Yishai's Ruthlessness Toward Refugees

It would be best if the interior minister stopped his continual abuse of asylum seekers and the rule of law in Israel.

The present government is promoting legislative initiatives that will damage human rights and the rule of law. The latest bill advanced by the Interior Ministry is meant to harm asylum seekers and refugees as it reduces the possibility of judicial review. The proposed law states that an appeal from someone who has been denied entry to Israel will not be heard as long as that person has not left the country. The rule will not apply in cases where there is a risk to the person's life or physical well-being in the place from which they came, except in cases where the border control officer decides that such a claim is baseless.

This exception is critical: Experience teaches that the mechanism for examining requests for asylum is designed to reject them categorically. The border control officer has been turned into a kind of judge in a kangaroo court, even though he does not have the tools to conduct a proper examination and is likely to reject such requests out of hand. In this way, asylum seekers will be sent to countries where they will be in danger, and where they will be unable in practice to submit appeals over their deportation.

The real spirit of the law is clear from the explanatory information included in the bill. "Today, there are over 60,000 infiltrators residing in Israel," it states, explaining that Interior Minister Eli Yishai is acting to find solutions for this circumstance and for "the discontent over the matter." Behind this euphemistic language is an attempt to minimize judicial review and shirk Israel's responsibilities under the rule of law.

According to the Knesset's Research and Information Center, about 80% of the so-called "infiltrators" who entered Israel by the end of 2011 came from Eritrea and Sudan, whose nationals are granted temporary protection as a group and residence permits by Israel. Most of the population that the proposed law - in its own language - intends to provide a "solution for its problem" are people to whom the principle of "non-return" applies. This principle is accepted in both international and Israeli law, and states that no person should be deported to a place where his or her life or freedom is endangered. The present bill does not take into account the danger to a person's freedom - a critical issue for asylum seekers from Eritrea - and will allow deportation of people to places where their lives are in danger, and all because of the decision of a border control officer.

It would be best if the interior minister took this proposal off the table and stopped his continual abuse of asylum seekers and the rule of law in Israel.