(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

The deputy director-general for the UN and international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aharon Leshno Yaar, and the UNHCR, whose headquarters are in Geneva, signed an agreement at the weekend upgrading the status of the UNHCR mission in Israel to an official agency.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees mission oversees the treatment of those seeking asylum in Israel, in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In addition, the Israeli government has requested that the agency handle and investigate appeals for asylum, and that it transfer the requests to the Israeli authorities.

The UNHCR noted that this development has come about as a direct result of the great progress that has been made in recent years in regard to Israel’s treatment of persons seeking asylum in its territory. The UNHCR announced that Michael Bavli, its current representative in Israel, will continue to serve as the head of the new agency.

The opening of this important agency in Israel constitutes further evidence of the improvement of relations between Israel and the UN and the normalization of Israel’s status within the international community.