The Hotline’s 2019 annual detention monitoring
The Hotline’s 2019 annual detention monitoring report reveals: Injustices in the Population Authority’s detention facility and concentrated attempts to detain and deport families with school-aged children.
Data from the Population and Immigration Authority reveal that the Authority violates the High Court ruling regarding the density of detainees at the Yahalom facility, located at Ben Gurion Airport and used to incarcerate those barred entry to Israel and deportees prior to deportation. The rooms range from 9.98 square meters for a room with four beds, up to 25.52 square meters for a room with nine beds, including a toilet and shower. According to the Authority’s data, five of the nine rooms in the facility do not meet requirements set by law and the High Court ruling.
According to information provided by the Population and Immigration Authority, the rooms in Yahalom do not include closets, and detainees’ personal belongings are stored in a separate luggage room. Thus, without access to their personal belongings and cell phones, detainees in the Yahalom are cut off from the outside world. Furthermore, despite Yahalom’s own written procedure, detainees’ testimonies to the Hotline indicate that anyone who is not extremely assertive in their requests is denied access to the public telephone while in Yahalom.
In addition, the Authority’s data indicate that it prevents those who are barred entry to Israel from accessing the asylum system: according to the Authority, only 15 individuals who were refused entry submitted applications for asylum while being held in Yahalom. All 15 were represented by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, and would have been deported before they could present their allegations of persecution without the Hotline’s intervention and intensive efforts to prevent their deportation.
The report also demonstrates that during 2019 there was a sharp increase in the detention of immigrant families: from the data provided by the State, it appears that between 2013-2018 a total of 136 immigrant families were arrested, while data collected by the State, the Hotline, and the United Children of Israel organization show that during 2019 at least 59 families with their children, including 18 schoolchildren born in Israel. 2019 was the first year that the MoI started targeting school-aged children.
The report reveals a painful reality that remains within the walls of prisons: migrants with severe mental health issues held in prolonged detention in preparation for (ultimately unsuccessful) deportation attempts. The report tells the stories of a migrant from Guinea who was held in administrative-migration detention for approximately eight years in total and released only in November 2019, as well as a migrant from Liberia, who has been detained for four consecutive years and over seven years in total. As early as 2013 while in custody, the Court of Appeals adjudicator recognized his mental difficulties and proposed that he receive representation by the Ministry of Justice; this plan was never enacted. Only last September – after more than four consecutive years in detention during which he was “forgotten in prison,” did Israeli legal aid finally begin to represent him before the Detention Review Tribunal.