Israel to Appeal Freeze of Detention Orders for Asylum Seekers

Prosecutors criticize initial lower court decision to suspend detention orders of 13 Africans, warn that it undermines the public interest.

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African asylum seekers board a bus in Tel Aviv to the Holot detention center, Jan. 26, 2014. Credit: Moti Milrod

The state has asked for leave to appeal the decision by the Central District Court earlier this month to freeze 13 orders issued to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to report to the Holot detention center, after the 13 appealed the summonses.

In its request to the Supreme Court, the state criticized the decision to freeze the summonses, warning that it undermined the public interest.

The state argued that freezing the summonses without finding any extraordinary circumstances to justify it is an “indirect freeze” of the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law that the Knesset passed half a year ago. The High Court of Justice, in an expanded panel of nine justices, is expected to rule shortly on a petition filed by human rights groups challenging the amendment.

“The truth is, what emerges from the sweeping lower court decision, which embraces every single petitioner without any distinction whatever, is that until a decision by the Supreme Court, every infiltrator is entitled to remain in the center of Israel’s cities,” wrote the state’s representatives, Yochi Gnessin and Yonathan Zion Mozes of the state prosecution. “All he ostensibly has to do is to file an appeal, note that he lives in one of Israel’s cities, and on the basis of that alone it’s justified to issue an interim injunction blocking the implementation of lodging provisions that were issued to protect the public interest that underlies the amended law.”

Two weeks ago, Judge Dana Marshak Marom ruled that the summonses to Holot, in the western Negev, would be suspended until the cases of all 13 asylum seekers were heard, which will only be in four months’ time. Until then, the judge ordered the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to renew the residency permits that the asylum seekers held before receiving their detention orders.

“If the orders and the detention are implemented now, all the [asylum seekers] will be severely harmed while their freedom would be limited and they would be uprooted from all that is familiar to them,” Marshak Marom ruled. “Instead, if the appeals are denied … there will be no obstacle to implementing and effecting the transfer of the [asylum seekers] to the Holot facility at a later date.”