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Israeli High Court in a hearing on the Anti Infiltration Law: “The law’s restrictions still pose constitutional difficulties”

Following two previous verdicts that struck down the Third and Fourth Amendments to the Anti-Infiltration Law, human rights groups returned again yesterday (Tuesday) to the High Court of Justice to appeal against the Fifth Amendment to the Anti-Infiltration Law. The current version of the law allows asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea who have already been living in Israel to be imprisoned for 20 months in the Holot detention facility which is operated by the Israeli Prison Service. Approximately 2,400 asylum seekers are currently detained in Holot. In addition, the law allows the detainment of new comers for 3 months in the “Saharonim” prison.

During the hearing, Justice Uzi Fogelman said the new version had made progress, but due to the geographic location of the facility and the low pocket money the detainees receive, the restriction of liberty remains the same. “That is the thing that has an implication for constitutionality,” said Fogelman. The justices also criticized the fact that the authorities detained people in Holot for the maximum of 20 months, without discretion. “You don’t immediately fire the ultimate weapon, especially since the legislature gave discretion to the authorities to give an order of as long as 20 months,” noted Justice Melcer.

The petition was submitted in the name of two asylum seekers that have been held in Holot for approximately one year – Anwar Suliman from Darfur and Teshume Nga Dasta from Eritrea.”I think there will be a good decision, like the previous ones”, said Suliman after the hearing. “It cannot be that they put people who are not criminals in prison for 20 months, without any reason and without a trial”.

The Hotline for refugees and Migrants and other NGOS that submitted the case responded yesterday to the hearing: “The State admitted today that the purpose of the law remains identical to the previous laws: deterring new asylum seekers from coming to Israel – when there are no new-comers entering Israel anyway – and bringing those who live here to a state of despair so they will agree to ’voluntarily return’. An arrangement that allows the imprisonment of approximately 2,000 innocent asylum seekers for 20 months does not improve the situation of South Tel Aviv, and continues to defy Israel’s’ moral and international obligations. We hope that this time the High Court will clarify once and for all that the state has to stop legislating draconian laws that denies its obligation to provide a real solution for the asylum seekers and for the residents of South Tel Aviv. “