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).