Successful campaign allows Israeli Tigrayan refugees to re-open their asylum claims

“Tigrayans can reopen their asylum request and obtain a staying permit”

Source: Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

Dear friends,
Over a year ago, a war broke out in the Tigray province of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – stated that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked a military base in the province and therefore Ethiopian military forces would enter Tigray. Later, Eritrean forces also joined the fighting. At that time, communication was banned in the Tigray province and no information could be obtained regarding what was happening there. Shortly after, reports of people fleeing for their lives to the Sudanese border started to arrive. Harrowing testimonies emerged from the fugitives: genocide, rape, house burning, theft and terrible hunger and thirst.During this period, people from Tigray who reside in Israel and fear for the lives of their families back home – with whom all contact was lost since the beginning of the war – began contacting us at the Crisis Intervention Center (CIC) – the field department of the Hotline. We immediately realized that the right thing to do is to conduct comprehensive research into what is happening in Tigray so that we can help those who contact us. From the research I did and the trainings on the subject that we organized for the Hotline team together with partner organizations, it became clear that the situation in Tigray is very difficult. So much so that we realized that an urgent strategy needed to be formulated to protect Tigrayans.After much deliberation, we decided to select a “flagship case” of an Ethiopian of Tigrayan origin and try to file a request for the reconsideration of his asylum request that had been closed. Indeed, together with Advocate Moriel Ordan we filed for Mr. Tsegay (pseudonym) a request for reconsideration of his asylum request.

Shortly before the outbreak of the war in Tigray, Tsegay’s asylum request was rejected. His mother and sister were in Tigray and the connection with them was severed. For months he tried to reach them without success. Tsegay came to us very frightened, worrying about his family situation and not knowing what was going on with them caused him distress. Tsegay also has a sister in Addis Ababa, who was attacked, wounded, and imprisoned by Ethiopian government soldiers based solely on her ethnicity. Reports also emerged of other Tigrayans losing their jobs, especially those who held jobs in government offices, who were imprisoned or whose homes were suddenly searched in the middle of the night.

The application for reconsideration of Tsegay’s case was filed in February 2021. A few months later, Tsegay learned that his mother and sister had been killed along with other Tigrayans in a massacre that took place in Axum while a religious holiday was being held in the area. Tsegay collapsed mentally upon receiving this bad news. Unfortunately, up to that point, Tsegay had not yet received a visa to stay in Israel.

Support our legal fight for Ethiopian asylum seekers from Tigray
Meanwhile, Hotline’s legal department, in collaboration with the HIAS and the Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University, continued their research and last August submitted a detailed letter to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Justice Minister Gideon Sa`ar and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid, requesting a non-removal policy regarding Tigrayans with Ethiopian citizenship and processing their asylum requests.

Last November we received a response to this request that Tigrayans can reopen their asylum request and obtain a staying permit. Among other things, Tsegay also received a staying permit. He felt relieved because now he no longer worries about his personal safety in addition to all the worries he has for his family and his homeland.

Thanks to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, in the CIC department we were able to identify the need for protection of Tigrayans from Ethiopia, we conducted a research and understood in depth the situation in Tigray, and submitted the request to the ministers. Thanks to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and partner organizations we have been able to protect Tigrayans from deportation, a protection which they absolutely need!

Within the Tigrayan community there are women and men – including survivors of human trafficking and torture – who are in a complex and vulnerable situation, who cannot turn to a lawyer and need help so they can get the protection they deserve.

Considering the difficult situation in the Tigray province of Ethiopia, we are launching a ten-day flash campaign aimed at raising donations for legal representation for the most vulnerable asylum seekers from this community. Join us in protecting the rights of asylum seekers who cannot return to their homeland (click here to donate).

Maysoon Kheir
Crisis Intervention Coordinator
Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

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