African migrants - Reuters - 6.9.2012
African would-be immigrants sitting near the border fence between Israel and Egypt near the Israeli village of Be'er Milcha September 6, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

The High Court of Justice yesterday struck down a petition by an Israeli human rights group seeking to bring into Israel 21 Eritrean migrants who were trapped for more than a week near Israel’s border with Egypt in Sinai.

The High Court told the group We Are Refugees that the appeal is no longer relevant because 18 of the 21 migrants have been transferred to Egypt.

On Thursday, Israel granted entry to two Eritrean women and a 14-year-old boy who had been trapped on the Israel-Egypt border in dire conditions for eight days. The remaining 18 men were ordered to return to Egypt. The three Eritreans granted entry into Israel were immediately transferred to the Saharonim detention facility.

According to reports, the son of one of the women was murdered by Bedouin in Sinai and the two women were raped. Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have not yet met with the three.

“The purpose of the petition was to bring about the entry to Israel of the group of people on the western side of the border fence and next to it,” wrote High Court President Asher Grunis and Justices Neal Hendel and Hanan Melcer. “It is now clear that the group is no longer at that place. This is because three of them were brought into Israel and the rest left.”

We Are Refugees said in its petition that steps should be taken to discover the fate of the group of Eritreans, and under what circumstances they left the area where they had been stopped and where they remained for eight days under watch by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

The NGO, which had wanted to force the state to let in all 21 of the refugees, said they had gone to the High Court because “the asylum seekers are exposed to mortal danger in Egypt, including torture and organ theft.

“Stalling the court allowed the government to get rid of 18 people whose lives aren’t worth much here. The government does not respect the courts, and the court is in no rush to protect human life,” the organization added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that he was determined to stop migrants from entering Israel. “It is important that everyone understand that Israel is not another destination for infiltrators. We are determined to stop the influx of infiltrations,” he said.

The court issued its ruling after the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the it that the two women and the teenage boy had been brought into Israel, while the rest of the group had left the fence and headed back toward Egypt.

The court told the petitioners, attorneys Yiftah Cohen and Omer Shatz of We Are Refugees, that if they had doubts or objections about the conduct of the authorities in the matter, they should first approach those authorities and only then would they have a reason to petition the court.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined yesterday to say whether it had received the approval of the High Court of Justice to make a deal with Egypt to take the 18 men, or whether the PMO had even asked the High Court its opinion on the matter.

The UNHCR is said not to have been apprised of the PMO’s decision and not to know the whereabouts of the refugees at this time.