Jerusalem District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or issued a preliminary injunction to prohibit the arrest of asylum seekers from Sudan. A hearing has been set for 30 October, 2012. Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Israel, provided this introduction: If allowed to proceed, Minister Yishai’s plan will involve mass arrests and indefinite detention of thousands of people, including children; UN High Commissioner on Refugees: there is no factual or legal basis to the claim that Sudanese asylum seekers are not refugees.
On 3 October 2012 six Sudanese asylum seekers and six human rights organisations - the Clinic for Migrants’ Rights at the Academic Center of Law and Business, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Hotline for Migrant Workers, ASSAF – Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, the African Refugee Development Center (ADRC), and Kav La’Oved – filed a petition to the Jerusalem District Court seeking an injunction to prevent the Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai, from imprisoning Sudanese asylum seekers. The court has granted a preliminary injunction, pending a court decision on the issue.
The petition, filed by attorney Oded Feller of Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and attorney Yonatan Berman of the Clinic for Migrant’s Rights, refers to a public announcement made by the Minister of the Interior in August of this year, in which he declared that Sudanese asylum seekers will have until 15 October to leave Israel, after which they will be arrested and detained. In interviews with the media, the Minister said that the purpose of these detentions would be to make the lives of the Sudanese asylum seekers unbearable.
The petition states that the Minister of the Interior’s policy would result in thousands of Sudanese asylum seekers, and their children, being hunted down, arrested en masse, and detained indefinitely in extreme conditions in the desert. Included among these people are survivors of genocide in Darfur and atrocities in other areas. An additional consequence of the Minister of the Interior’s decision would be the annulment of the Sudanese asylum seekers’ temporary protection, which allowed them to be employed under certain limited conditions. Without such permits, those who manage to avoid arrest will have no means by which to procure food or shelter.
According to the petition, the detentions announced by the Minister of the Interior are arbitrary, since there is no legal or practical possibility of returning Sudanese citizens to their country. Moreover, the Minister of the Interior lacks the authority to issue these arrests under the Law to Prevent Infiltration, since this authority is granted under the law to the Minister of Defense and he has not delegated it to the Minister of the Interior. Finally, even if the Minister of the Interior had the authority to make the declaration as he did, his decision is not lawful because it is not designed for an appropriate purpose, as it is discriminatory, arbitrary, and unfair, and because the violations of fundamental rights caused by it are severe and potentially fatal.
The petition is supported by a strongly worded letter from the Israel Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees dated 2 October 2012. The Commissioner expressed his concern on several levels, including Israel’s failure to make individual determinations of the asylum seekers’ refugee status; the fact that the refugees come from regions such as Darfur with well known and well documented human rights abuses; the extreme and present danger of deporting anyone to Sudan after they are known to have been in Israel because of Sudan and Israel’s consideration of each other as ‘enemy states’; the humanitarian risks of canceling the limited employment opportunities previously afforded by Israel’s policy; and the UN’s general directive to avoid the detention of asylum seekers except as a last resort.
The Commissioner also countered the Minister of the Interior’s claim that Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel are not refugees but rather economic migrants: ‘It is essential to note that sizable number of Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel originate from regions subjected to well recognised human rights abuses, such as Darfur … Statements to the effect that Sudanese in Israel are not refugees are not factually or legally correct.’
Despite Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai’s public announcement that he will begin arresting Sudanese citizens beginning Monday 15 October 2012, it has been reported that the issue of the arrests was being more carefully examined in the Ministry of Justice.
Attorney Oded Feller of ACRI stated: ‘The asylum requests of Sudanese citizens are not even checked, and in any event, it is not possible to deport them from Israel in a way that will safeguard their welfare. The decision to imprison asylum seekers from Sudan and their children for indefinite terms in extreme desert conditions is exceptionally cruel. Regrettably, the Prime Minister and Attorney General are not willing to restrain the Minister of the Interior, and therefore a petition must be brought to the court.’
To read the court order (in Hebrew) click here.
To read the petition (in Hebrew) click here.
Media inquires, please contact:
Reut Michaeli (Hotline for Migrant Workers): 052-7317799
Oded Feller (ACRI): 052-2547163