A new Supreme Court ruling could open Israel to mass immigration by migrants claiming refugee status, say Israeli immigration officials.
According to a report Monday by Galei Tzahal, officials in the Interior Ministry’s Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration have expressed concern over a Supreme Court ruling handed down Sunday, which some fear could set a major precedent, potentially forcing Israel to recognize thousands of illegal immigrants as refugees – and possibly enable future migrants claiming refugee status to enter the country.
In its ruling Sunday, the Supreme Court ordered the State to grant refugee status to a couple and their two daughters, citing fears that relatives of the family could try to force the couple to perform female circumcision on their daughters.
Recognizing concerns over female circumcision, or female genital mutilation (FGM) as it is commonly referred to, as a basis for demanding refugee status in Israel could potentially enable mass immigration to Israel, Interior Ministry officials fear, from across Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is common.
According to the United Nations, more than 200 million women have undergone some kind of FGM procedure, and is most common in Africa – in particular the Horn of Africa - and parts of the Middle East, though it is also practiced in some Muslim communities in southeast Asia.
Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from areas where FGM is common – including Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan – currently live in Israel, after illegally crossing the border in the 2000s and early 2010s, prior to the construction of the border fence.
Immigration officials fear, according to the Galei Tzahal report, that the court’s ruling Sunday could cause a dramatic increase in the number of refugees in Israel.
Since the establishment of the state in 1948, Israel has granted refugee status to less than 200 migrants, with less than 1% of migrants seeking recognition as refugees securing that status.