Petition to High Court: Release Asylum-Seekers Who’ve Been Detained for Over 2 Years
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants petitioned the High Court on Thursday, calling for the release of 138 asylum seekers – who have been held in detention facilities for more than two years – from Holot detention center. The petition sites the administrative flaws associated with their detention, and the fact that the 138 individuals were supposed to be released after the annulment of the previous amendment to the Infiltration Prevention Law, in September 2013.
In the petition, Attorneys Assaf Weitzen and Carmel Pomerantz describe the distinctiveness of this group of asylum seekers, which entered Israel in the summer of 2012. At the time, they were detained at Saharonim Prison under Amendment 3 to the Infiltration Prevention Law, which enabled detention for up to three years. Yet despite the annulment of this amendment by the Supreme Court in September 2013, and the directive to free all of those detained within three months, some 500 people were not released, and were transferred from Saharonim directly to Holot detention facility, which was established in December 2013, based on Amendment 4 to the Infiltration Prevention Law. “Devoid of minimal administrative proceedings, without a hearing, devoid of criteria to delineate administrative discretion, and without conducting the detailed examination to which the State committed… The petitioners are not objects to be transferred from one facility to another, or to be put aside until a future decision is made… It is inconceivable that this court rejects law after law, yet the petitioners remain in detention.”
The petitioners participated in the protest march to Jerusalem in December 2013, and launched a hunger strike in solidarity with the strike and protests conducted by asylum seekers in Tel Aviv in January 2014. At the time, there were still less than 200 people being held at Holot, which was ordered closed by the Supreme Court in its last ruling. Two years ago the petitioners, assisted by Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, submitted asylum requests, but requests by Sudanese citizens have not yet been decided (the petition includes a detailed table on the matter).
In accordance with the extreme and exceptional circumstances, Attorneys Weitzen and Pomerantz note: “In the case of the petitioners, their detention has twice exceeded the length of time determined by the court… Initially they were held fat a custody facility for more than one year, a period of time that is disproportionate, and after that they were held for a year in the Shehiya facility, where the conditions are very similar to that of a prison… Be the new arrangement that the State formulates what it will, the infringement on the petitioners’ freedom has gone too far, and there is no constitutional or legal option to keep them in any sort of facility.”
The petition also clarifies that because the petitioners do not have the means to hire a lawyer, and since there is no official body offering them legal assistance, they have no choice but a joint appeal to the Supreme Court and as a result, “non-acquiescence with this petition in its current form constitutes leaving many to languish in prison-like conditions for an additional unknown period of time.”
Aside from the administrative and constitutional flaws that justify the release of this group of asylum seekers, the petition notes specific legal actions that were taken for three members of the group, as a result of which two were released from Holot (the third petitioner despaired and left Israel during the course of legal proceedings). The attorneys stress that due to the similar circumstances, the decision in all of the cases should have lead to the release of all of the petitioners.
In light of the harsh, continued infringement of basic rights and liberty, the attorneys request holding an urgent hearing on this petition, “to translate the beautiful words related by the majority of judges from the last Supreme Court rulings on the matter into freedom and respect for 138 living and breathing human beings.”