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New Hotline report reveals an increase in violence from immigration inspectors against migrants

A new report (available in Hebrew) from The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) exposes an alarming increase in the number of cases of violence by immigration officers against migrants and asylum seekers in the last year. The report highlights the difficulty victims have in filing complaints due to fear because of their unstable status in Israel. It also highlights that there are not enough enforcement mechanisms to process complaints or penalize the inspectors who perpetrate the violence.

Testimony from victims claim that immigration officers used excessive violence when making arrests or transferring detainees to the airport for deportation. There are also accounts of violence used during stays and interrogations of asylum seekers in the Department of Immigration. The report describes the racial profiling methods used by the Immigration Authority Inspectors who stop, sometimes violently, Israeli citizens and residents, because of the dark color of their skin or facial features.
According to the report, there were 16 cases of violence reported in 2014-2015.
– 8 reported cases of hospitalization as a result of the violence
– 2 reported cases of violence in which the victim refused to file a formal claim.
– 2 other victims withdrew their claims due to fear of immigration officers, preferring to leave the country.
– 4 people were deported rapidly despite explicit instruction from a tribunal judge who instructed the Department of Immigration and the police to investigate their claims.
– detainees avoided deportation only because of the intervention of Hotline and a private attorney.
– Hotline and ACRI are currently monitoring 3 police investigation; none of them investigations have led to an indictment against the inspectors involved.

The report includes numerous testimonies of migrants and asylum seekers who have been attacked. For example; “D”, a tourist from the Ukraine, was arrested despite holding a valid visa. “The immigration inspector told me in Russian ‘I will teach you how [we] deal with immigration here’, and then he hit me with his fist. I felt woozy. I’m not sure if he continued to beat me…he was with us [my friends]…and broke one of her fingers, but she was deported to the Ukraine before me.” (Full testimony on page 11)

“M” from Nigeria accounts how he was taken to Ben Gurion airport against his will where two immigration inspectors beat him, attacked him with a taser, put him on a flight, and handcuffed him to his seat. When he resisted, the immigration inspector tasered him again. His screams of pain forced the pilot to exit the cockpit and come into the cabin, and had M removed from the plane. He was thrown down the stairs of the plane so hard by immigration inspectors that he broke one of his teeth. “My health is not good. My eyes hurt, and I am vomiting blood. I showed them [the authorities] the bloodstains on my shirt and told them that I was twice taken by inspectors to the airport. They beat me severely; I thought I was going to faint and they hit me in the neck. They dragged me to the plane. My body is weak, and the pilot refused to let me fly on the plane. Before I agreed to return to my country, I asked for medical treatment for my eyes. I cried a lot…After they took me from the plane, they beat me harshly”. (The full testimony and the rest of the story can be found on page 14). “M” is among the migrants who left the country due to the violence inflicted upon him by immigration inspectors. Due to their departure, they were unable to file complaints and no action can be taken against their attackers.

The report also details the difficulties of handling complaints submitted against violent inspectors, as they use their status and position to dismiss claims brought against them. Intimidation techniques consist of arresting victims, even if they have a valid visa; as well as claiming violence against the inspectors coming from the victim, which can give grounds for rapid expulsion from the country. Despite the appeals from various human rights organizations and tribunal judges, the Immigration Authority is not deterred from deporting migrants who wish to file claims of violence against inspectors. The report also clarifies how difficult and complex the process is for filing complaints, especially for migrants incarcerated for extended periods who do not speak Hebrew.

The report ends with recommendations for reducing the instances of violence coming from inspectors from the Department of Immigration, such as: limiting the powers of inspectors, expanding and refining procedures for disciplining officers and paying special attention to instances involving minors and families. The report also recommends the establishment of an external third party to monitor andbe in charge of disciplinary proceedings if the inspectors operate against regulations. It can also help ensure there is a way to file a complaint without the complainant’s status in the country being affected, as well as manage any conflict of interest and make sure that officials in contact with victims do not use their power to force complainants to leave the country.