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20 Years of Immigration Detention in Israel

A new report from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants: 20 Years of Imprisonment in Israel

The significant changes, the legal proceedings, and the public struggle: this report contains an in-depth look at what has changed in the last twenty years in Israel’s immigration detention system, since the establishment of the Hotline.

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants is the only human rights organization with regular access to IPS incarceration facilities. Through this approach, Hotline volunteers were the first to meet women who were victims of human trafficking for prostitution purposes in Israel, when they visited immigration detention in the late 1990s. These meetings led to policy and legislative changes that have made human trafficking and forced labor in conditions of slavery criminal offenses, and entitle victims to legal aid and rehabilitation. In prisons, our volunteers also met migrant workers who had lost their visas due to policy of ‘binding’ migrant workers to their employers, after which we advocated against the policy until it was cancelled by the High Court. Our first meetings with survivors of the genocide in Darfur also took place within the walls of immigration detention–where these asylum seekers were brought immediately after their entrance into Israel.

The report reviews the construction of the various detention facilities where asylum seekers and migrants have been housed over the years, as well as the establishment of the Detention Review Tribunal. From the outdoor tents at Ktziot and Nitzan Prisons, through the opening and closing of Holot Detention Center to the present day: prison facilities have changed, prison populations has changed, and to our delight, we have been able to lead to significant changes in prison conditions, including the policy that asylum seeker children are no longer imprisoned.
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