Israel Seeking to Get Around Court Ruling and Go on Coercing Refugees Into Deportation

Supreme Court ruled Monday that indefinite detention of asylum seekers may not be used to force a 'consensual' deportation

"Black lives matter" in Israel too, claim Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, protesting amid Israeli attempts to encourage so-called "consensual" or "voluntary" deportation
Emil Salman

Israeli leaders are working to bypass a ruling by the country's top court ruling against the indefinite jailing of asylum seekers who refuse deportation.

Interior Minister Arye Dery will present an amendment of Israel's citizenship law to the cabinet on Sunday as a legislative work-around to the High Court's ruling.

The amendment will explicitly state that refusing to leave Israel will be considered illegal, citing a failure to cooperate with the expulsion process, as Haaretz reported. It will mandate indefinite jail for anyone whose deportation is blocked or delayed "due to their refusal to cooperate fully."

>> Full coverage: Despite new deportation ruling, Israel opts to keep ignoring reality | Analysis Tel Avivians gather to hear asylum seekers firsthand <<

The High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that asylum seekers refusing to leave for Rwanda or Uganda are not to be seen as failing to cooperate with their expulsion. The ruling was based on the legal position that sending asylum seekers to these states is conditional on their consent.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, written by President Miriam Naor, states that consent to leave due to the fear of long-term incarceration in Israel “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.

'Immoral and illegal

Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers at the Holot Detention Center in southern Israel, December 8, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Human rights organizations blasted Dery's proposal, which is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

"The justice and interior ministers as well as the prime minister rejected a proposal to rehabilitate south Tel Aviv's neighborhoods and they continue to exploit the residents' distress in order to batter the High Court of Justice," the human rights groups said in a joint statement.

"The proposed amendment is immoral and would violate Israel's international commitments and its basic laws," the statement said.

Dery said on Wednesday he plans to triple the number of inspectors employed by Population and Immigration Authority. The authority currently employs some 120 inspectors and Dery said he will ask the cabinet for a budget to employ 250 additional ones, as there are currently too few of them to enforce the law regarding infiltrators.

"I hear complaints about this in my tours in the country from residents of neighborhoods the infiltrators live near," Dery said.

"To make Israeli residents' lives easier in the long run, we must remember to take care of our own poor first," he said.

Most asylum-seekers have valid visas and the inspectors have no authority to arrest them or take steps against them, so it is not clear how a larger number of inspectors would help the residents.

Following the High Court Justice's ruling this week, the prime minister intends to visit the Tel Aviv central bus station area on Thursday afternoon. This will be the prime minister's first visit in south Tel Aviv for a long time. Ahead of the tour and during it, between 2:30 P.M. and 18:30 P.M. numerous roads in the area will be closed and the police advise drivers to keep away.