The state has recently begun to force many African migrants to essentially choose between deportation to Rwanda or indefinite internment in the Saharonim closed detention center, according to a report published Wednesday morning by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants NGO.
Under a passed in December 2014, the third in the last couple years after the High Court of Justice struck down the first two as unconstitutional, the maximum amount of time most African migrants can be held in Saharonim is three months and the longest most can be held in the Holot open detention center is 20 months.
However, according to the NGO, the state has invented a new loophole so it can detain migrants indefinitely in Saharonim even though the High Court struck down indefinite detention for migrants in a previous version of the law.
There are 45,711 African migrants currently in Israel, down from around 55,000 two years ago, with 33,506 of them hailing from Eritrea, according to the report, which references 43 Eritreans whose requests for refugee status have been rejected or who have not yet sought to be designated as refugees.
The report said the government has quietly initiated a new policy regarding these Eritreans that Hotline expects the state will try to apply on a wider basis to coerce migrants to “self-deport” to Rwanda and other countries.
Under the new policy, which the state has not announced publicly, those migrants whose requests to become refugees are rejected or who have not filed requests are sent for indefinite detention to Saharonim if they do not agree to self-deport to Rwanda after 20 months in Holot.
The Justice Ministry had not responded by press time.