supreme Court rulings have protected asylum-seekers from forced deportation to third countries. Political developments in countries of origin, such as Eritrea, are closely monitored, with judicial review also protecting against forced repatriation to an unsafe country.
Access to the labour market is tolerated. Access to health services is limited to emergencies and to private insurance (with a special subsidy scheme for children), whereas children have access to free primary and secondary education.
The civil society in Israel remains active. UNHCR will engage with the private sector in Israel, making links through vocational training activities, with the aim of improving access to livelihoods while also alleviating the negative impacts of densely populated urban areas where many people of concern reside.
Key PrioritiesIn 2019 UNHCR will focus on:
- Strengthening the legal and policy framework through cooperation with legal partners to promote adherence to international law in policy, legislation and within the judiciary, including maintaining the Supreme Court’s role in reviewing legislation related to migrants and refugees.
- Maintaining resettlement for a minimum of 250 people a year and UNHCR adjudication for private sponsorships.
- Enabling the access of vulnerable asylum-seekers to basic services, including reproductive health.
- Supporting initiatives that would deliver durable solutions, including a return to the comprehensive solutions strategy agreement developed between Israel and UNHCR in 2018.
- Supporting safeguard including the supreme court rulings that protect refugees and asylum-seekers from involuntary repatriation, relocation within Israel, or deportation to third countries.
- Ensuring that voluntary returns take place in conditions of safety, voluntariness and dignity.