The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants has petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding the release of 138 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who have been illegally held in Israeli detention facilities for more than two years, despite High Court rulings against such facilities and detention.
Above: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel Continues To Illegally Detain African Asylum-Seekers, Despite High Court Rulings
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants has petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding the release of 138 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who have been illegally held in Israeli detention facilities for more than two years, despite High Court rulings against such facilities and detention, Ha’aretz reported.
The 138 asylum-seekers were initially imprisoned under the third amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which was ruled illegal by the High Court last year. In that rulings, the High Court ordered that all the imprisoned asylum seekers had to be immediately released.
But Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his government ignored the court’s ruling and kept the asylum-seekers in detention for three more months. The government then transferred them to the Holot detention facility – which Netanyahu and the government claimed was not an actual detention facility or prison.
The High Court rejected that claim last month when it rejected the fourth amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, noting that the facility was located in a remote desert area far from civilization, and allowing asylum-seekers to leave the facility for several hours each day, but mandating that they return for several head counts each day and a nightly bed check and curfew, after which the facility’s gates were locked for the rest of the evening and night, was a form of illegal detention.
But the government still failed to release the detainees, and MK Ayelet Shaked, the Knesset faction chairwoman of the Zionist Orthodox right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi Party, a coalition partner, is now proposing a new bill that would allow a simple majority of Knesset members to overrule any High Court of Justice or Supreme Court ruling. (By contrast, the coalition supported a bill that demanded a large super majority of Knesset member votes accept any decision made by a government to cede land to Palestinians or to neighboring Arab countries in any peace deal. Shaked was a strong supporter of that bill.) The government’s conduct with regard to the High Court rulings and Shaked’s proposed “solution” to dealing with the High Court have called Israel’s commitment to democracy into question, some observers say.
None of the 138 asylum-seekers have been free since entering Israel. Every one of them has requested asylum – some over one years ago – but few have even received a reply from the government and none has been given refugee status, even though international refugee experts say they qualify. Of the thousands of non-Jewish African asylum-seekers in Israel who have tried to get refugee status over the past several years, the number who have been granted official refugee status is in the low single digits.
The petition on the asylum-seekers’ behalf reportedly cites excerpts from the two previous High Court rulings that overturned the amendments to the law, emphasizing the severe violation of the asylum-seekers’ rights.
The petitioners also reportedly point out that the 138 aylum-seekers do not have any money to hire attorneys and have not received legal aid to do so from the government.
“Not granting this petition in its present form is tantamount to leaving many people to rot in conditions similar to imprisonment for an indefinite period of time,” the petition reportedly reads.
Individual legal proceedings previous brought by two other asylum-seekers, who had been imprisoned for more than two years, ended with their release, and the petitions reportedly argue that the 138 asylum-seekers should have then been released, as well.
The petition also asks the High Court for an emergency hearing to speed up the process and “translate the correct and well-placed [previous] statements of the majority judges…into liberty and dignity for 138 flesh-and-blood human beings.”