Civil and Human Rights

Eritrean Asylum Seekers and Children Released from Detention

By New Israel Fund

The Israeli Ministry of Interior released all Eritrean mothers and children detained under the Anti-Infiltration Law on Monday.

The release of the nine Eritrean asylum seekers along with their ten children took place following a precedent-setting ruling by the Be’er Sheva District Court. In the ruling, Judge Alon granted an appeal filed by the Hotline for Migrant Workers and declared that being a minor can be considered a "special humanitarian ground" for release from detention, even under the Anti-Infiltration Law.

Hotline for Migrant Workers commended the release of the detainees, which follows a long period of detention and continual petitions for release by the organization.

Adi Lerner, the Crisis Intervention Center Coordinator at Hotline said: "We commend the decision of the Ministry of Interior, yet we are puzzled why there was a need to detain such young children (from the age of 18 months to seven) for such a long period of time before noticing what is crystal clear: children should not be behind bars regardless of their origin. We need to remember that even now, six families with 14 children are still detained in the Saharonim internment camp. We call the Ministry of Interior to release them as well."

According to Israeli law, a person is considered a minor until the age of 18, but in its responses to court, the State refers to detained children only under the age of 10 as minors. Hotline for Migrant Workers is aware of a 14-year-old South Sudanese minor who was separated from his mother and younger siblings and is detained separately from them in the men's section, in violation of regulations that prohibit the jailing of minors alongside detainees over the age of 18.

While all of the Eritrean detainee children were released, other asylum-seeking children are still locked up.

Prior to this ruling, the State argued that since the Anti-Infiltration Law states that unaccompanied minors can be released from detention, it necessarily means that minors accompanied by their parents should remain in detention. In his ruling last week, Judge Alon stated that releasing minors on humanitarian grounds could be considered regardless of whether the minor is accompanied or not. He added that "remaining in indefinite detention will undoubtedly cause significant harm to the minors' social and mental development."