High Court allows state to keep detaining migrants in Holot pending new decision

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants responded expressing "sorrow about the decision."

December 30, 2014 18:24
2 minute read.
Israel migrants

Migrants eat dinner outside the Holot open detention facility.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected an NGO’s request for an extended interim freeze of any detentions of migrants pending its eventual ruling on the constitutionality of the state’s new migrant policy – its third in two years.

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants responded expressing “sorrow about the decision” and saying it “hoped the court will be wise enough to annul another law which ignored its prior rulings.”

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The Center for Migrant Policy, representing local southern Tel Aviv residents, said, “rejecting the interim order was necessary and required,” noting an extended freeze would have “seriously harmed Israeli citizens and southern Tel Aviv residents.”

On December 18, an NGO filed a petition with the High Court to strike down the state’s African migrant policy after the same court struck down the state’s previous two attempts, and the court ordered a temporary freeze of all detentions.

The state responded with an emergency request to remove the freeze pending the petition, lest the state have to release thousands of migrants from detention centers, which it still hopes the court will endorse.

The court had told the state in September that it must close the Holot open detention center within 90 days and froze aspects of the limits on the movement of illegal migrants under the old policy. It also quashed the constitutionality of holding newly arrived illegal migrants in the closed Saharonim detention center for one year.

The latest policy shortened the maximum amount of time migrants can be detained in each facility and changed some aspects of their detention conditions.

It allows for migrants to be held in Holot for a maximum of 20 months, as opposed to the previous version in which they could be detained indefinitely.

At Saharonim, it allows for migrants to be held for a maximum of three months, as opposed to a year in the previous version.

In addition, whereas detainees were ordered to sign in three times a day at Holot, the present draft calls on them to sign in just once a day.

While that change somewhat frees up migrants’ movement, there are still elaborate prohibitions and sanctions designed to prevent migrants from finding employment.

The policy appears to be an attempt to find a middle ground between what the High Court seemed to suggest and what recently resigned interior minister Gideon Sa’ar sought.

The High Court appeared to suggest a policy based more on integrating migrants than on extended detention periods to deter them from staying in the country. Sa’ar had said he wanted a two-year detention period in Holot and around eight months in Saharonim.

The former interior minister and many other politicians said the court’s September ruling undermined a policy that had been effective in dealing with the illegal migrant population, which had dropped to 48,212 as of June 30 – around 10,000 fewer than it was at its height a few years ago.

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