Human Rights Watch: Israel's Ban on Migrants in Tel Aviv and Eilat Has No Legal Basis

1,178 Eritreans and Sudanese migrants released from Holot with permits to live and work in Israel.

AP/Tsafrir Abayov

Human Rights Watch has called on Israel to drop its ban on migrants recently released from Holot detention center from entering Tel Aviv and Eilat, saying there is “no legal basis” for the policy.

In a statement issued Monday, the New York-based NGO said: “Absent a lawful justification under international law, which it has not cited, the Israeli government should immediately rescind the ban.”

Humans Rights Watch said under international law, governments can only restrict the movement of citizens or foreign nationals when there is a plausible threat to “national security, public order, or public health.”

The Interior Ministry announced the ban last week, three days before a Supreme Court deadline to release any asylum seeker held at the desert detention facility for over a year, saying “infiltrators released from Holot will not be allowed to reach Tel Aviv and Eilat.”

The authorities released 1,178 Eritreans and Sudanese migrants from Holot on August 25 and 26, issuing them two-month conditional release permits.

The permits enable migrants to live and work in Israel - although any of the recently released Eritrean and Sudanese nationals found in Tel Aviv could be arrested and have their documents revoked.

The same day they were released from Holot detention facility on August 25, 20 aslyum seekers in Tel Aviv's Levinsky Park were arrested by 
Population, Immigration and Border Authority officers.

Human Rights Watch said Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who announced the ban on Facebook, had made the decision “giving no reason and citing no legal basis.”

Senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch Gerry Simpson said Israeli policy was designed to “make Eritrean and Sudanese nationals’ lives so miserable that they leave the country”.

“Banning the released Eritreans and Sudanese from living in their communities in major Israeli cities simply replaces illegal detention in Holot with illegal movement restrictions,” he added.

HRW said that while there are no known statistics on how many Eritrean and Sudanese nationals live in individual Israeli cities, the majority of the African migrant community lives in Tel Aviv, with other population centers in Eilat, Arad, Ashdod and Jerusalem.