My daughter, Principessa (*not her real name), has been living in Israel for the better part of the past three years; in September of the this year she made it official and got her citizenship. Some of you have read previous posts (here, here, and here) about our journey through these changes… my journey as a mother. It hasn’t been easy. While I have adjusted over time, I admit that when I entered her new address in my contacts, this fall (she was home for the summer), I got a giant lump in my throat and found myself teary– old feelings rushing to the surface again. It’s a process.
But then I talk to her– my hasn’t the world gotten smaller, with Skype, Email, the relative end of long distance calling, Facebook– and I realize that she is doing incredible things with her life, and feeling excited about and invested in things much bigger than my missing her. She speaks Hebrew. You and I might say fluently, but as she’s been challenged in new working environments, she’s learning that there is a lot more to learn in communicating in her new home language. She has a Hebrew name, different from the name she was raised with, but one that I gave her at birth. In that capacity: Learning, embracing her new home, and with a conscience and drive bigger than my arms can hold, she is working as the Resource Development Officer for the African Refugee Development Center, or ARDC.
Today, I am reaching out everyone who reads this blog to help with a project that is so important, and is desperate need of funding. My daughter asked me if I would feature this campaign, in the hope that so many passionate bloggers and readers would be willing to help a group of people who are truly disenfranchised and need the kind of help that the ARDC provides. There is no political agenda here, no pressure, but please check out the links provided and consider a donation in any amount. Every dollar will help, and as always, your generosity and compassion is much appreciated. To find out more and donate, go to Indigogo.
And now, an interview with my daughter, Liviah Landau:
TFTM: I’m so glad to finally have you on my blog, Liviah! I’m honored that you want to discuss this project here.
LL: Thank you! I really think your readership and audience will care about this situation, and may be willing to help. Thanks for featuring it.
TFTM: Ok, so let’s start with your organization. What is the ARDC?
LL: The African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) is a grassroots, community-based, non-profit organization that was founded in 2004 by African asylum seekers and Israeli citizens, in order to assist, protect and empower African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. To date, the ARDC has served over 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea, Sudan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast. Since January 2014 alone, the ARDC assisted 1000+ clients on matters relating to visa issues, relocation, refugee status determination, higher education, language courses, tutoring, and psycho-social therapy.
Our mission is to empower, protect and assist African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel by advocating on their behalf and enabling processes that increase their awareness, ensure participation and inspire policy change.
TFTM: Can you tell us about Asylum Application Assistance (AAA) Project?
LL: After a long and dangerous journey, often on-foot and across great distances such as the Sinai Desert, the next considerable challenge that an asylum seeker faces is the determination of his or her status as a refugee. However, while the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution is a human right enshrined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the State of Israel is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, it is a right that it is not yet fully protected in Israel today under domestic law.
Not all asylum seekers may apply for refugee status as there are two separate processing streams depending upon nationality. Sudanese and Eritrean citizens are collectively granted ‘temporary protection’ (offering only protection from deportation and no other rights) provided that they can establish their identity and nationality, whilst all other nationalities may seek refugee status through the ‘refugee status determination’ process (RSD). Applying for either temporary protection or refugee status is an extremely stressful process as its outcome may literally have life or death consequences. Those whose applications and appeals are rejected face deportation to their country of origin and the risk of further abuse and torture or even death.
ARDC assists individuals to receive protection through the following projects which are supported by the European Union and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Israel (January 2012 to June 2013):
*Assistance to Apply for Refugee Status, and Israeli Work Visas
*Assistance to Apply for Temporary Protection
TFTM: Wow, this is truly overwhelming! I recently met and wrote about an incredible man in San Diego, who had experienced this same terrifying journey, Mohamud (read his story here). His experience touched me deeply. But again, it’s all so big and confusing… who do we help, and how? Why should we care about what the ARDC is doing?
LL: It’s pretty overwhelming when you look at the amount of charities, non-profits and aid organizations that are focused on Africa and/or Africans, so it’s understandable that these campaign efforts to help empower this struggling part of the world get washed away in your inboxes. I cannot convince each individual reading this blog that this campaign is directly related to them. It may not be. However, the activities of this ARDC project represents a key issue often neglected and mismanaged in the world today. An issue that most dramatically affects the underprivileged and minority populations on the fringe. That issue is INFRASTRUCTURE. Without it, all orderly processes of society go to hell. In Israel, and certainly in many places in Africa, there are serious flaws.
The AAA Project is the only program in Israel providing support for Asylum Seekers to follow through legal processes officializing their status’. The support it provides will help ensure that the frail legal infrastructure in regards to Refugees is upheld, and the rights, freedoms and dignity of this population is protected. Israel is a nation rife with external and internal problems (that doesn’t even need to be said), and the current government is scattered with suspicious and racist representatives that would rather detain these people indefinitely in prisons than approach the issue face to face. The AAA Project is doing the work that the government has not been willing to provide that will, in effect, ease future legislative decisions on the issue, and will give Asylum Seekers a change to change the direction of their unfortunate circumstances.
If you are in support of helping put in place infrastructures that ensure justice is protected in the world, than this cause is related to you. You can donate here.
TFTM: Why do Africans come to Israel for asylum, versus other countries in the region?
LL: The majority of the estimated 55,000 African Asylum Seekers in Israel are primarily from Eritrea and Sudan. More than 90% of this population have come since 2007 and only 15% are women. Individuals from North and West Africa make the treacherous journey in rafts across the Mediterranean to get to Europe. Although it is over 2,500 miles from South Sudan to Sinai border in Israel, conditions in Sudan are such that individuals put their lives in the hands of traffickers to make the journey, on-foot, to Israel, in hopes of safety and protection from the violence occurring in their homeland. Israel’s neighbors, such as Egypt, Jordan and Syria not only have no infrastructure to take in refugees, they are themselves inundated with civil wars, poverty, and their own refugee crises.
TFTM: What happens to them once they arrive?
LL: Currently, if refugees successfully make it into Israel and are not killed by Bedouins in the torture camps in the Sinai, or by the demands of the treacherous journey, they are detained and abused by the Israeli army indefinitely (under what was the “Anti-Infiltration Law“). Many have been taken to the Holot Detention Center. Those who make it into Israel, live in poverty mostly in South Tel Aviv and other marginalized towns.
TFTM: What is the impact of all these refugees on Israel?
LL: The impact of the refugees on Israel is a highly disputed matter. The political right claim they are sucking resources and over-populating areas such as South Tel Aviv. They claim they are increasing crime rates and threatening the “Jewish character” of the country.
The asylum seekers have barely integrated into Israeli society; this is due to the social stigma attached to them by the government branding them as ‘infiltrators'; the socially conservative neighborhoods they find themselves living in (mostly within cheap neighborhoods); and the language barrier. Children of asylum seekers have an easier time due to the speed with which they learn the language and the school system which places them in classrooms with a cross-section of Israeli society. The NGO’s working on refugee rights and the workplace rights are places where friendships between asylum seekers and Israelis are made, although the overwhelming sentiment in Israeli society is that they remain firmly on the periphery of Israeli society.
TFTM: In applying for permanent relocation to a third-party country, what countries are we talking about?
LL: Currently, countries such as Norway, Sweden, Germany, Canada and the US have infrastructures in place to repatriate refugees from war-torn countries. The percentage of refugees world-wide who are permanently relocated is very small.
TFTM: Tell us more about other projects the ARDC has to aid in other areas of the refugee’s lives.
Please visit our website to learn more about our projects. We’re doing a lot more than just paralegal assistance!
TFTM: How did you get involved in this project and why is it important to YOU, Liviah?
LL: I got involved with the ARDC because I am interested in possibly pursuing a career in humanitarian work and/or non-profits and I am currently looking into starting a Masters Degree in the next few years. I took on this internship as Resource Development Officer to gain experience and be active in positive social change in Israel. I, myself, am a recent immigrant to Israel and I, unlike the Asylum Seekers, am enjoying an abundance of aid and benefits from the government simply because I am Jewish. I care deeply about the success of this country, and it is important to me to be an active participant in enacting justice for all individuals residing here. I believe that the State of Israel is drowning in massive social, economic and religious problems (the situation of African refugees being one of them) and I feel that it is my job to do my very best in being a part of positive change. So I chose to work with the ARDC as part of the ambition. In other words, I’m an aspiring optimist.
TFTM: With Ebola so central in the news, do you or the organization you work with have any concerns about refugees coming in from possibly infected areas? Is there a plan to deal with that issue?
LL: We do not currently have concerns about Ebola as it does not generally affect the population we work with. HIV/AIDS and Post-Traumatic Stress is a much greater concern with this population.
TFTM: What can people do to help? Why is it important that we help?
LL: The ARDC has an abundance of volunteers and interns, like myself, on the ground in Israel working for our endeavors. However, there are two very important ways individuals from abroad can help our work:
* Donations: without financial assistance, non of our projects will be able to take place. Your contributions provide translators, transportation costs, supplies for community projects, and expansion of current programs so that more lives may be touched. Please check out our campaign and consider making a donation.
* Outreach: if this cause inspires you, we encourage your advocacy! Sign up to be on our mailing list, and contact myself (email@example.com), or Dijana (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about the African Asylum Seeker situation in Israel. We can send you academic and media resources for further education. You can also “like” us on facebook or follow us on twitter, to stay up to date on the news.
TFTM: Well thank you for taking the time to tell us about this project. Is there anything else we need to know?
LL: Yes, time is critical. There is less than a week left for this campaign. Donations are desperately needed, and will be enormously appreciated. Spreading the word about our organization and projects can only expand awareness and inspire others to contribute. Any amount helps, and we are so grateful for contributions. Thank you for doing this interview, mom.
TFTM: You’re welcome. I’m sorry I was away for the past 2 weeks and I’m getting the word out there so rushed. I hope it helps… and off the record, I’m so proud of you and what you’re doing. (*of course I’m putting that on the record)
What else can you do? I’ve never asked, but SHARE THIS POST; Tweet the link; post it on your Facebook pages; help spread the word; please make a donation now. Time is critical. Your efforts and support are much appreciated by me, my daughter and the thousands of refugees who need our help. And if it wasn’t clear throughout, donations to this cause are so important. Please donate here.
Final words: Readers, bloggers, people, PLEASE HELP! We are a community that does so much when asked. I am asking. Please take a moment and contribute to the Asylum Application Assistance project with the ARDC. And thank you!
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