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Última modificación: 16/05/2013 11:23:24
AIMS & OBJECTIVES The mission of African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) is to assist, support and empower asylum seekers and refugees of African origin who are in Israel by ensuring access to basic social services, facilitating integration into Israeli society and promoting self-sufficiency and ownership in matters affecting their lives. We advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and for fair and humane Israeli asylum policies.
SOCIAL & POLITICAL CONTEXT At the end of 2010, there were approximately 35,000 asylum seekers in Israel. An estimated 1,000 asylum seekers continue to cross the border from Egypt every month to seek sanctuary from armed conflict and persecution, mainly from countries such as Sudan/Darfur, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast. Facing continued harassment and threats of deportation by the Egyptian government, many have crossed the Sinai desert on foot seeking protection in Israel. Yet upon their arrival these same refugees are detained for an indefinite period of time. Once released, they are denied access to the most basic services necessary to rebuild their lives, including health care, housing and education. Regrettably, asylum seekers apply for protection in an increasingly hostile political environment.
METHODOLOGY Established in 2004, ARDC is a grassroots, volunteer-based organisation, with strong local community support. At any one time, up to 120 professional and trained volunteers work with ARDC, including translators, teachers, web developers, mental health clinicians, social workers and administrators. We establish our direction with the community engaging asylum seekers and refugees in activities to ensure greater capacity, community ownership and long-term sustainability. Our service recipients also play a vital role in the decision-making process through the ARDC Board of Directors and Working Group. Additionally, ARDC collaborates and maintains close partnerships with several community, human rights organisations, governmental and municipal bodies and schools. Our partners include Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), The Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University, The Hotline for Migrant Workers, ASSAF and Mesila. As a founding member of the Refugee Rights Forum, ARDC actively promotes the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Israel. The Forum lobbies key decision-makers in government for policies that implement Israel's international obligations under the Refugee Convention. ARDC has also been an Implementing Partner organisation of the UNHCR since 2008.
ACTIVITIES Initially an emergency aid organisation focusing on humanitarian relief, ARDC has expanded its work over the past two years, introducing projects that facilitate integration and independence. We now provide assistance to approximately 1,500 individuals a year through the following services: 1. Humanitarian Assistance – Approximately 15 per cent of Israel's refugee and asylum seeker community are women and an alarming number are victims of rape and sexual violence. While women are typically released from detention in their final weeks of pregnancy, they are dropped off in the centre of Tel Aviv without any further support. ARDCs shelters target such women – vulnerable to homelessness and continued gender based violence – providing them with secure, short-term accommodation, food and medical care. Social workers work closely with residents facilitating their transition into independent, long-term housing by devising a self-sufficiency plan, connecting them to our Refugee Education Center and helping them find employment. The women, many of whom have never been examined by a doctor during their pregnancy, are also escorted to health clinics to ensure they receive necessary treatment and provide post-natal care and support. Currently, our shelters are the only emergency housing for refugee mothers and pregnant women in Tel Aviv and accommodate over 120 individuals every year.
2. Refugee Education Center – Limited Hebrew and English language skills keep refugees and asylum seekers from functioning independently in everyday life. Responding to this apparent need, ARDC opened the Refugee Education Center (REC) in January 2009. Two education programs target children under 16 years of age and adults respectively. While refugee children are eligible to attend Israeli public schools, many fall behind and eventually drop out of school due to language barriers. REC tutors help these children utilize existing government aid by developing their Hebrew reading, writing and speaking skills, working closely with schools to reinforce class lessons. Meanwhile, our adult language classes offer Hebrew and English at multiple levels. The REC also gives guidance to aspiring university students through individual tutoring, college application and scholarship advice, as well as TOEFL preparation. All volunteer tutors have a professional background in education and early childhood development. The REC is currently the only learning centre of its kind in Israel―delivering language tuition to as many as 1,000 children and adults annually.
3. Asylum Application Assistance Project – The application procedure which determines refugee status is long and complex. Few asylum seekers possess the self-representation skills to navigate the system. As a result, an incoherent or incomplete application is often submitted which leads to a denial of claims, deportation and ultimately further abuse, torture or even death. In October 2009 ARDC launched its Asylum Application Assistance (AAA) project as a direct response to both the growing number of asylum seekers entering Israel and the adoption of a new, more complex asylum application review process by the Israeli Ministry of Interior (MoI). The project provides individual counselling and asylum application assistance to over 300 individuals per year. This includes helping claimants to complete necessary documentation, collect supporting evidence, prepare for interviews and present clear, comprehensive arguments as to why they meet the criteria for refugee status.
4. Counselling and Therapeutic Service – Many asylum seekers have survived or witnessed gross human rights violations and suffer from severe forms of post-traumatic stress, preventing them from rebuilding their lives. This project was launched in October 2009 and is lead by a team of professionally trained mental health clinicians, a psychotherapist and a clinical psychologist. Our clients include underage, pregnant victims of rape, men who had been brutally tortured and individuals whose experience of loss completely isolated and disoriented them. ARDC collaborated with UNHCR, The Woman's Council, PHR, The Rape Crisis Centre and Mesila to maximise assistance while minimising replication of services.
In addition to these four primary services, ARDC engages in limited advocacy and community development efforts:
• Advocacy & Awareness Raising – ARDC raises awareness about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers by working with the media and coordinating protests and community events on symbolic days of significance (for example, World Refugee Day, the Jewish holiday of Passover, etc.) in order to reduce incidents of discrimination and positively change public attitudes towards the community.
• Community development & Empowerment – ARDC supports the skills and abilities of refugees and asylum seekers, strengthening their capacity for effective action and leadership in the development of their communities.