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PHR: No Status, No Hope

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New Position Paper: The Humanitarian Committee - a false hope to the many who have been affected by the Citizenship Law


Ahead of the annual extension of the Temporary Provisions to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law -PHR-IL issues a new position paper: The Humanitarian Committee - a false hope to the many who have been affected by the Citizenship Law.
Last Sunday (18.7), the Israeli Government has approved the extension of the 'Temporary Order' to the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law yet again, as it has done annually since 2003. The Knesset is expected to approve the 'Temporary Order' as well. The Citizenship Law affects couples where one member is an Israeli citizen and the other is a resident of the Palestinian Authority (or Syria, Lebanon, Iran, or Iraq). Such couples are prevented by the Israeli government from pursuing a process of family reunification which affords both spouses legal status in Israel.

The Citizenship Law has created a significant group of men and women, who live permanently with their nuclear families in Israel, but are denied civil status and social rights, such as health insurance, work permits, welfare services, etc. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel estimates that as of 2010, some 20,000 families have become victims of this law. In these "mixed families", one spouse and all children are Israeli citizens in every way and receive full benefits from the State, while the other spouse lacks legal status.

In an attempt to mitigate the intense public criticism against the Citizenship Law, the Knesset added an amendment to the law establishing a "Humanitarian Committee" to examine individual requests for family reunification in Israel, based on specific 'humanitarian' grounds.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel 's position paper argues that this Humanitarian Committee is unable to provide fair and realistic solutions for the affected population.  The paper analyzes seven applications to the Committee of which only one applicant succeeded in receiving status, and only after the Supreme Court intervened.  One applicant was rejected, and received a partial response, while after over a year, the applications of four others have gone completely unanswered.  Based on these cases, the position paper highlights how rather than providing feasible solutions to applications, the Committee acts as a significant obstacles in the path of family unification and permanent status.

The Humanitarian Committee:

• functions without transparency : meeting schedules and minutes are not made available to applicants or to the public.

• does not grant applicants the right to appear before the Committee, to submit additional information, or ask for clarification regarding committee decisions.

• does not grant applicants the right to appeal decisions handed down by the Committee

• does not take into account that applicants lack civil status and therefore often cannot supply all requested documents.

• demands notarized documents in Hebrew and English, despite the fact that the vast majority of applicants are mother-tongue Arabic speakers.

• does not follow required time - sensitive guidelines and often delays responses for more than a year.

• does not feature representatives from the  Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Welfare, and the Ministry of Education, despite being called the Humanitarian Committee. The Shin Bet (Israeli Security Apparatus) and the Ministry of Defense are represented.
PHR-Israel believes that the 'Temporary Provisions' to the Citizenship Law are racist provisions and should be repealed.  Until this occurs, PHR-Israel advocates that the State find effective solutions for the people affected. Granting Social Residency status to the victims of the Citizenship Law whose center of life is Israel would enable those affected to receive social benefits like health coverage.




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