Mass arrests of illegal African migrants will begin “in a matter of weeks,” a
senior Interior Ministry official said on Thursday, despite an interim order the
Jerusalem District Court issued earlier in the day prohibiting such a
However, sidestepping the issue somewhat, mass arrests of illegal
African migrants would only begin once there was room to house them in detention
facilities in the South, and not beginning on October 15 as was previously
reported, the official from the ministry confirmed on Thursday.
asked if the delay had anything to do with petitions sent to the court by human
rights organizations that argue that the migrants could be persecuted if sent
back home to Eritrea or north Sudan, the official said, “This is not a factor at
all, we have hundreds of these [petitions].
“The problem is that the
[detention] facilities are not yet ready for them, so because of technical
difficulties it [mass arrests/deportations] won’t begin for a matter of weeks,”
the official said, seemingly unconcerned about the court order.
official added that the desire to carry out the arrests and deportations, which
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said in August would begin on October 15, was still
there and was only waiting for the logistical and technical issues to be sorted
The court order also said that a final hearing would be held on the
matter on October 30.
T`he proceeding began last week when the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel and five other human rights groups filed
a petition in the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of six asylum-seekers
requesting an injunction to prevent Yishai from imprisoning Sudanese
Five of the Sudanese petitioners were from the Darfur region,
ACRI said in a statement.
The statement referenced Yishai’s end of August
announcement that all Sudanese migrants will have until October 15 to leave
Israel, after which they would be arrested and detained.
that in interviews with the media, the minister said these detentions would be
meant to make the lives of the Sudanese migrants unbearable.
policy is enacted, thousands of Sudanese asylum-seekers along with their
children will be hunted down, arrested en masse, and detained indefinitely in
extreme conditions in the desert. Included among these people are survivors of
genocide and other atrocities in Darfur and other areas,” ACRI
According to the NGO, the petition argues that the detentions
planned by Yishai would be arbitrary, since there was no legal or practical
possibility of returning Sudanese citizens to their country; that Yishai lacks
the authority to carry out his plans as such authority belongs to the defense
minister; and that even if Yishai had the authority, the plan was unlawful
because its purpose was discriminatory.
The ACRI statement refers to an
October 2 letter supporting its efforts from the Israel representative to the UN
high commissioner for refugees.
On Wednesday, Yishai visited the site
where the Negev detention facility will eventually be finished, and a senior
Defense Ministry official told him that the construction of the permanent
facility would only be completed by the beginning of next year.
facility will eventually be able to hold several thousand inmates, while several
thousand more could be jailed in the nearby Ketziot and Saharonim prisons and in
a tent encampment that the IDF has set up in the area.
month, Yishai said in response to the petitions that human rights organizations
“will be judged by Israeli history for their work against the state and in favor
of changing Israel into a state of all of its citizens.”