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HCJ Heard Arguments On Our Petition Against Anti-Infiltration Law

Yesterday (April 1), an expanded panel of nine justices heard arguments regarding the petition of two asylum-seekers indefinitely detained in Holot against amendment no. 4 to the Anti-Infiltration Law. The asylum-seekers are represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants as well as the Program of Refugee Rights at Tel Aviv University and the Clinic for Migrant Rights at the College for Law and Business. Amendment no. 4 to the Anti-Infiltration Law was passed in an expedited and rushed manner after the High Court of Justice ruling (Adam v. the Knesset) in September 2013 abrogated amendment no. 3 to the Anti-Infiltration Law, finding it to be disproportionately infringing upon the right to liberty of “infiltrators”.

Under the new version of the Anti-Infiltration Law, asylum seekers who successfully cross the border fence with Egypt are jailed for a year in the Saharonim or Ktziot prisons for asylum-seekers. After a year in detention without trial, the asylum-seekers are transferred to indefinite detention in the supposedly open “Holot” detention center. The Law also allows to indefinitely detain asylum-seekers who live in Israel in the Holot facility, which is managed by Israeli Prison Services. Asylum-seekers detained in Holot have to sleep in the facility and must report for three roll calls per day to prevent them from venturing outside the facility, which is located close to the border with Egypt.

The Supreme Court justices challenged both sides in the lengthy hearing with tough questions about their stances and queries for different data. For example, the High Court justices asked the State’s representative to explain the abysmally low recognition rate of asylum seekers as refugees in Israel and the lack of references to international law in the State’s response to our petition. On the other hand, the justices asked Adv. Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel who was arguing on the side of the petitioners, to present humane alternatives to Israel’s current policy that would halt migration to Israel. Adv. Feller replied that there is no way to completely stop migration other than blatantly violation the Refugee Convention and international law.

Adv. Asaf Weitzen of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and one of the authors of the petition said: “Our stance is clear: if there is no intention to remove a person from Israel, he should not be jailed without trial. In addition, asylum-seekers who’ve lived in Israel for many years must not be placed in the human storage facility known as “Holot” without a time limitation to the detention and without any sort of legal procedure. Israel’s policy has no parallels in the world and during the hearing at the High Court we kept insisting that Israel not adopt the most abusive policy toward asylum-seekers in the Western world. The State almost completely disregarded the Adam v. Knesset ruling in its response to our petition. Instead, it kept repeating the mantra of “prevention of settling in” – meaning, the desire to separate asylum-seekers from the rest of society. Now all we can do is to hope that the Supreme Court will reach the same conclusions in this case as it did in the Adam ruling and make it clear that this policy has no justification.”