hotline post image

US State Department’s annual report on Human Rights criticizes Israel’s Immigration Policy

On March 30, 2021, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor published its annual Human Rights report on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974. Among other human rights violations, the report criticized the following areas of Israel’s immigration policy:

Indefinite administrative detention of irregular migrants: “Irregular migrants subject to deportation, including those claiming but unable to prove citizenship of countries included in Israel’s non-refoulement policy, were subjected to indefinite detention if they refused to depart after receiving a deportation order. At the end of 2018, there were 165 migrants with undetermined or disputed citizenship in detention.”

Detention without trial and for an indefinite period: Detention of irregular migrants who were “implicated in criminal proceedings… In 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the legality of this policy required additional review, but it had not issued any guidance by year’s end.”

Restrictions on freedom of movement: “The law allows the government to detain asylum seekers from countries to which government policy prohibits deportation for a period of three months. The government may detain, without trial and for an indefinite period, irregular migrants who were “implicated in criminal proceedings”… Authorities prohibited asylum seekers released from detention after arrival in the country from residing in Eilat, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, Netanya, Ashdod, and Bnei Brak–cities that already had a high concentration of asylum seekers.”


Insufficient protection from violence by government employees:  No “external body to which migrants could file complaints if subjected to violence by The Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA), unlike police or the IPS.

Departure under coercion and false promises by the Israeli government: “The government offered incentives to irregular migrants to leave the country and go to Uganda, including a paid ticket and a stipend. The government claimed the third-country government provided for full rights under secret agreements with Israel, but NGOs and UNHCR confirmed that migrants who arrived at the destination did not receive residency or employment rights. From January 1 to September 30, a total of 663 irregular migrants departed the country under pressure, compared with 2,024 in 2019. NGOs claimed many of those who departed to other countries faced abuses in those countries and that this transfer could amount to refoulement.

Preventing UNHCR monitoring: Preventing “UNHCR access to monitor regularly the detention facility at Ben Gurion Airport.”

Preventing asylum seekers from obtaining work permits: “Government policies on the legality of work forced many refugees to work in “unofficial” positions, making them more susceptible to poor treatment and questionable work practices by their employers.”

Insufficient protection of asylum seekers’ salaries: After the Supreme Court struck down a law that required employers to deduct 20 percent of an asylum seeker’s salary as an incentive to encourage their departure from the country, it was discovered by PIBA that “a gap of 710 million shekels ($217.6 million) existed between the funds deducted from asylum seekers’ salaries and the funds deposited for them by employers… In addition, 3,445 asylum seekers had not yet applied for their refund by year’s end” most of them (according to the HRM’s experience), as a result of lack of proper documents.

Dismal refugee recognition rate: “The government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, but it has rarely granted a refugee status.”

Preventing access to asylum procedures: “The government did not accept initial asylum claims at airports”.

Restrictions on the right to property: “The law bars migrants from sending money abroad, limits the amount they may take with them when they leave to minimum-wage earnings for the number of months they resided in the country, and defines taking additional money out of the country as a money-laundering crime.”

Limited access to basic services: “the government for the most part did not provide asylum seekers with public social benefits.

Segregation: “several municipalities illegally segregated children of asylum seekers and other children in schools and kindergartens.”