Interior Min. Following Ruling on Asylum Seekers: High Court Freedoms Should Be Curbed

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Asylum seekers protest at Holot detention center in Negev, February 17, 2104.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Outgoing Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar on Tuesday called for a review of the High Ciurt of Justice's ability to intervene in Knesset legislation dealing with infiltrators and infiltration in Israel, after the court ruled to void the Anti-Infiltration Law amendment and close the Holot detention facility.

In response to the ruling, Sa'ar questioned whether the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom should be amended to curb High Court freedoms.The Rabin government, Sa'ar said noted, had amended the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation in a similar fashion regarding the importation of non-kosher meat.

"The first amendment to the Anti-Infiltration Law, which was struck down about a year ago, reduced the entry of people into Israel dramatically, while the second amendment made a significant contribution to the process of leaving Israel voluntarily," Sa'ar said.

"It's not rational that precisely those laws that are effective in dealing with infiltration, a phenomenon which many western countries have been unsuccessful in dealing with, are the ones that the court strikes down."

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett also spoke out against the ruling, accusing the judges of taking powers from the government and of selling out the residents of south Tel Aviv.

"At a time of defense and economic insecurity, the court sent an open invitation to tens of thousands of infiltrators to come to Israel," Bennett said. "We need to respect the rule of law, but the High Court is displaying excessive judicial activism and in effect is abrogating powers from the government, which bears prime responsibility for the security of Israel."

Mutassim Ali, one of the leaders of the protest movement against the Holot detention facility, expressed cautious optimism at the decision.

"I am concerned about new measures by the government to harm asylum seekers but I very much hope that this will be the trigger for a switch in thinking," he said. I hope they will understand that we are simply people whose lives were in danger and will allow us to live here with dignity and even to contribute to the society. I am opposed to all acts of violence and I hope that the residents of south Tel Aviv also get relief from their distress."

Ali added that the protests of the asylum seekers were not aimed at the residents of south Tel Aviv. "We know that the situation is not good for them either; they are suffering and we are suffering. It's not black and white," he said. "The rights of the people of south Tel Aviv need to be protected, but that doesn't mean that ours have to be contravened."

The court's decision is "totally disconnected from the reality on the ground, Israeli democracy and the weakest sectors of Israeli society," said Orly Yugir, director of the Israeli Immigration Policy Center. "The court's decision puts an end to the hopes of the residents of south Tel Aviv and thus to the process of removing the infiltrators from Israel. The government needs to act quickly to come up with a legal replacement."

MK Michal Rosin (Meretz,) chairperson of the Knesset committee on foreign workers, said: "Today's important decision is a warning sign to the government regarding its human rights violations of recent years."

MK Dov Hanin (Hadash) said: "The court ruled today that asylum seekers are human and a so-called "open prison" is still a prison. Now is the time for the policy that we have been long demanding. A mechanism for evaluating asylum requests, distributing of asylum seekers around the country and giving them the right to work and receive social services."

MK Danny Danon (Likud) accused the court of "preferring the good of the infiltrators over the residents of south Tel Aviv." He said the court's decision was divorced from the painful reality of south Tel Aviv and all the other neighborhoods "flooded with refugees."

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