Court nixes arrests of Sudanese asylum seekers

Court nixes arrests of Sudanese asylum seekers

Eli Yishai decries decision, says human rights groups should focus on working 'for the benefit of Israel's citizens'

African migrants protest against the government's deportation policy in April (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
African migrants protest against the government's deportation policy in April (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the arrest of Sudanese asylum seekers, nullifying an ultimatum issued by Interior Minister Eli Yishai to the effect that, on October 15, he would begin to incarcerate asylum seekers.

The petition was filed by a string of Israeli migrants’ rights organizations backed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Interior Minister Eli Yishai decried the decision, saying it was “an obstacle” that would keep him from “solving once and for all the problem of infiltration into Israel.

“I hope the court’s judges will ultimately permit the incarceration of all illegal infiltrators in holding facilities, as an intermediate station en route to the homelands,” Yishai said, chiding the human-rights organizations for their failure to “work first and foremost for the benefit of Israel’s citizens.”

In interviews with the media, Yishai has stressed that one purpose of such detentions would be to make the lives of the Sudanese asylum seekers unbearable.

“We will make their life in Israel hell so that they’ll wish to return to their countries of origin,” he said in August.

An additional hearing has been set for October 30, 2012, at which point it will be decided whether to extend the injunction against incarcerating asylum seekers.

The petition to the court stated that the Interior Ministry’s policy would result in thousands of Sudanese asylum seekers being hunted down, along with their children, arrested en masse, and detained indefinitely in extreme conditions in the desert.

An additional consequence of Yishai’s initiative, the petition said, would be the annulment of the Sudanese asylum seekers’ temporary protection, which allowed them to be employed under certain limited conditions. Without such permits, those who managed to avoid arrest would have no means to procure food or shelter.

Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: “The asylum requests of Sudanese citizens are not even checked and, in any event, it is not possible to deport them from Israel in a way that will safeguard their welfare.

“The decision to imprison asylum seekers from Sudan and their children for indefinite terms in extreme desert conditions is exceptionally cruel,” Feller continued. “Regrettably, the prime minister and attorney general are unwilling to restrain the interior minister.”

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