Comptroller: AG Must Review Israel's Position on Asylum Seekers

Joseph Shapira slams Israel for failing to provide basic needs of foreign nationals who cannot be deported.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Some 500 detainees at the Holot facility lent their support to a nearby rally held by African asylum seekers. February 17, 2014.
Some 500 detainees at the Holot facility lent their support to a nearby rally held by African asylum seekers. February 17, 2014.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

In the report issued Wednesday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote that the attorney general must reexamine his position on the rights of asylum seekers in Israel.

In his initial response to the report, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein wrote that he did not believe Israel was violating its obligations under Israeli and international law.

In his report, Shapira castigated the state’s treatment of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, saying it had failed to provide for the basic needs of foreign nationals who have been in Israel for some time and who cannot legally be deported. The government had no plan or policy for dealing with these individuals, the report said.

The chapter on asylum seekers states in a number of places that it is doubtful whether the government’s actions are congruent with Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, with international law and with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The comptroller notes, as examples, the limited access given certain groups of patients to medical services and the Social Services Ministry’s policy regarding certain groups of needy foreign nationals.

In response to the criticism, Weinstein said, “According to Israeli and international law and court rulings, in general, social rights that are given to Israelis are not necessarily given to foreigners staying in Israel.”

Weinstein also said he did not believe “Israel has breached its obligations regarding foreigners who may not be expelled.”

The comptroller wrote in response that “Given the report’s findings and the law as detailed in it, the comptroller believes the attorney general should reexamine his position on this issue.”

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