After Record Time in Detention, African Woman Finally Freed

Kashura Melana was held by immigration authorities in Israel for seven years, six judges have dealt with her case.

After being held by immigration authorities in Israel for seven years, Kashura Melana Mongo was released last week. The case of this African woman apparently sets a record for the longest amount of time a foreigner without authorization to stay in Israel has been kept in custody.

Not fewer than six judges have dealt with her case, but it was Marat Dorfman who finally decided to put an immediate end to Mongo's ordeal, expressing criticism in his decision of how the case was handled by police and the authorities.

Mongo entered Israel in September 2002 on a tourist visa. She stayed in the country for a period that exceeded the time frame specified in her visa. She was arrested by immigration police in April 2004, and has been detained since then. During the first hearing in her case, she said she was from Congo. Transcripts of other hearings indicate that she periodically refused to cooperate with authorities and that she repeatedly ordered into immigration police custody.

Mongo's testimony about her national identity was never corroborated in subsequent investigations. A meeting with the ambassador to Israel of the Democratic Republic of the Congo later revealed that her passport was forged. Mongo acknowledged that her mother lived in Kenya and that she had been raised there, but refused to sign papers that would have sent her to Kenya. Hence, she was forced to remain in Israel.

In 2009, when the Population and Immigration Authority was established, the destination on her expulsion orders was changed from the Congo to Kenya. Yet she continued to be held in detention. Last month, contacts were initiated between Mongo and Kenyan diplomats in Israel, who insisted she was not a citizen of Kenya. Contacts were then re-established with Congolese diplomats in the country, but Mongo refused to return to the Congo.

When he took over the case a month ago, Dorfman asked the Population and Immigration Authority why it had not authorized Mongo's release. No explanation was forthcoming. Dorfman decided the situation could not persist. "On the state's part, there were a number of mistakes made with regard to handling the expulsion of the detainee, in a case that lasted several years," Dorfman wrote in his decision to release Mongo.

He pointed out that the meeting with Kenyan diplomats was organized only after an unreasonable four-year delay. He said the authority had refrained from issuing her transit papers to Kenya for refusing to cooperate.

"All these questions remained without an answer or any logical explanation," Dorfman said. "Under these circumstances, I believe that it can be claimed that the detainee's lack of cooperation is of a passive sort, and no weight should be given to it."

The Population and Immigration Authority said in response: "Kashura Melana Mongo spent a long period in prison and was not released due to her refusal to cooperate with the authority and her possession of a forged passport. Despite the fact that many efforts were made to bring this affair to a conclusion, including a meeting with the Kenyan consul-general, she persisted with her refusal."