Israel Jailing Asylum Seekers From Darfur Despite Vowing Not To, NGO Finds

The report also says that transgender people were kept in solitary confinement, and, in one case, denied hormones and feminine clothing

Demonstrators protest against Israel's planned expulsion of African asylum seekers and migrants at Holot detention facility in southern Israel, March 13, 2018.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Asylum seekers and migrants from Darfur have been jailed counter to a government commitment, according to a report for 2017 by the migrants’ rights group Hamoked. The report also found that transgender men and women were kept in solitary confinement, and in general imprisoned asylum seekers were restrained during medical examinations, which goes against the Israel Medical Association’s policy. .

Hamoked is the only human rights group authorized to enter incarceration facilities for migrants.

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The state had pledged in October 2016 that it would no longer send Darfuri migrants to the Holot incarceration center. However Hamoked found that it continued to do so, in addition to delaying examination of applications of those already in detention. From October 2016 to the end of 2017, nearly 200 asylum-seekers from Sudan held at Holot, or told to report there, turned to Hamoked for assistance. According to the report, 81 were held at Holot, 32 at Sahronim or Givon Prison for not reporting to Holot or not renewing their visa on time, while 80 received instructions to report to Holot despite the commitment by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority not to send asylum-seekers from Darfur to Holot.

A transgender woman, Hamoked reported, had been held at Givon Prison after her application for asylum was rejected. Before being deported she was held for a month in solitary confinement due to an Israel Prison Service directive stating that a prisoner “whose identity is unclear” must be kept in solitary confinement out of “concern for harm to the prisoner or those around him.” She was not allowed to take the hormones she had been taking before and was not allowed to wear women’s clothing or a wig.

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The report also cited instances of asylum-seekers being restrained during medical tests, which goes against the ethical guidelines of the Israel Medical Association. The Health Ministry’s response to Hamoked stated: “In a general hospital, the rule is to loosen restraints ... In any case care is taken that the restraint does not interfere with the test or treatment. The Israel Prison Service apprises the medical team of the extent of danger it sees from the patient.”

The Hamoked report pointed out that asylum-seekers and migrants incarcerated because of their immigration status are not involved in criminal proceedings, and therefore cannot be considered dangerous. “Restraints are not the answer to a lack of manpower needed to guard the patient hospitalized,” the report said.

The Population and Immigration Authority responded: “The state stands behind all its declarations in various forums. Because the Holot detention center no longer exists, discussing it is irrelevant.”

The Israel Prison Service said it takes human rights reports seriously, and that “it can be seen that major efforts have been made to improve conditions and treatment of illegal residents.” The agency said the report noted improvements in several areas, and that it was given too short a time to respond to specific complaints. With regard to the transgender woman, the agency said she had been separated from the general population for her protection, and that this was not the same as solitary confinement.