An official state-sponsored legal document used a series of prisoner numbers, rather than names, to refer to 153 African migrants who were arrested last week during a protest in Jerusalem against Israeli governmental policy on the detention of illegal migrants.
The document, which was presented Tuesday to the Beersheba District Court and first made public by a Maariv reporter, was an appeal against a court decision not to rule on the state prosecutor’s request to prolong the imprisonment of the arrested migrants.
“I do not think this is the proper way to appeal,” Justice Sarah Dovrat wrote in her response to the state prosecution. “[There are] people behind the numbers and the correct manner would be to note the names of the people, not their numbers.”
According to an amendment to Israel’s “Infiltrator Law,” approved by the Knesset several weeks ago, a migrant must be brought before a judge within seven days of his or her detention. The new amendment also states that a migrant’s absence from a detention facility for more than 48 hours may result in a three-month imprisonment term.
Over the past two weeks, African migrants have held several protests against their detention in a new facility in the south of the country.
The newly established Holot compound, located near Beersheba, replaces the Saharonim prison complex, where migrants had previously been held. Holot, where the terms of the migrants’ detention are somewhat more lax than at Saharonim, was erected after the Supreme Court ruled that incarcerating the migrants without trial for up to three years, as was done previously, was unconstitutional.
The facility has an open-door policy in which residents are permitted to leave the site during the day but are required to return three times for a roll call. The Holot gates are locked between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. every night, during which time all residents must be behind its fences. Around a dozen migrants were to be housed in every dorm room, and each wing, with a capacity of 140 residents, has its own dining room and recreation areas.
In an organized march in Tel Aviv Saturday, Hundreds of African migrants, mostly Sudanese and Eritreans, demanded not be sent to detention facilities in the Negev and requested they be granted full refugee status. According to some reports the number of demonstrators, among whom were also human rights activists, exceeded 1,500.
The demonstration came days after migrants staged marches, on two separate occasions, in protest of the southern detention facility. Last week, 250 migrants fled Holot for a sit-in in Jerusalem to demonstrate against the rules keeping them in the detention center. The arrestees from that protest were the ones who were represented by numbers in the state’s appeal to the Beersheba District Court.
Since last Thursday, 480 African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, were transferred to Holot, which can hold as many as 3,000.
Yifa Yaakov contributed to this report