Farewell from our CEO Reut Michaeli
Last week was my final week as the Executive Director of the Hotline.
I was drawn to the Hotline because of my belief in the words, “that the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” After almost 8 years of working with with refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking, I know this to be true now more than ever.
The Hotline sits at the crossroads of the refugee and migrant communities, the Israeli public and the government. We are the only Israeli organization with access to immigration detention facilities, and that, together with our everyday encounters with vulnerable clients, exposes us to unique information that the wider public has no access to. I believe that the Hotline has a duty to expose the things we see in an effort to bring change. During my time we increased the number of publications on a wide range of issues, providing new, accurate, and professional information relied upon by lawmakers, judges, lawyers, and human rights professionals in Israel and around the world. Among others we published an annual monitoring report examining the conditions and policies of immigration detention in Israel, the very first research about the Sinai torture camps and a groundbreaking report on the fate those who “voluntarily” departed Israel for third countries.
Our first hand research from the field has often been the basis of legal cases spearheaded by the Hotline, together with partner organizations, which has led to major policy changes.
When the precedent ordering the release of women and children from detention was given; when the Anti-Infiltration law was struck down (twice entirely and once partially!); and when hundreds of detainees were released at once – these were moments of great excitement, pride and satisfaction. These moments made all the frustrations and difficulty caused by working under an ever-harshening government policy, completely worth it.
I found pride and satisfaction in my daily work, as well in our achievements for the benefit of those imprisoned or about to lose their freedom. The fact that during the past year the Hotline’s team released or prevented the detention of over 200 Darfuri asylum seekers through dedicated para-legal work is astounding.
I owe thanks to many people, primarily to the Hotline’s staff – an inspiring group of people who never give up and whose solidarity has been a great source of pride and strength to me. Thank you to the Board of Directors and to all the volunteers, donors and supporters who believe in the Hotline and what we fight for. Thank you also to the many brave refugees and migrants who are our partners together in the struggle for their rights.
It is a difficult time to be leaving when the government is threatening to deport thousands of asylum seekers who have lived in Israel for 5-10 years. However, the sudden public awakening, on display last Saturday night at a protest in Tel Aviv attended by over 20,000 people who refuse to stand by and watch this take place, has given me great hope.
It is with this renewed hope that I hand over my role to incoming Executive Director, Shirley Racah. After three weeks of working closely through the change-over, I know that the Hotline is in the best possible hands. I wish her and the Hotline’s wonderful team continued success in building an Israeli society that truly respects and protects the most vulnerable amongst us.