Asylum seekers were forced to flee their countries because of constant war, persecution, or violence. They seek sanctuary in another country where they apply for asylum, a right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance. Currently, asylum seekers cannot return home or are afraid to do so. Today, nearly 40,000 African asylum seekers live in Israel. Of this total, more than 95% lack legal status. Of the 95%, less than 1% of them attend college. So far, after years’ working with attorneys and the courts only one person of the 1% has been granted asylum status.
The African asylum seekers’ journeys to Israel were harsh, mostly walking through the Sinai desert and subjected to torture, rape, and kidnappings on the way. In Israel, they face daunting challenges, including poverty, discrimination, human rights violations, scarce resources, and low social status. The Israeli government has built a prison and a detention camp in the desert to hold them for varying violations that are often unclear or unexplained and seemingly capricious. Further, the government encourages and pays asylum seekers to go back to Africa (though the government surely is aware of the common knowledge that returnees risk torture and death in their own and other war-torn African countries).
Chisom Victoria Jude
ASO Students currently come from eleven countries — Cameroun, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Sudan-Darfur.
These men and women, ages 18 and higher, singles and those with families study full time for three to four years to earn a bachelor’s degree at one of nine colleges — Academic College of Netanya, Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, College of Law and Business in Ramat-Gan, Seminar Hakibutzim, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Sapir Academic College in Ashkelon, Tel Aviv University, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, , Ben Gurion University. To earn a master’s degree, they study more than a year.
Students specialize in a range of areas — Biology, Business Administration, Business Economics, Business Finance, Communications, Government, Government and Economics, Government and Sustainability, Law and Political Science and Communication.
In 2021, 18 students are undergraduates and 5 are graduates students. We plan to increase the number of undergraduates in 2022.
To date, 16 alumni have graduated with bachelor’s degrees, and 8 with master’s degrees.
Tesfazghi Tekle Asgedom
Ishaq Ibrahem Adil
Sana Adam Hassan
Naka Elias Kerba
Mariam Ashley Matenje
Roussel Moise Wokam
Chisom Victoria Jude
Abou Bakr Sako
Issac Bundu Kamara
Alhaji Alpha Fofana
Tesfu Teweldemedhin Bariagab
Hassan Ahmed Shakur
In 2015, thirteen African asylum-seeking students met to discuss their key needs: tuition scholarships, student visas, and internships following graduation. They also discussed ways of outreach to the community to increase the number of students in higher education. In March 2017, the group organized and founded the African Students Organization in Israel and registered it as an NGO in Israel.
In 2009, when African asylum seeker Adam Bashar from Sudan-Darfur was studying at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya he met Joey Low, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. Joey had established the NGO “Israel at Heart” to support Israeli students at IDC.
Adam told Joey of his journey to Israel, and Joey immediately connected with the asylum-seeking experience. Joey’s own mother was a refugee in Europe seeking asylum in many countries till she immigrated to the USA where Joey was born.
Adam introduced Joey to the Sudan-Darfur community in South Tel Aviv where he pledged to provide scholarships for asylum seekers qualified to study. Initially, Joey pioneered the “African Refugee Scholarship Program” to help students from Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan-Darfur enter IDC and complete programs there. Today, the program helps all African asylum seekers wherever they are studying in Israel. Joey also supports the African asylum seeking community by advocating for and championing them in the media and at public forums.
Joey is our education and empowerment backer, mentor, advocate, and booster; in short, Joey is our “angel!”