Israel has since 2005 become an important destination for asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa. Even though it was an early signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the development of an Israeli asylum regime has only gathered pace since then. That regime is underpinned by a discourse of securitisation that regards most asylum seekers as hostile ‘infiltrators’. This paper is based on fieldwork among the Eritrean refugee community in Israel and in using two concrete case studies analyses the struggles of Eritrean refugees to realize rights and lay claim to a viable future. Their struggles provide insights into the wider debate on the lack of concrete footing of universal rights in actual political space.