The state and the Assistance Center for Foreign Workers faced off on Tuesday
before the High Court of Justice over the scope of the groups’ visiting rights
and access to migrants in the Saharonim detention centers in the
The petitioners originally filed their petition when the state was
“prohibiting completely” access to the detained migrants.
say that they provide information to the migrants regarding their rights and
often, where migrants seek their representation, advocacy on their behalf
regarding their detention or other more specific issues.
told the court that the situation has evolved and that, at least in a formal
sense, they are not being prevented from meeting with the detained
However, the petitioners complained that they are only allowed
three rooms in which to meet with 1,700 detained migrants.
petitioners said the lack of space for meeting with the migrants would mean that
it would currently take six months to get to meet with each of the migrants at
least once, without even factoring in possible needed multiple meetings,
essentially negating the migrants’ right to any prompt or effective
The migrants in Saharonim, mostly of African descent, are
generally detained their after entering Israel illegally, but no having
committed any other crime.
The detention centers there are relatively new
and are considered a controversial outgrowth of the state’s response to a wave
of over 60,000 African migrants illegally arriving in Israel in recent
Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis pressed the petitioners to
propose or agree to a specific solution or compromise.
petitioners tried to make larger arguments about injustices toward the migrants,
he repeatedly asked, “what is really bothering you?” Grunis said that the
detention center could not permit unlimited access to every group that wanted
access to the migrants, especially if there was a danger that groups would come
in to take advantage of the migrants for their own agendas.
Trying to get
the petitioners to see what he appeared to see as problems with giving them
unlimited access to the migrants, he asked the petitioners if they would oppose
anti-migrant groups from “visiting to try to convince the migrants to
The petitioners responded that they do not try to convince the
migrants of anything in particular. Rather, that they mainly conceive of
themselves as information providers, and that if anti-migrant groups limited
themselves to “providing information” to migrants, they would not oppose them
Next, the petitioners said that they have two reasons for
special access to the migrants. One was because many migrants have appointed
them as their counsel, making access crucial to fulfilling the migrants’ access
to their counsel.
A second reason was that the petitioners said they have
had such access in all detention facilities since 1998.
recognized the first argument as giving the petitioners some special status, but
rejected the second argument as an example of cooperation which detention
centers may have given in the past without any obligation or
This meant that the detention centers could withdraw such
cooperation at will at any time.
By the end of the hearing, the court
appeared to be pressing the state to providing more space to the petitioners so
that they could meet with a larger number of migrants in a shorter period of
time, while trying to get the migrants to step away from their opening request
to have essentially unlimited access to the migrants.
decision was made.
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