Court Rejects Petition Against Israel's Deportation of Asylum Seekers

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Asylum seekers in Holot holding the Immigration Authority's announcement of the new deportation policy.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The Be’er Sheva District Court has dismissed a petition by human rights groups against the deportation of asylum seekers and the imprisonment of other migrants who refuse to leave Israel.

Before the weekend, Judge Eliahu Bitan ruled that the petition was premature because the state had not yet jailed asylum seekers who have received deportation notices.

He was ruling on the cases of the two asylum seekers mentioned in the petition — he refused to address the matter of all asylum seekers that the Population and Immigration Authority has ordered to leave the country.

The state successfully argued that legal steps were premature because a decision had not yet been made to imprison the two asylum seekers, who are from Eritrea and Sudan and are to be deported to Uganda and Rwanda.

“I do not see room for discussing an application involving all the relevant infiltrators,” Bitan wrote. “The state’s authority to deport infiltrators, who for various reasons cannot be returned to their own countries, to a third country that meets certain conditions is not in dispute.”

According to Bitan, the petition “lacks essential details and is too general” to apply it to all asylum seekers in question.

According to the petition, deportation endangers the asylum seekers, and “the countries to which these people have been sent so far are not a destination where asylum seekers can remain or live securely while receiving their basic rights.”

An attorney for the state, Orit Kratz, told the court she wanted the petitioners summoned to a hearing 30 business days after receiving deportation notices. There they would be able to state their case before a decision on their future was made.

But here the judge agreed with the petitioners that the asylum seekers should receive more than 30 business days. They would need time to find a lawyer, file their case in court and have a date set for a preliminary hearing, he said.

The petition was filed by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the African Refugee Development Center, Physicians for Human Rights, Kav La’oved and the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel.

The petition was filed with the help of attorneys Anat Ben-Dor and Elad Cahana of Tel Aviv University’s Refugee Rights Clinic.

For their part, senior Ugandan officials have denied the existence of any agreement with Israel to receive asylum seekers. Foreign Minister Henry Okello said that if Israel had sent Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Uganda, this had been done illegally.

But Rwandan President Paul Kagame said about a month ago that Rwanda was in the final phases of crafting an agreement in which his country would take deportees from Israel.

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