New Legislation Targets Asylum Seekers

3 December 2014

In September, Israel’s Supreme Court invalidated the arbitrary imprisonment of African asylum seekers, a major victory for human rights. Unfortunately, politicians continue to evade Israel’s responsibility to refugees, devising additional legislation to detain and incarcerate them. In the latest attempt, which will be put to a Knesset vote on Monday, legislators are proposing a new plan that would legally confine refugees for up to 20 months and reduce the number of roll calls per day at the facilities from three to one. According to the plan, asylum seekers who are captured upon their arrival in Israel could be jailed for a maximum for three months before being transferred to the Holot detention facility. Those who illegally employ asylum seekers would be heavily fined.

Elizbaeth Tsurkov, Projects’ Director at Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said: “The High Court of Justice and the State Comptroller have made it clear again and again that detention is not a solution for those who cannot safely return to their homeland. Despite this, the government insists on repeating past mistakes, and is presenting legislation already ruled illegal by the High Court, the stated goal of which is to pressure asylum-seekers into returning to places where their lives and liberty will be in danger. It is a shame that the new Minister of Interior is maintaining the failed policies of past ministers and did not use the opportunity to examine a real solution: investing the money allocated for detention of refugees in improving the infrastructure and services in southern Tel Aviv, naturally decreasing the concentration of asylum-seekers in the area by granting them work visas and incentivizing employers across Israel to hire asylum-seekers.”

Meanwhile, new government data shows that Israel has yet to process 80% of asylum requests submitted by Eritrean and Sudanese nationals being held in Holot. Asaf Weitzen, a lawyer Hotline, said: “The holding of migrants and asylum-seekers at Holot is an incomprehensible injustice. When people who for years were not permitted to submit asylum requests finally succeeded in doing so and then they aren’t evaluated, the injustice is compounded.”