State says courts backing up stricter asylum policies

Court weeding out "fake refugees" and adopting state's new procedures.

March 16, 2011 04:21
3 minute read.
Eritrean migrants in Sinai waiting to be smuggled

Eritrean migrants in Sinai 311 (R). (photo credit: Asmaa Waguih / Reuters)

In the past week, the Tel Aviv Administrative Court has rejected 20 asylum petitions, according to the Justice Ministry.

In doing so, the ministry said, the court was siding with the state in its new policy to weed out “fake refugees,” and adopting its new procedures.

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The ministry said that in the first two months of 2011, nearly 700 asylum claims were submitted to the court.

“[Tel Aviv Administrative Court] Judge Kobi Vardi rejected 20 claims in the past week alone, and in his ruling stated that due to the unprecedented increase in the number of asylum claims, a majority of them baseless ones, there arose a need to conduct procedures that enable quick differentiations between authentic refugee claims, as determined by the treatise on refugees, and claims that are filed in order to abuse the procedure and enjoy temporary immunity from expulsion,” read a Justice Ministry statement.

“This procedure exists in the form of new regulations adopted by the Interior Ministry and has been practiced since the beginning of the year,” it said.

In his rulings, the judge also criticized lawyers who submitted the baseless asylum claims and accused them of filing serial “stencil petitions.”

“It is only appropriate that lawyers representing petitioners choose carefully the cases where there is a clear life-endangering cause for asylum, so that the court does not become a tool to let them remain in the country for financial or other reasons,” wrote Vardi in a recent ruling.

The Justice Ministry argued that Vardi’s ruling justified the new, stricter regulations approved at the beginning of the year, empowering Interior Ministry officials to reject out of hand asylum claims they determined were fictitious – those in which migrants were coming to Israel for economic and not humanitarian reasons.

The regulations have come under attack from local and international human rights organizations, which claim they grant too much power to ministry officials and risk the involuntary return of foreign citizens to places where they face imminent danger.

Yonatan Berman, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said the government was misrepresenting the court’s decision.

“The court did not determine that the new, shortened procedure was good; that will be tested when a real asylum claim is rejected by the officials.

The court only said that baseless claims – claims that wouldn’t have been accepted by the older regulations, either – shouldn’t be submitted. We still believe that the procedure that enables immediate refusal of asylum claims is unjust, and the court has not said otherwise,” said Berman.

Berman also criticized the lawyers who filed baseless claims, saying that doing so raised the chances of authentic claims falling on deaf ears.

“Only second-rate lawyers work like that,” he said.

Next week, the ACRI will be filing an asylum claim on behalf of a Colombian citizen persecuted by the FARC guerrilla organization, whom the Interior Ministry rejected out of hand. Then, said Berman, the justness of the procedure will be properly tested.

During a conference on immigration held by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel on Sunday, Likud MK Yariv Levin attacked the Supreme Court, charging that it was the court that granted entrance to thousands of migrants.

“Migration should be banned not only for security reasons, but also because we want a Jewish state with a Jewish majority.

We want to enable Jewish immigration to the country instead of people from enemy countries.

Zionism assumes a desire to populate the country with Jews, and whoever thinks otherwise is on the other side,” said Levin.

Levin added that “holding facilities for infiltrators are only first aid, and that the social harm to neighborhoods and cities suffering from the foreign workers is severe.”

During the same conference, former judge Uri Shtruzman, who chaired the counseling committee on asylum-seekers for the Interior Ministry, said that the fence currently being constructed between Israel and Egypt was a waste of money.

Anyone asking for asylum on the grounds of being persecuted, he said, would knock on the door and the country would be compelled to let him in, or else he would appeal to the Supreme Court. Shtruzman added that as a judge, if a person had petitioned him to stay, claiming he was persecuted and that his life was in danger, he would have let him in and examined his claims.

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