Refugees from war-torn Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Congo, and others are finding a safe haven… in Israel:
Israel has provided refugee status for 500 foreign residents from countries in which civil wars are taking place, according to the UN High commissioner for refugees’ representative in Israel Mickey Bavli.
Speaking to reporters on the occasion of World Refugee Day, Bavli said that over the past three years, status has been given to people from countries such as Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, as a result of which an inter-ministerial department that examines such requests was established two years ago.
At present, a further 200 applications are being examined.
Even while lobbying for urgently-needed reforms to the UNRWA – the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, which Israel claims is facilitating terrorism – Israel is working with UNHCR to help legitimate asylum seekers and refugees from elsewhere in the world.
The UNHCR representative in Israel explained the thinking last January, when Israel set up an internal body to review refugee claims:
UNHCR’s honorary representative in Israel, Mickey Bavly, said Israelis understand the plight of refugees, since more than three million citizens of the country were themselves forced into exile.
“The Israeli people have a very personal understanding of what it means to be a refugee, you don’t need a real effort to persuade them,” Bavly said. “But what was needed was to persuade the Israeli government to take the action and not rely solely on the U.N. [to examine claims].”
Israel has always been the safe haven for Jews all over the world. But these claimants are different. Israel is signalling its openness and willingness to reach out a hand to help people who need it, regardless of their background… as long as they want to live in the state, not destroy it. A critical distinction.