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After Systematically Refusing to Renew their Visas, the Immigration Authority Detains Hundreds of Asylum-Seekers Throughout Israel

Immigration officers conducted numerous arrests of asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv and throughout Israel, in an operation that started on Thursday, December 26, and continued today, December 29. According to reports received at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, over 100 asylum-seekers who hadn’t had a valid visa were arrested; many of them were sent to “Givon” prison for an unknown period of time.

Many of the asylum-seekers did not have a chance to renew their visa due to a new unofficial policy adopted by the Ministry of Interior (MoI). In the past month, according to many reports received at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, asylum-seekers who went to MoI offices to renew their visas (a procedure they have to do once every few months) were refused for unexplained reasons. They are told to go to another office in another city or to come back tomorrow; when they try at a different office or on a different day, the answers are similar, and so they are left with no valid visa, and at risk of being arrested and sent to prison.

“I came to the MoI office at Hedera and waited there for a long time. Eventually they told me they won’t renew my visa today and that I should go to the office at Haifa on another day”, told D., an Eritrean asylum-seeker to Hotline activists. “Now I’m scared to take the bus and or to walk on the street because the immigration officers are everywhere, and they will arrest me.”

Due to this pattern, many people were indeed arrested on Thursday, while some of them who had a valid visa but carried only copies of it and not the originals were detained as well. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants sent an urgent letter to the Attorney General, asking his office to order the Ministry of Interior to end this pattern immediately.

Many others who arrived to renew their visas were surprised to receive a summons that ordered them to present themselves in the “Holot” internment camp within 30 days. One of them is Solomon, who said he has no intention to evade it. “What choice do I have? They will arrest me if I won’t appear”, he explained. S. fled to Israel from Eritrea six years ago. He speaks fluent Hebrew and is working in a Hotel in Eilat. “My manager was also very surprised and didn’t understand why me, who has a permanent job, has to go to Holot”. F., also from Eritrea, had received the summons from the immigration officer while he was reviewing his documents on Thursday. “I have a baby and a wife, who will provide for them if I go to Holot”? Under the new Anti-Infiltration Law, asylum-seekers can be detained in “Holot” facility for an unlimited periods of time.