Hundreds of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood Saturday to demonstrate against the High Court of Justice’s landmark September 22 ruling to shutter the contested Holot detention center within 90 days, and its declaration that the practice of holding African migrants in facilities in southern Israel for up to a year is illegal.
The nearly 300 demonstrators, mostly residents of Tel Aviv’s southern neighborhoods, claimed the ruling would give rise to criminal activity in the city and heighten tensions created by the arrival of thousands of immigrants to the site. Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked, a vocal advocate for the deportation of immigrants, took part in the protest, according to Walla News.
Due to the protest, police closed off sections of Hahagana Road in southern Tel Aviv, Ynet reported.
The High Court’s dramatic decision, which essentially struck down the Knesset’s controversial “infiltrator law,” was bitterly opposed by right-wing Knesset members, who maintained that the law had been critical in preventing further vast numbers of migrants entering Israel from countries such as as Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. The lawmakers further asserted that the judiciary was tying the hands of the Knesset.
“Today the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis were destroyed,” Shaked said after the ruling was given.
“The High Court [effectively] called on all the citizens of Africa to come to Israel. It harmed the security of the state, and the security of the residents of southern Tel Aviv, and trampled on the legislative branch.”
A special panel of nine High Court justices voted on the two measures, with the appeal to limit the detention of migrants receiving a 6-3 majority, while the decision to close Holot was approved by seven of the nine justices.
The decision to annul the “infiltrator law” reinstated the earlier illegal immigrant legislation, under which immigrants can be held for up to 60 days.
The court decision adopted the position of human rights groups and shot down an appeal submitted on behalf of the residents of southern Tel Aviv, where many migrants live and where veteran residents claim they fear for their safety. The court maintained that the extended detention of migrants was a violation of their rights.
The state has argued that most of tens of thousands of migrants already in Israel, and hundreds of thousands potentially poised to come, are looking for economic benefits. Rights groups contend that the migrants are actually asylum-seekers. The court decision stated that while economic incentives may have played a role in their decision to come to Israel, the significant dangers posed to their well-being in their home countries — including Eritrea and Sudan — could not be ignored.
The decision also noted that as of June 30, 2014, there were 48,212 migrants in Israel, but that the steady flow had dropped significantly in 2013.