The High Court decision on migrants had its first practical impact on Tuesday when a detention review court released an Eritrean woman from custody.
The nine High Court judges on Monday unanimously struck down a law allowing the country to hold African migrants for up to three years without an administrative process determining their status, and gave the state 90 days to free over 2,000 of them held in the Saharonim detention center in the Negev and determine their status as asylum seekers or illegal immigrants to be deported.
The detention review court of the Justice Ministry relied on the High Court's decision when it ordered the release of the Eritrean citizen who was being held in Saharonim.
Reut Michaeli an attorney who is the Executive Director of the Hotline For Migrant Workers told Israel Radio that she hoped that the release of the Eritrean migrant was just the beginning and that the Interior Ministry would release all the detained migrants immediately, rather than "drag its feet."
In a Knesset Interior Committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers puzzled over the High
Court’s decision to declare the migrant law unconstitutional, questioning the
court’s role and legal advisers’ competence.
Meanwhile, as ministries
worked on a new policy for illegal migrants, the committee called for those
already in Israel to be spread around the country rather than concentrated in
weak areas like south Tel Aviv.
Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev
(Likud Beytenu) opened the hastily called meeting, scheduled overnight Monday,
with the statement that “the Knesset is in recess, but south Tel Aviv residents
On Monday afternoon, the nine High Court judges unanimously
struck down a law allowing the country to hold African migrants for up to three
years without an administrative process determining their status, and gave the
state 90 days to free over 2,000 of them held in the Saharonim detention center
in the Negev and determine their status as asylum-seekers or illegal immigrants
to be deported.
“It’s great that we built a fence, but it isn’t
enough. The fence needs to be combined with laws so work migrants leave
willingly and aren’t motivated to bring their friends,” Regev said.
committee chairman pointed out that legal advisers in the Knesset, Interior
Ministry and Justice Ministry all reviewed the law that was overturned and
“I don’t understand what was wrong with the law,” she
Dror Granit, an attorney from the Justice Ministry, explained
that his job is to advise the government on its policies. When he attempted to
describe the legal precedent of the High Court overturning laws, Regev said she
wants answers, not an academic lecture.
“We need to judge [legal
advisers] by the result of their work, and the result is a failure because the
bill was canceled,” Regev responded.
Assistant Knesset Legal Adviser Gur
Blei said that Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon visited the Knesset Interior
Committee and suggested several changes to the bill, some of which were
“The court said that if there are less than 2,000 migrants in
the holding facility and 55,000 outside it, then the law isn’t meeting its
goal,” Blei said.
“Nothing is preventing us from finding a more
proportionate alternative policy.”
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) pointed out that
he said the bill is unconstitutional when the committee reviewed it, to which
Regev responded that he’s “not a legal adviser, [he’s] just Dov
“I’ll explain why Dov Henin is the only one who knew this law
would be overturned,” MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu) said.
“If the body
that chose the prime minister were High Court judges and not the people of
Israel, Dov Henin would probably be prime minister.
“The problem here is
the High Court. The judges are detached from reality. They tell people to eat
cake when they can’t afford bread,” Feiglin stated.
MK Yisrael Eichler
(UTJ) also took issue with the court, saying that “the people and the Knesset
make decisions in a democracy, not nine people, no matter how important they
are. If the judges’ values are so important to them, they should run for the
Knesset. The court has become a dictatorship.”
Eichler, the court was never given the authority to overturn
Population Authority director-general Amnon Ben-Ami said his office
is reviewing its options, including passing a bill in the Knesset’s winter
session, which begins on October 14.
“The law was our main tool that
brought us to a situation where no illegal migrants crossed the
border. The court’s decision harms our ability to quickly deport them to
a third country,” Ben-Ami stated, adding that deportation should be the first
Several of the meeting’s participants disagreed with Ben-Ami,
calling for the government to immediately send the migrants concentrated in
south Tel Aviv to other parts of the country.
“This is heaven for
infiltrators and hell for south Tel Aviv’s residents. We have to make sure the
burden doesn’t fall only on south Tel Aviv residents. The judges brought justice
to Jerusalem but not to south Tel Aviv,” Regev stated.
Tel Aviv Deputy
Mayor Arnon Giladi called the situation in south Tel Aviv
“We’re not racist, we’re not trying to kick anyone out, we
just want to be able to live and raise our children like anyone else,” he
According to Giladi, police posted signs in migrant areas in
different languages explaining that Yom Kippur is a solemn and holy day for
Jewish people, but the migrants held noisy parties and outdoor
“They knew it was a holy day and did it on purpose,” Giladi
said. “We need to act immediately, not in 90 days, to spread them to other place
Henin called not only for migrants to be spread around the
country to stronger neighborhoods, but for them to be given work
“Why do we bring foreign workers for jobs in agriculture and
construction?” Henin asked.
The committee also addressed refugees, with
Ben-Ami explaining that the authority interviews everyone brought to Saharonim,
and a committee reviews each case to decide whether to recommend that a person
be declared a refugee and allowed to stay in Israel.
that the meeting is about work migrants and not refugees.
The latter, she
said, will always be accepted.
Feiglin referred to the St. Louis –
a ship of 937 refugees from Nazi Germany, most of whom were Jewish, who were not
given asylum in the US and were sent back to Europe in 1939 – saying that the
Jewish people know the importance of aiding refugees.
“We’re not talking
about real refugees here,” Feiglin stated. “We’re talking about criminals who
are making people’s lives miserable.”
According to the High Court’s
ruling, most of the migrants are not work migrants and cannot be deported for
fear of persecution.
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