New Asylum Seekers Can Be Detained for 18 Months, Despite High Court Ruling

According to a new amendment to 'anti-infiltration law,' Interior Ministry will be able to extend incarceration at Holot detention facility by six months in ‘special circumstances.’

Ilan Assayag

A new draft amendment to the controversial “anti-infiltration law” states that new asylum seekers can be held in the Holot Detention Center for up to 18 months, despite a previous High Court of Justice ruling limiting incarceration to one year.

In its new draft of an amendment to the law, published Sunday, the Interior Ministry also said it will be possible to hold some current asylum seekers at the Negev detention facility in southern Israel for 18 months “in special circumstances.”

The High Court of Justice ruled last August that provisions of the controversial law were unconstitutional, specifically in relation to how long asylum seekers could be detained, and gave the ministry six months to revise the law – migrants were previously held for up to 20 months. The amended law had previously been struck down twice by the court.

The new version of the law will cancel the current prohibition on summoning the parents of minors to Holot. “Due to the fact that the detention order will be given after hearing all arguments and examination of all relevant circumstances, the representative of the Population, Immigration and Border Authority will act in each case according to his judgment and experience. There is, therefore, no reason to define exceptions,” said the explanatory notes accompanying the new amendment.

Another clause is aimed at limiting legal procedures, stating that injunctions that prevent the enforcement of a summons will not be permitted.

Consequently, anyone who is summoned to Holot will be required to show up at the detention center. even before their asylum claim is heard. Currently, asylum seekers can appeal such a summons. In many cases the court freezes the sending of petitioners to Holot until the end of the legal process. In many cases, summons have been overturned after their validity was rejected.

“After [the previous] amendment number 5 took effect, hundreds of petitions and appeals were filed against decisions made by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority to send asylum seekers to Holot. In nearly all these cases, injunctions to hinder the process were issued, which made it difficult to implement the law,” said the accompanying notes.

“The law’s formulators point to the difference between procedures leading to total denial of liberty and those leading to showing up at the open facility, in which liberty is less affected. That situation is not irreversible and cannot cause irreparable damage,” added the explanatory text.

According to Interior Ministry figures, there were some 45,000 African asylum seekers in Israel last March, including 33,000 Eritreans and nearly 9,000 Sudanese. Approximately 1,200 of the 1,700 asylum seekers being held in Holot were released in the summer following the High Court of Justice ruling.