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MoI Greatly Reduces Number of Visas it Renews

On December 29, the Immigration Authority at the Ministry of Interior informed the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants that from now on, the Authority will renew visas for “infiltrators” [the term the State of Israel uses to denote people who elsewhere would be called ‘asylum-seekers’] in only four offices throughout the country, twice a week, for 2.5 hours on each of those days.

In the past few months we’ve observed a noticeable reduction in the services of the offices of the Immigration Authority: Reduction in the number of visas renewed each day, reduction of the extension period of each visa, and simply denial of service to asylum-seekers in many offices. This reduction in services culminated in this new announcement.

Long line outside the Ministry of Interior Office in Beer Sheva, December 31, 2013

Israel is home to over 50,000 asylum-seekers who have to renew their visas every 30 to 60 days. They can now do this in only four offices, for five hours per week. And this is how it looks: about 200 asylum-seekers stood outside the officers of the Ministry of Interior since the early hours of the morning, after 400 of them entered, even though the Ministry said they’ll grant visas to only 150 people. Refugees reported about similar sights in Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, Petah Tikva and Haifa.

To be able to handle the 50,000 refugees residing in Israel, each of the four offices would have to accept 1,560 asylum-seekers per day and issue 625 visas per hour – an impossible number. This means that many refugees are left without valid visas after they’ve spent days standing outside Ministry of Interior offices.

Asylum-seekers who are caught by Immigration Policemen throughout Israel without a valid visa are sent to Saharonim prison or the Holot internment camp. It is clear that the drastic reduction in services is designed to ensure that as many refugees as possible remain without visas, “justifying” their detention and subsequent indefinite internment in the new Holot internment camp. There, the Immigration Authority will exert great efforts to pressure the detainees into “agreeing” to leave Israel to their homelands, even if their lives will be endangered there.

In the past week, we’ve witnessed widespread arrests by Immigration Police, including violent ones, of asylum-seekers who were unsuccessful in their attempts to renew their visas.

We need your help in spreading this information. Please encourage people you know to contact the Israeli consulate in your area to convey the message that the behavior of the State of Israel toward refugees is outrageous and is in violation of international law and Jewish values.