The court should throw out its earlier order temporarily freezing any mass arrests of migrants, and dismiss a petition seeking a permanent freeze, the state attorney filed in a response to a petition on Thursday before the Jerusalem District Court.

The state answered that since it has to date never made a decision on the issue that the court could freeze, the petitioners have jumped the gun in filing their request, since the court cannot attack a government decision before such a decision is made.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel and several other groups filed a petition on October 3 seeking a freeze to mass arrests of migrants.

The petition was brought about by Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s August 28 announcement that all Sudanese asylum- seekers would have to leave the country by October 15, or face arrest and placement in the detention centers in the South that are currently being constructed.

Yishai’s announcement was never contradicted by any major public official.

On October 11, the Jerusalem District Court issued an order freezing any impending mass arrests of migrants until a final hearing on October 30, giving the state until Thursday to file a response.

Even after that decision, a senior Interior Ministry representative said that Yishai would not necessarily be deterred by the court order.

The state disclaimed the earlier announcements by Yishai as unofficial announcements that did not reflect finalized government policy, which was still being discussed.

The response said the Population, Immigration and Border Authority is the official body for issuing final government decisions, not the Interior Ministry.

The state claimed that it had not responded before the petition was filed to inquiries regarding Yishai’s announcement, due to a long recess associated with the fall Jewish holidays.

The state did not explain why it did not respond to Yishai’s announcement during the period after the recess and before the High Holy Days.

ACRI attorney Oded Feller said that Yishai “took a severe and unprecedented step,” and no responsible authority took action to restrain him. The minister responsible for treatment of asylum-seekers did not hesitate to issue the baseless and cruel announcement that thousands of asylum-seekers along with their children would be detained in extreme conditions in the desert.

“The decree sowed panic among thousands of people, including refugees and victims of genocide and torture, women, children and infants,” Feller continued. “The prime minister and attorney-general, who knew the announcement had no foundation, stood by and said nothing.”

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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