Justice Minister Shaked Examining Options for Prosecuting Asylum Seekers

So far asylum seekers have not faced criminal charges for entering Israel, unless they could also be indicted on charges related to weapons or drug trade.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is examining the possibility of filing criminal charges against asylum seekers for entering Israel illegally. She is also considering deporting asylum seekers to a third state.

Following the High Court of Justice’s ruling earlier this week, which limits asylum seekers’ incarceration period to a year, Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said she was looking at other ways of dealing with the African migrants.

Under the anti-Infiltration Law, asylum seekers could be sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. A person indicted for entering Israel after being deported may be sentenced to seven years in prison and a person charged with entering Israel carrying arms is liable to a 15-year sentence.

So far asylum seekers have not faced criminal charges for entering Israel, unless they could also be indicted with weapons or drug trade.

The Prosecution told the High Court of Justice on Wednesday that the state is negotiating with a number of “safe third states” over expelling asylum seekers to them,

Justice Ministry officials said Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, who headed the High Court panel, indicated in her ruling that she was convinced Israel does not have to take in asylum seekers if it can expel them to a third state.

The officials cited Naor’s statement regarding the anti-Infiltration Law, “I have not found that the current law is intended to break the infiltrators’ spirit and thus encourage their departure. If this had been the law’s goal, it would present a great difficulty. On the face of it, such a goal is wrong, as it appears to undermine the principle forbidding to deport a person to a state in which his life or freedom are endangered.”

Naor upheld the state’s right to expel “infiltrators” to a safe state, providing it really is safe and will not pass the asylum seekers on to another state “that isn’t safe.”

The ruling permits the state to continue sending asylum seekers to the Holot detention facility in the next six months. The court ordered the state to release asylum seekers who have been incarcerated in the facility for more than a year within the next two weeks.

The Justice Ministry will have to study the verdict and draft new legislation regarding the asylum seekers.

Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Benett blasted the High Court on Wednesday, following its ruling on the anti-Infiltration Law. “The court erred in intervening again (for the third time!) in the elected officials decision,” Bennett wrote on Facebook.

He threatened to “stop this activism” if the “excessive intervention” continues.

“The court’s interference is wrong,” Bennett wrote. “It binds our hands in this vital campaign. However, we must respect its ruling.”

“The High Court judges must understand that their excessive interference is wearing down the public’s confidence in them,” he wrote. He also supported Shaked, who had warned the judges on Facebook earlier this week not to strike down the law.

Shaked is also looking to pass a law bypassing the Basic Law: Human dignity and Freedom, which will restrict the High Court’s intervention in legislative issues. The likelihood of such legislation seems low, among other things because of Minister Moshe Kahlon’s (Kulanu) veto right on this issue.

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