Although the Israeli government is actively pursuing a detention regime meant to snare as many asylum seekers as possible, some recent legal victories provide a ray of light during an increasingly dark time for asylum seekers and refugees in Israel.
By Noa Yachot and Adi Lerner
The last year hasn’t been a good one for refugees and asylum seekers in Israel – or for those advocating on their behalf. Since an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law was passed in January 2012, almost all change in the field of refugee rights has been for the worse, with the nascent asylum system in Israel making way for an unyielding detention regime. All asylum seekers arriving in Israel can now be detained for an unknown period, despite the fact that a vast majority of them cannot be deported. The law allows for a vague “humanitarian” exception – but despite the tireless work of refugee rights advocates, the state has adamantly refused to recognize the humanitarian grounds of even the most vulnerable of cases. When it comes to African refugees, the detention regime does not discriminate; as a result, small children are imprisoned, as are scores of survivors of unimaginably brutal torture at the hands of human smugglers in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the law next month. But in the meanwhile, advocates have scored some important victories in lower courts in recent weeks. And while up to 2,000 bona fide refugees remain imprisoned, leaving much work to be done, these victories are worth both reporting and celebrating.
Release of imprisoned children
One particularly exciting win came in the case of a mother and her two daughters, 8 and 11, from Eritrea. The three had been imprisoned in the Saharonim detention center for about 10 months. In their case, brought by Raya Meiler of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the Be’er Sheva District Court held that the children, by virtue of being minors, have “special humanitarian grounds” justifying their release. Since the passage of the amended Prevention of Infiltration Law, the state had allowed only for...Read More