The law allows Israel to detain African asylum seekers – almost every one of them blacks from Eritrea and Southern Sudan – without a trial or judicial hearing for 3 months in closed “detention centers” the rest of the world calls prisons, and then for 20 months in a so-called “open” detention center located in the middle of a barren desert.
In Last Act Before Self-Dissolution, Israel’s Lawmakers Vote To Imprison Black African Asylum Seekers To Preserve “Jewish Character” Of The State
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The last act Israel’s latest Knesset did before dissolving itself to make way for new elections was to pass yet another version of a law that has twice previously been found to be illegal by Israel’s highest court.
The law allows Israel to detain African asylum seekers – almost every one of them blacks from Eritrea and Southern Sudan – without a trial or judicial hearing for 3 months in closed “detention centers” the rest of the world calls prisons, and then for 20 months in a so-called “open” detention center located in the middle of a barren desert. The immediately previous version of the law provided for indefinite “open” detention and one year of closed detention – i.e., prison – before that.
The “open” detention center African asylum seekers are to be detained at is the Holot prison camp in the wasteland of the Negev Desert close to the Gaza border, far away from civilation.
The new version of the law allows them to leave Holot daily but requires that they present themselves for head check in the early evening. The previous version of the law had multiple required head checks spaced throughout the day and night. (In the very first version of the law, Holot was essentially a completely closed prison.)
The High Court of Justice has repeatedly ruled against previous versions of this law and in September ordered that Holot be closed and ruled against one-year closed detention.
But the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not close Holot or stop detaining African asylum seekers.
Instead, as it has done previously it repeatedly skirted that and other High Court rulings, and eventually adopted a strategy of slightly tweaking the law, passing it through the Knesset it controls, and then using every delaying tactic it has to delay a new High Court ruling.
Of the approximately 50,000 African asylum seekers in Israel, only a tiny number (by some counts, fewer than 10) have received refugee status from Israel, even though international refugee aid and human rights organizations who have examined the claims made by these African asylum seekers say they are legitimate refugees – a position that is also held by the UN and other international bodies.
African asylum seekers who do try to apply for refugee status are often harassed by immigration police who lurk near government offices to try to arrest African asylum seekers before they apply for refugee status.
This also happens with regard to government aid. At one point the government opened a medical clinic in South Tel Aviv to serve African asylum seekers, but stationed immigration police in plain clothes nearby and then began to arrest asylum seekers who came to the clinic for medical care.
Even those black African asylum seekers who are able to apply for refugee status find their applications languish unprocessed, sometimes for years, while others are denied for reasons that are not in compliance with international law or which are false.
The Knesset approved both the second and third readings of the newest version of the law Monday by a vote of 47-23, rushing to pass it – but other legislation the country needs – before the Knesset was officially dissolved that day.
The new version of the law also states that employers who illegally employ African migrants will face much tougher penalties, and that “migrants” who do have work permits now are required to give the government a monthly deposit that the government will be return when the “migrants” leave Israel.
At least 2,500 African asylum seekers are still being held at in Holot, while others are still being held in closed detention facilities.
But most African asylum seekers in Israel are still free. But they lack work permits or government benefits, and are often exploited by some employers who pay them far less than market rate and sometimes withhold wages.
The ensuing poverty this creates forces some African asylum seekers to beg on the streets while others are forced to live in parks or sleep on beaches and some turn to crime.
Most African asylum seekers without work permits or official refugee status live in crowded apartments in South Tel Aviv, sometimes with a dozen or more people crowded into a small two-room apartment.
Several small Israeli nonprofits try to provide whatever aid they can, but large segments of Israeli society – especially those on the political and religious right-wing, simply want these African asylum seekers expelled because they believe these African asylum seekers damage the “Jewish character” of the state.