Supreme Court Orders Hundreds Freed from Holot Detention Center

20 August 2015
[refugee I heart Tel Aviv shirt]

Last week, for the third time, the Supreme Court revised its ruling on the legality of the so-called “Infiltration Prevention Law” in response to a lawsuit brought by a group of human rights organizations including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, both NIF grantees.

Though the court affirmed the constitutionality of the law, the justices ruled that the amount of time asylum seekers could be held in the Holot detention facility was disproportionate and must be reduced to one year. The court also chastised the government for their slow pace in processing requests for asylum. As a result, in the coming weeks, roughly 1,200 people who have been held in Holot for more than a year will be released.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked fiercely opposed the ruling, and in an unprecedented display from a senior governmental official, began posting videos of supposed misconduct by African migrants on her Facebook page and calling for a more legislative control over the court. That is, until one of the videos she posted turned out to have come from Turkey not Israel and she was mocked accordingly.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor wrote the majority opinion declaring the law constitutional yet restricting some of its provisions. Her ruling criticized the conditions in which the detainees – refugees and labor migrants alike – were housed “As a citizen, I would have liked to see my country show more compassion, even towards those suspected of infiltrating Israel to make money,” she wrote.

Responding to a previous Supreme Court demand, the latest version of the law was also revised to limit the detention of new asylum seekers to only three months.

After the ruling, the petitioning organizations said, “The court showed for the third time that the legislature did not devote in-depth thought and debate before ordering the deprivation of liberty from thousands of people.”

NIF groups will continue to advocate for a fair and sensible immigration policy that respects human rights and balances the ideal of the Jewish homeland with the Jewish obligation to help the stranger. It is in the absence of such a policy – and the lack of a clear policy with respect to undocumented migrants already living in Israel – that has pit asylum seekers against Israel’s urban poor.