Knesset Bill Would Deny Migrants Right to Appeal Deportation

Interior Ministry: Migrants who are denied residency would be forced to leave country before appealing the government's decision to deport them.

Migrants who are denied residency in Israel would be forced to leave the country before appealing the government's decision to deport them, according to an Interior Ministry-sponsored bill put out yesterday.

In an explanatory note, the ministry acknowledged it was seeking to reduce the number of appeals.

"Implementing this revision would allow those who are refused [residency] and have left Israel to file an orderly request," so that the ministry's Population, Immigration and Border Authority could consider allowing them to re-enter the country, the Interior Ministry said in the bill's explanatory note. "In this way, it is possible that most of the appeals will become superfluous and we will save ourselves unnecessary legal proceedings."

The bill, which aid workers say circumvents judicial review, is one of two recent legislative proposals that seem intended to push out migrants whose legal status in Israel is in question.

The second bill states that illegal immigrants would face six months in jail or a fine of at least NIS 29,000 for sending money to their families, or anywhere else, outside of Israel. That bill secured coalition support at a Ministerial Committee for Legislation meeting yesterday, virtually guaranteeing that the law will be passed.

The money-transfer bill, which would also impose a one-year jail term or a fine on anyone who helps illegal immigrants transfer funds out of the country, is one of many steps recommended by an interministerial committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser after he collected data on "the behavior patterns of the infiltrators from Africa," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

The bills come shortly after some Israelis began using violence against migrants, mostly from Sudan, Eritrea and other African countries. Over the past few months, African migrants have been targeted in several firebomb and arson attacks, mostly in Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a campaign to deport the estimated 25,000 African migrants from South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Ethiopia, out of a total of about 60,000 African migrants living in Israel.

Under the Interior Ministry bill, border authority officers would have the final say on whether to believe asylum seekers who say their lives would be in danger if they returned to their countries. The bill states that officers may approve a continued stay until the appeal is resolved, "unless the border authority officer determines that the claim appears to be baseless."

The bill would also grant "enforcement powers" to immigration authority inspectors. Under the proposal, they would be able to search migrants and order them to come with the inspectors, even if the migrants showed them valid permits allowing them to be in the country. Inspectors would be authorized to use "reasonable force" against anyone trying to prevent them from exercising their extended authority.

If the inspectors were to find that migrants had violated the conditions of their permit, the immigration authority would be able to cancel the permit.

Oded Feller, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel's attorney in charge of addressing human rights infringements, said a similar law is on the books in the United States.

"The Interior Ministry is seeking to adopt the American model on this matter, but it is ignoring the fact that in the American legislation on immigration, the partners and family members of citizens are granted residency status, and those seeking residency status have rights and benefits, including in humanitarian instances," said Feller. "Here they chose to adopt, yet again, just the prohibitions, without the benefits."

Sudanese and Eritrean refugees sleeping in Levinsky Park.
Hadar Cohen