Middle East

Israel grants first refugee status to Sudanese asylum seeker

Israel has granted refugee status to a Sudanese asylum seeker from Darfur for the first time.

Ministry of Interior spokeswoman Sabine Haddad says Darfur-born Mutasim Ali is the first national of Sudan — an enemy state of Israel — to gain temporary residency according to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

Ali says regime forces burned down his family's village in Darfur. He fled Sudan after he was arrested and tortured for activism, and crossed Egypt before slipping across the Israeli border in 2009.

Ali applied for refugee status in 2012 and endured 14 months in a desert detention facility in Israel before winning release in the Supreme Court.

About 40,000 Sudanese and Eritreans migrants are in Israel, Haddad said on Thursday.

She says the decision applies only to Ali.