Netanyahu: Israel Has No Asylum Seeker Problem - Only Illegal Job Immigrants

Prime minister responds for first time to High Court ruling ordering state to close detention center for asylum seekers, says Israel can't afford to be engulfed by these 'job seekers.'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 28, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 28, 2014.Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Tuesdat for the first time to a High Court ruling ordering the closure of a detention center for African asylum seekers, saying that Israel cannot afford to be engulfed by "illegal job seekers."

"There is no asylum seeker problem in Israel - they are illegal job immigrants," Netanyahu said in reply to a question posed to him after he addressed members of the Jewish Federations of North America in New York on Tuesday.

About a week ago, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to close the Holot detention facility for asylum seekers within 90 days. As part of its ruling, the court also overturned another provision of the same law that allowed asylum seekers who entered Israel illegally to be incarcerated without trial in a closed facility for up to a year.

Netanyahu, asked whether the incarceration of asylum seekers may harm Israel's public image, added that Israel has the right to control its borders.

"Asylum seekers can come in like those from Syria - but not job seekers from Africa," Netanyahu said. "We don't have to open our doors to be swamped by the way other people run their economies."

The prime minister promised that he will deal with the High Court ruling "according to the law."

On Monday, Haaretz revealed that the Interior Ministry continued to send Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to the Holot facility despite the High Court ruling. Following the report, the Ministry issued an order freezing the practice.

A spokeswoman for Israel's Population, Immigration and Border Authority said that discussions were being held to shape "a new law that will be brought to the government and the Knesset, in the wake of the High Court's ruling last week, in order to implement government policy." She added that the instruction to halt summons will be in place until new legislation is legislated or other instructions are given. 

Rightist MKs said following the ruling that they will push for legislation to renew laws that the court had disqualified and alter the way justices are appointed.

Holot detention center.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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