Israel could learn a thing or two from the Kenyan High Court’s rebuttal of efforts to lock up asylum seekers.
There are judges in Nairobi , and they are more courageous and much more familiar with refugee law than judges in Jerusalem.
A Kenyan court last month published a ruling on a government decision to round up asylum seekers from urban areas and put them in refugee camps, from which they will need permits to leave.
There are around 600,000 asylum seekers in Kenya. At the end of 2012, the Kenyan government published a new policy saying that asylum seekers will no longer be able to live in cities, that it won’t register their asylum claims in cities, and that they must take it upon themselves to relocate to refugee camps.
Human rights organizations and a number of asylum seekers filed a petition against the decision and the authorities, and the court issued an injunction against the implementation the policy until it could make a decision. (In Israel, the High Court allowed the administrative detention of more than 2,000 men, women and children, and isn’t rushing to decide on the question of the Anti-Infiltration Law’s constitutionality. It didn’t even cross the court’s mind to freeze use of the law until it ruled on it.)
Imagine the Israeli deputy attorney general’s Kenyan counterpart, standing with a frozen drink in her hand, urging her superiors to adopt various measures to make asylum seekers lives miserable in order to deter them from coming to Kenya. Imagine a Kenyan state attorney standing in court, screaming that ‘they’re all work infiltrators and not refugees,’ that ‘Kenya is the only developed country that shares land borders with Somalia and Ethiopia’ (from where most its asylum seekers arrive), and that the draconian measures ‘were written in order to prevent ‘infiltrators’ from setting roots in Kenya’s cities.’
The Kenyan court did not accept the authorities’ claims; instead, it ruled that concentrating asylum seekers in refugee camps was illegal. The court based its decision on Article 26 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which guarantees freedom of movement for asylum seekers; it ruled that their confinement in refugee camps violates the convention and Kenya’s own laws. Additionally, the court explained that forcibly transferring asylum seekers to refugee camps is likely to encourage them to return to their home countries. Encouraging “voluntary repatriation” by Kenyan...Read More