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A Darfuri Woman’s Testimony

She has been in Israel since 2011 and would rather remain anonymous.eb63506d-2460-4156-81b9-9823c8b2dc26

Darfur – Village

She was born in Darfur and grew up in a small village. She was living there with her mother, husband, and 3 children, when the war started in 2003. One day, the militia came to destroy her village, as was occurring throughout Darfur. Her husband disappeared and her mother was shot in the leg. Everyone was running away, protecting themselves and their families. Some people took the 3 children, and she carried her mother and ran. They arrived at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp where she was reunited with her children.

Darfur – IDP Camp 

Every day government forces came to harass the Darfuri refugees. Many women were rape – she was raped and this is how she had her 4th child. They had no food or water, and no medicine for her mother who had been badly injured. Sometimes people from the UN came and donated food, medicine, etc. For over 5 years she lived in the refugee camp, with her family surviving on just 1 meal a day. She could see her children were dying from hunger so she decided to take action.

Khartoum

She decided she needed to earn money to feed her family – there was no way to do this in the refugee camp, so she moved to Jinena and then to Khartoum to find work. She started selling tea on the street – many war-surviving women do this in Sudan. As a Darfuri woman, she was continually harassed by government forces – they would knock over her table and intimidate her. From 2008 until 2011 she was living with other people in similar situations in Khartoum, working and sending money to her family in Darfur. She was arrested many times and was not safe, so she decided to move again.

Egypt

Moving to Egypt turned out to bring her into an even more dangerous situation. Refugees were being killed and tortured there – for example some were put into boiling water. She was staying with fellow Darfuri people and one day the Egyptian government forces came, and tortured and deported many. She knew she had to leave, and found out that some Darfuri refugees were crossing into Israel, despite it being a very dangerous journey.

Journey to Israel

She was one of the many refugees taken by Bedouins from Egypt to Israel through the Sinai. To get to the coast, she was put in a big vehicle used to transport chickens with over 100 other people. They were cramped in there, and on the outside there were chickens, to hide the illegal human trafficking.

When they got to the coast, they started the 6-hour journey across the sea towards the Sinai. It was a very small boat for a lot of people. When they got close to their destination the boat started to sink. To stop it from sinking they needed to make the boat lighter, so people started pushing others off to their deaths. She was protected by fellow Darfuris and was not pushed off, however she lost all of her documents and possessions except for some money that she gave a friend to guard.

When they got to the shore, a car picked them up and took them into the Sinai. She spent 2 weeks there, in a place were many are tortured and raped. Fortunately this did not happen to her. She was taken to the Israeli border and crossed over with fellow Darfuris that she met in Israel. Many got shot during the crossing, yet she was helped by her friends and survived.

Israel

Upon arrival in Israel she spent 2 weeks in Saharonim prison before coming to Tel Aviv. She knew no one in Israel, no Hebrew, and nothing about the country. When male refugees arrive in Tel Aviv, they go and sleep in the Levinsky park, however this is not safe for a woman. In the area there were some Sudanese shops and she entered some asking for help and shelter. One man agreed to take her in and explained the situation to her. She found out that she would receive no help in Israel and that she had to find a job to support herself.

From 2011 until today she was been working as a cleaner in Israel and has no friends or family here. There are about 10,000 Sudanese men in Israel but under 5o Sudanese women. Every few months, along with all of the other refugees in Israel, she goes to the Ministry of Interiors to renew her temporary release visa. She is constantly told to go back to Darfur as the war is over and to go to Africa – however it is not safe there and she is always intimidated by the Israeli officials.

Her family back in Darfur

She has no direct contact with her mother or 4 children. She has someone in Jinena that she can call and get updates about her family. She works very hard in Israel to send them money – each month she sends between 80 and 100 dollars. Her family desperately need this money, especially because her mother’s medicines are very expensive in Darfur.

Her children have to walk very far to collect water. They bring it back to the IDP camp, and exchange water for food. This is how they survive.

The future

She is very disappointed by what she has found in Israel, receiving no help as a refugee and as a woman. She has no chance for a better life in Israel and would rather go back to Darfur risking death than stay in this same impossible situation forever.

She is in contact with someone in Canada who is offering to sponsor her to bring her over there, yet this is not confirmed. She really wants to go to Canada where she can receive refugee status and some help.

 

 

Injured at work? No treatment for asylum seekers in Israel

Since asylum seekers have no legal status in Israel and very limited access to education, and given the widespread discrimination against them, most work in manual labor, in low-paid jobs with long hours and tough conditions. Work in construction sites and factories can often be dangerous and since employers are under no legal obligation to compensate injured Sudanese or Eritrean workers, they most often to do.

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Pictured: a Sudanese asylum seeker in Israel who was injured when he fell of a building in the construction site he was working on. He received no medical treatment or compensation.

 

26th January 2016: Protesting Detention & Deportation

Members of the Tama Sudanese community were present at a large demonstration in Jerusalem against the deportation of asylum seekers from Israel.

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About 300 people, mostly Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers, as well as Israeli and international allies, protested in front of the Israeli Supreme Court. The protest was against detention in Holot, as well as deporting asylum seekers to other African countries.

Israel does not formally deport asylum seekers as this is against its laws. However, the government does everything in its power to make African refugees miserable to convince them to leave to ‘third African countries,’ namely Rwanda and Uganda. They offer large sums of money for ‘voluntary return.’ Every Holot inmate is told about how great their lives could be if they returned to Africa. On the 5th of January, a new law passed, stating that 20% of the salaries of all asylum seekers will be taken by the state and put into a fund that they can only access if they choose to ‘voluntarily return’ to a 3rd African country.

The protestors addressed a letter to Supreme Court justices, highlighting the tragic fates of many asylum seekers who chose the ‘third country’ policy:

“Asylum seekers who left Israel were imprisoned or arrested on their arrival. Some of them lost their lives and fell into the hands of Islamic State, and others lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Even when they seemingly receive a visa to Rwanda, it is not a genuine visa, only a temporary tourist visa – and from there they are forced to be smuggled to Uganda.”

 

Tama Day 2017

Every year, Tama people observe and celebrate Tama Day on the 5th of January. Whilst we celebrate our people and enjoy ourselves, the purpose of the day is to remember the victims of genocide.

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Following war in Chad in 1961, many Tama people fled from Chad’s Dar Tama region to Darfur, in Western Sudan. 3000 people arrived at the border between Chad and Sudan, and the government poured oil over them and lit them on fire. On Tama Day, we remember these 3000 innocent genocide victims from our tribe.

We celebrated Tama Day at the Tama Sudanese Community Center in Tel Aviv. We spoke about the genocide victims, as it is incredibly important to never forget our history. We also celebrated our people and culture.

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If you try to Google Tama Day, you won’t find any information. African history has been largely ignored and forgotten by the world. However, throughout the continent and especially in Sudan, violence and genocide are still happening today.

Sudanese Asylum Seekers in Israel – Not Recognized as Refugees

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© Amnesty International Israel 2016, Source UNHCR 2014 Statistical Yearbook

The situation for Sudanese refugees in Israel is tough – so far, the Israeli government has only recognized one Sudanese asylum seeker as a refugee. In 2016, Mutasim Ali from Darfur was granted refugee status. This was a great achievement and a cause for celebration, however thousands of other requests for refugee status from Sudanese asylum seekers have been either rejected or simply not answered.

Living without status means that the Sudanese population of Israel is living without rights – they are often exploited by employers and only have access to healthcare in urgent cases. Many asylum seekers suffer both psychologically and physically from trauma, following the genocide and wars in Sudan, and human trafficking and torture during the dangerous journey to Israel. The state does not support these victims of serious trauma.