Not Numbers but People

The state blocked most asylum seekers with a fence, but must improve the lives of the ones that arrived.

The state filed an appeal with the Be’er Sheva District Court on Tuesday over the refusal of the custody court to hear the cases of 153 illegal migrants, all of whom were detained in the Saharonim detention facility for participating in the protest march last week, which took them from the Holot detention center in the Negev to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. In the appeal filed by the State Prosecutor’s Office against the migrants, their names did not appear, only their prison numbers.

“I do not believe that this is the proper way to file an appeal, since behind the number there are people and it would be appropriate and correct to note the people’s names and not numbers,” wrote Judge Sarah Dovrat, the deputy president of the Be’er Sheva District Court, who heard the appeal.

The lesson in the judge’s words should be obvious to every citizen in a democratic country, to everyone for whom human solidarity, human rights and human dignity are guiding principles. All the more so should they be clear to the State Prosecutor’s Office, which is cooperating for the second time with an unconstitutional law. The filing of the appeal in this manner teaches us about the state’s relationship to this group of people, even to the point of erasing them and turning them into non-people.

It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of his cabinet ministers are finding it difficult to internalize the tragedy of these Africans. Asylum seekers from South Sudan, whose temporary protection as a group has expired, were sent back to their country. Now a bloody war is going on there, which has cost hundreds of lives so far. When Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offers humanitarian aid to his South Sudanese counterpart, we can only be amazed at his cynicism.

On Thursday, inspectors of the Immigration and Population Authority detained in the Neve Sha’anan pedestrian mall in Tel Aviv 75 migrants, and it is not clear where they were taken. In Hadera, 250 migrants from Eritrea and Sudan were told they could renew their permits only on Sunday and Tuesday, and only in the Population Registry offices in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The fence that was built in the south stopped the flood of migrants, most of whom are asylum seekers, almost hermetically. Now the state must act to improve their lives, first and foremost by granting them work permits and minimal social services, such as health and children’s education. Only in this way can the destructive cycle that amplifies their distress be broken - that of the migrants and of the local population together.