Asylum Seeker and Two Children Released From Israeli Jail After Two Months' Detention

Separation of the woman's family thwarted after NGO files appeal; husband, jailed elsewhere, awaits answer to asylum request

Israel's Givon Prison in Ramla.
Nir Kedar

 A., an illegal resident, and her two daughters, aged 3 and 18 months, were released Sunday by order of the Justice Ministry tribunal, after being detained for two months in Givon Prison.

A.'s husband, an asylum seeker from Ethiopia, has been held in Saharonim Prison for a year and a half, and has never met his younger child who was born after his imprisonment.

To really understand Israel and asylum seekers - subscribe to Haaretz

The tribunal, which deals with custody cases involving illegal migrants, accepted the arguments of Stav Arnon and Huda Kondos of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants regarding the need to ensure the children's wellbeing, and ruled that there was no public interest in keeping the family behind bars. Three previous requests had been made for their release.

The legal proceedings regarding his request for asylum are proceeding.

In a similar case, a woman from Nigeria and her four daughters were also held in Givon Prison, located in Ramle in central Israel, but were recently deported.

“How is it possible that the Immigration Authority was seeking the deportation of a woman whose partner, the father of her children, is in a different prison and his case is still undergoing legal proceedings?” the Hotline said, in a statement. “While the separation of migrant families has generated a huge protest all over the United States and made headlines in Israel as well, the State of Israel was making an effort to separate a family whose father is an asylum seeker.”

>> Court slams Israel for 'unreasonable' delay in processing asylum requests, five Sudanese win temporary status

The Hotline’s public policy coordinator, Sigal Rozen, said that, “Mr. [Yossi] Edelstein, head of the Enforcement and Foreign Affairs Administration in the Population and Immigration Authority, misled the Committee for the Rights of the Child on Tuesday last week when he argued that Israel’s Law of Entry calls for illegal residents to be held in detention until they are deported.” She added that Edelstein had pointed a finger at the Knesset, claiming that he and his staff did not have the authority to release children.

“I replied to Mr. Edelstein that he was misleading the committee, because the law gives the border guards in his employ the right to use their own judgment and to release detainees because of their age. I argued that not only are those responsible for border inspections regularly refusing to release jailed children, they do everything they can to prevent their release by using legal proceedings.”

Rozen noted that just two days later, the official responsible for border inspections appeared at a hearing in the case of A. and her two daughters. There, she recounted, “He did the best he could to prevent her release, and when the judge decided to release her, he made another effort to delay the release by a day to give the Interior Ministry a chance to appeal the decision and delay the release nonetheless.”

Last week, representatives of the Israel Prisons Service told a hearing of a special panel on children’s rights, headed by MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu), that prison is no place for children. At the end of the hearing, Shasha-Biton called on government ministries to examine and adopt alternatives to imprisonment as soon as possible, and to stop jailing the children of migrants – and to find an immediate solution for A. and her daughters, who were still imprisoned at the time.