Operation: Opération: Israel



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Key Figures

2018 year-end results
509 people received temporary humanitarian protection individually (various nationalities) or on a group basis (485 Sudanese)
6 asylum-seekers granted refugee status (5 Eritreans, 1 Nigerian)
2019 planning figures
9,230 people of concern will receive material and psychosocial support
3,020 people of concern will receive legal assistance
900 survivors of SGBV  will receive psychosocial counselling 
400 lawyers, NGO personnel, judges, asylum authorities, law enforcement officials and journalists will be trained 

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2018 54,181
2017 55,250
2016 44,665


[["Refugees",1659],["Refugee-like situation",16910],["Asylum-seekers",35570],["Stateless",42]]
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2018 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[2.9347088,3.20793918,3.07990377,3.73197219,3.95707617,4.49196741],"expenditure":[2.6475354,2.75589838,2.67243925,2.86766417,2.7760111,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[2.9347088,3.20793918,3.07990377,3.73197219,3.95707617,4.49196741],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[2.6475354,2.75589838,2.67243925,2.86766417,2.7760111,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Operational context

The protection environment for UNHCR’s people of concern in Israel remained restrictive in 2018. In April 2018, UNHCR came to an agreement with the Government upon a Framework of Common Understanding that would put in place a timetable to implement solutions for the some 39,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers over the next five years. However, the agreement was rescinded immediately rescinded after political leaders claimed it would allow integration of too many people of concern into the country.


Population trends

In 2018, the number of people of concern to UNHCR saw minor change from previous years, standing at 33,627, including the children of asylum-seekers defined by Israel as “infiltrators”. The vast majority are Eritreans (24,007) and Sudanese (6,594) who entered before the closure of the border with Egypt in 2013. No new arrivals have been reported since May 2016.
In the course of 2018, refugee status was granted to six asylum-seekers (5 Eritreans, one Nigerian).  Another 509 received temporary humanitarian protection either on a group basis (485 Sudanese) or individually (24 various nationalities). At the end of 2018, there were some 36,550 asylum applications pending a decision at first instance.


Key achievements

Despite the Framework of Common Understanding not materializing, a revised proposal that shortened the timeline to 3.5 years was shared with the Government and is currently being advocated for. According to this version, the first year foresees at least 4,000 departures out of Israel through sponsorships, resettlement and family reunification in return for the same number being granted temporary residence permits in Israel that allow them access to gainful employment, health care and social assistance. Threatened widespread detention and forced relocation to Rwanda and Uganda were ceased, and enforced residence in Holot— a semi-detention center in the Negev desert—was also ended.
In 2018, UNHCR:
  • Advocated for access to adequate public services for asylum–seekers with specific needs and provided support and assistance, including psycho-social counselling, legal advice, employment support, financial assistance, and income-generating projects;
  • Continued to identify and refer victims of torture to the inter-ministerial committee assigned to map and identify the needs of victims. More than 100 cases were referred during the reporting period;
  • Conducted trainings on domestic violence for police officers, government officials and practitioners;
  • Through its multi-stakeholder SGBV forum, worked closely with various local NGOs and community associations to address SGBV and related issues;
  • Organized training for schools and municipalities and supported NGOs’ afterschool programmes and community-based initiatives in order to decrease risk factors for children and improve their learning.
  • Continued to advocate for a fair and effective national asylum system by monitoring procedures, expert training and providing legal positions and country of origin information.
  • Supported litigation by its partners aimed at influencing government policies regarding in particular the treatment of asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan. This resulted in the granting of humanitarian status to hundreds of Sudanese from Darfur during the reporting period.
  • Employed resettlement as an instrument of international protection for survivors of torture, the disabled or severely traumatized refugees who need specialized treatment unaffordable in Israel, or to reunite separated refugee families.

Unmet needs

Due to the rejection of the Framework of Common Understanding, UNHCR continues to advocate for protection and durable solutions for the approx. 40,000 people of concern in Israel, for whom solutions would have been funded through plans set out in the Framework.


Working environment

Israel hosts some 38,500 asylum-seekers and refugees, with the majority from Eritrea and Sudan. In addition, some 17,000 nationals of Georgia and Ukraine filed asylum claims as of mid-2017.  
The protection environment in Israel has continued to deteriorate since the end of 2011, with the implementation of policies and legislation intended to encourage departures such as the obligation for employers to deduct 20 per cent from the salaries of people of concern, to be returned only upon departure from Israel. This is expected to continue to adversely affect the socio-economic situation of asylum-seekers, particularly the most vulnerable families. Given Israel’s policy of forced relocation to African states, people of concern are also being placed at risk of indefinite detention.
The State of Israel has thus far recognized very few refugees. Within this context, Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers are provided with only a limited form of group protection, which includes freedom of movement (unless they are obliged to stay at a semi-closed facility for up to one year), protection against refoulement and informal access to the labour market. The Government of Israel provides full and free access to primary and secondary education to all children in Israel, irrespective of their legal status. It also provides limited shelter and inclusion in rehabilitation programmes for recognized victims of trafficking. HIV-treatment, including medication and monitoring, is provided to the majority of affected asylum-seekers without health insurance. In addition, life-saving and critical support is delivered at the municipal level to assist some asylum-seeker children and families at risk.
UNHCR will continue to work with authorities, Knesset Members, refugee community-based organizations, academia and other civil society actors to pursue effective responses and to ensure adequate protection for people of concern, including access to basic services.

Key priorities

In 2018, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Working with the Government to provide solutions for long-staying Eritreans and Sudanese through increased protection for those who will stay in Israel while facilitating resettlement and other pathways to third countries for others; 
  • Reducing protection risks faced by children (e.g. neglect, abuse, lack of proper birth documents);
  • Interventions to promote the self-reliance of people of concern through continued legal aid, increased skills training and improved access to job opportunities;
  • Targeted advocacy on legislative changes in order to formally recognize and assist survivors of torture and to increase State support for victims of trafficking;
  • Targeted work with community structures and institutions in order to decrease the number of sexual and gender-based violence incidents;
Advocacy for and the provision of welfare and health services for the most vulnerable people of concern, including those living with disabilities, survivors of torture, female headed households, and those unable to work.
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