The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Hotline for Migrant
Workers and an assortment of other NGOs on Monday filed a motion for contempt of
court with the High Court of Justice, seeking an injunction that would force the
state to implement the court’s decision to overturn the “Anti- Infiltration Law”
and release the detained African migrants immediately.
complained that after 42 days out of the 90 days given as a final deadline for
releasing or establishing the status of the migrants, the state has only
released around a dozen migrants among the approximately 1,800 being held in the
Saharonim detention center in the South.
A motion for contempt is a legal
tool for forcing a party to comply with a prior court order and which can even
include the imposing of sanctions on the party for having failed to
The motion for contempt comes exactly one week after
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein released an open letter response to complaints
by the human rights groups that the state had been dragging its feet on
complying with the court’s decision.
The September 16 landmark decision
demolished and declared unconstitutional the state’s policy of discouraging
migrants from illegally entering and staying in Israel by placing them in
special detention centers at Saharonim for up to three years, pending a review
of whether or not they had a right to remain here.
The decision, which
threw the politics of the issue into complete disarray, also ordered the state
to review each migrant’s status regarding the right to remain in Israel within
90 days or to release them without delay.
Weinstein’s letter indicated
that nine migrants had been released and that many other migrants’ cases were
Weinstein also made indirect reference to ongoing efforts
to pass new legislation on the issue, potentially putting a similar policy back
in place but shortening the maximum detention time to one-and-a-half
Most important, Weinstein referenced one of the High Court’s
suggested solutions to the issue. The court had mentioned that other countries
wanting to discourage unlimited illegal border crossings of migrants – in
compliance with international law – have established “open” areas where the
migrants must reside but agreed to various hours during which the migrants could
come and go from those residences.
Weinstein said that if such “open”
detention centers were ready by the end of the 90-day period and if,
logistically, the state was unable to complete its review of all of the
migrants’ cases in time, they could be placed in open
Responding to Weinstein’s suggestion, ACRI lawyer
Oded Feller said that the state’s approach was twisting the court’s
According to Feller, the court’s order was to release the
migrants “without delay,” meaning that large numbers of migrants should have
already been released in the early days and weeks.
Certainly the fact
that only around a dozen had been released after 42 days shows that the state
had been using the end of the 90-day period as a first date for it to address
the issue generally, as opposed to a “drop-dead” date for a few remaining cases
which might not yet be addressed, Feller added.
He also said that where
the court had mentioned open detention centers as a possible solution, it was in
reference to potential new legislation that the state could seek to employ in
the future, not an excuse for avoiding its completely separate order to release