Israel Seeks to Indefinitely Detain Asylum Seekers Who Refuse Deportation

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that unlimited detention of asylum seekers may not be used in order to force a 'consensual' deportation

File photo: Asylum seekers protesting in Jerusalem, January 2017.
Emil Salman

The Population and Immigration Authority is crafting an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law to bypass the Supreme Court’s ruling against unlimited detention of asylum seekers who refuse to leave Israel for a third country.

Since the court’s ruling was announced on Monday, Interior Minister Arye Dery has been consulting with the population authority’s legal department to move ahead with the amendment to permit such detention. He reportedly has the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

The current law only allows unlimited detention of people who are in Israel illegally against whom a deportation order has been issued, but whose “deportation is prevented or delayed by a lack of cooperation” by that person.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, written by Justice Miriam Naor, states that consent to leave due to the fear of incarceration “is not true consent and therefore it cannot be used for deportation to a third country.” The court ruled that a person who refuses to leave voluntarily for a third country can be held for two months at most.

Another member of the panel, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, noted that a person must not be made to consent to deportation to Rwanda or Uganda via an extended detention.

According to Naor, the interior minister has the authority to deport foreigners to their home countries or a third country without their consent, but arrangements with Rwanda and Uganda preclude this.

A senior government official told Haaretz that the court’s interpretation was wrong, and Rwanda and Uganda had only refused to accept a person deported involuntarily using force. The population authority would not use force to deport asylum seekers, he said.

Attorney Assaf Weizman, formerly of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said “the law cannot impose consent on a person who refuses to give it. The proposed legislation is typical of totalitarian regimes.”