UNHCR: Israel haven for refugees


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.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 8opus 11.30.-1 at 12:00 AM

(Forgot to sign.)


2 DaninVan 06.21.04 at 7:00 PM

Hmmm, there’s an idea that hasn’t been tried before; Black Muslims who hate Arabs and love Israel…..


3 Hanthala 06.22.04 at 4:10 AM

“The Israeli people have a very personal understanding of what it means to be a refugee…” No kidding. About 4 or 5 million of them living around Israel. Not to mention the internal refugees.


4 DaninVan 06.22.04 at 6:42 AM

You never did answer my question


5 Hanthala 06.22.04 at 5:50 PM

If you are referring to my identity Danin, I don’t generally answer as I think its mostly irrelevant.


6 Anonymous 06.22.04 at 7:35 PM

“The Israeli people have a very personal understanding of what it means to be a refugee…” No kidding. About 4 or 5 million of them living around Israel.

I don’t think that’s right. The choice of Arab states to permanently place Palestinians into refugee camps, deny them basic rights, and use their U.N. might to legalise this in international — two statuses now exist, refugee and “Palestinian refugee” — is quite unique.

As to internal refugees: if you are half-insinuating that Israeli Arabs are in fact refugees then, with respect, I don’t think you have a good understanding of what it means to be a refugee.


7 Jonathan Edelstein 06.22.04 at 8:51 PM

More on refugees in Israel here and here, and also on non-Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.


8 DaninVan 06.23.04 at 5:46 PM

Hanthala is a wee bit singleminded on the subject. One might assume that she is herself, Palestinian. That’s ok, but why not just come out and say it?


9 Malia 06.23.04 at 11:42 PM

Calling Israelis refugees is like calling the American Indians who live in America refugees. Israel is the homeland ofthe Jews Hanthala, get over it! The Arabs who call themselves “Palestians” are the real refugees who need to go back to their homeland of Saudi Arabia!


10 DaninVan 06.24.04 at 12:43 AM

Far be it from me to butt in (right…) but perhaps the reference was to Israel’S refugees, that is, immigrants to Israel who are refugees from their Homeland. For the Pals, Gaza and the Westbank are the place where the last couple of generations were born (if not in any number of Arab countries which have booted them out for ‘no reason’. They have permanent homes, they’re NOT refugees. Ok, the ones whose homes no longer exist due to terrorist activity, could claim to be refugees again…


11 segacs 06.24.04 at 1:24 AM

Perhaps the reference was to Israel’S refugees, that is, immigrants to Israel who are refugees from their Homeland.

Exactly. In the first decade of its existence as a state, Israel absorbed three times its total population of refugees – many of whom arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Israel fed them, sheltered them, educated them, and gave them the tools to become productive memebers of society.

Name another country so generously willing to help refugees. Or, more to the point, why did countries like Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria refuse to accept the Palestinian refugees who chose to flee in ’48 as citizens? Could it possibly have something to do with them being more useful to these countries’ political cause to be sitting in refugee camps behind barbed wire instead of living in dignity?


12 DaninVan 06.25.04 at 10:30 AM

Don’t forget the Tribal nature of those people. They were fighting amongst themselves long before Herzl was born. They don’t like change and they don’t like strangers. The palestinians would have been rejected by those Arab countries if they’d gone there for a holiday…


13 Hanthala 11.01.04 at 3:30 AM

No so Danin…not so…I just don’t think identity politics are relevant or useful.


14 Hanthala 11.01.04 at 3:46 AM

Correction, relevant yes, but totally useless. For instance, I have Welsh and Irish ascendents. Will I let those emotional bonds, those feelings, cloud my judgement?


15 Hanthala 11.01.04 at 3:47 AM

Or worse, could I just go with the gut and not think about it at all.


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