Israel: national refugee status granting body inaugurated

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is pleased to announce that a national refugee status granting body began functioning this week in Israel. The body, comprising officials from the Justice, Interior and Foreign Affairs ministries and presided over by a judge, reviewed 15 cases this week in its initial meeting. UNHCR this year will continue to prepare cases for submission to the officials, but eventually the preparation of the cases will be handled by the government.

Israel, a signatory of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, last year granted asylum seekers the right to work. Asylum seekers are generally not detained, except for individuals arriving from states that which Israel perceives as "enemy" countries. Once recognized as refugees, asylum seekers generally integrate into the society, although some are occasionally resettled to a third country. There are currently some 200 asylum seekers in Israel, primarily from Africa and the Middle East.

UNHCR is heartened by Israel's new involvement in refugee status determination that we believe will further deepen its understanding of the needs of individuals seeking asylum.