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The Labrynth: Migration, Status and Human Rights

A new report from the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), and Physicians for Human Rights exposes the depth of bureaucracy and systematic human rights violations occuring in the systems of the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA).

The report shows the severe damage that the PIBA’s policies have on refugees, migrant workers, non-citizens, permanent residents who are not Jewish, and victims of trafficking. This report is a follow up to one that was published by ACRI in 2004, which examined the policy and bureaucracy of PIBA as it related to “foreigners”. Many of the systems  mentioned in the first report have not only continued but been enshrined in legistlation over the years. These policies include:  “Binding Agreements” of migrant workers to their employers, courts that have been established for the sole purpose of determining status and expulsion of “strangers”; aggrivated arrangements regarding the imprisonment of “infiltraitors”, and the limited ability of foreign  spouses to settle their status with out a permit, etc….  As well, the report documents the structural changes that have occured in the PIBA.

Alongside the many negative deveopments, there have been a small number of decisions that benefit “foreigners”- such as one-off agreements, where status was awarded to children and families of migrant workers-by virtue of their growing up in Israel. This constituded a great exception to a generally iron-clad policy.

The report ends with a series of recommendations to the authority, the implementation of which, would ensure at least minial human rights protections to these groups of people. It also emphasizes the more structural mindsets against foreigners that make harmful policies possible:

One of the hallmarks of a human society is its approach toward those it perceives as “strangers.” The attitude toward “strangers” reflects the willingness of society to rise above perceived immediate sectarian interests and to show empathy and compassion for the “Other.” If the way the Population and Immigration Authority treats those who are not citizens of Israel, as described in this report, can teach us anything about ourselves, then it is not only “strangers” in Israel who face a difficult situation. Our own situation as a society is also far from encouraging.