Detention of Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Israel, Annual Monitoring Report – 2020
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants’ Annual Detention Monitoring Report reveals the failures of the Population and Immigration Authority at the time of the corona outbreak
The Annual Detention Monitoring Report on the detention of migrants and asylum seekers, which we are publishing for the sixth year in a row, reveals for the first time the reality behind bars in the first months of the outbreak of the corona epidemic in Israel: migrants who agreed to return to their homelands and cooperated fully with the authorities were held for many months in administrative detention only because the Population and Immigration Authority did not do enough to deport them.
The report presents the stories of three Russian migrants arrested by the Population Authority inspectors in January and February 2020 – before the corona outbreak in Israel – but “were forgotten” in prison for many months (three months in two cases, and six months in the third case), until the Population Authority managed to deport them from Israel during the outbreak.
The report reveals that the Ministry of Interior’s failures to deport migrants – even those wishing to return to their homelands – continued even after the first lockdown. For example, there is a case of two Vietnamese citizens who were transferred to administrative-migratory detention in August and September 2020 and had to wait in prison for four months until a flight was arranged for them. When representatives of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants contacted the Vietnam Embassy in an attempt to help coordinate the flight, it became clear that the Population and Immigration Authority had no contact with the embassy, which was unaware of its detained citizens when coordinating a rescue flight to Vietnam.
In stark contrast to its commitment, the public interest and basic rights of imprisoned migrants – the conduct of the Population and Immigration Authority during 2020 has left many migrants behind bars for months.
Dr. Ayelet Oz, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants’ executive director:
“The corona epidemic has clearly exposed the indifference to the violation of the rights and freedom of migrants in Israel. The Population and Immigration Authority dragged its feet in the treatment of migrants, who were imprisoned for long months behind bars, and contemptuously ignored the violation of their freedom. It seems that imprisoning people in vain for many months is nothing more than a ‘slight inconvenience’ in the eyes of the authority.
Also today the Hotline receives calls from migrants in detention who are being held in prison for long weeks until a flight is arranged for them. The taxes of Israeli citizens fund long and unnecessary detentions in the name of the Population Authority’s insistence on leaving migrants behind bars instead of releasing them on conditions until they are flown to their country, as should have been done.”