Last week (November 17) the government approved a new amendment to the Law to Prevent Infiltration despite strong opposition from human rights organizations that allege the new amendment is even more draconian than the one overturned by the High Court of Justice on September 16. The Ministerial Committee will discuss the bill tomorrow, with plans to bring it to the plenary for a first reading sometime next week. The government is moving with extraordinary swiftness to pass the bill before the expiration of the 90-day period set by the Court by which asylum seekers detained under the overturned amendment must be released.
On Friday, following an unsuccessful attempt to delay the government’s consideration of the bill, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), The Hotline for Migrant Workers, and the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF) sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber and Legal Advisor to the Population and Immigration Authority Daniel Solomon citing their objections to the amendment. In the letter, Attorney Oded Feller, Director of the Citizenship and Residency Program at ACRI, criticized the government’s procedure, alleging that it set “an unreasonable and illegal timetable for the bill” that made it almost impossible for the organizations to react to the amendment’s provisions.
Regarding the bill’s provisions, Feller wrote that contrary to the state’s claim, the proposal to imprison asylum seekers for one year does not comport to the High Court of Justice decision: “The nine justices on the panel reasoned that the provision is illegal because of it violates the right to freedom. Imprisonment under these circumstances, whether for one year or three, is prohibited.” Regarding the openness of the proposed “open detention center” – the letter argues that it is in fact a prison.
“This is a prison that will jail asylum seekers who cannot be deported from Israel indefinitely and without judicial oversight. Detainees will be required to assemble three times a day in order to be counted, which, given the great distances between the prison and the nearest population centers, means that there is nowhere for the detainees to go,” said Feller. “It is a prison in the sense that it will be managed by the Prisons Authority, whose only expertise is managing prisons. It is a prison in the sense that the detainees are not allowed to work elsewhere. It is a prison that is intended to break the spirit of asylum seekers by forcing them to agree to go wherever they are told. And for whose good is all this being done? For those the High Court declared cannot be imprisoned and ordered released immediately.”
Rather than meeting the needs of the 53,000 asylum seekers currently living in Israel or addressing the hardships of the residents of south Tel Aviv, the amendment offers an answer to the nonexistent problem of new asylum seekers entering Israel. “The objective of this legislation is the continued imprisonment of people the Court ordered to be released immediately.”
Click here to read a summary of the ruling against the original amendment (in English).
Click here to read key excerpts from the original petition.
Click here for further information on the law and background of the original petition