The Holot Detention Facility in the Negev..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday rejected 12 African migrants’ requests to freeze orders they received from the state to present themselves at the Holot open detention center.
A separate ruling on the orders’ constitutionality has not been made yet.
The migrants had hoped for a victory spurred by the momentum of the decision to release 1,200 other migrants from detention centers last week following a High Court of Justice ruling
that holding migrants in detention for 20 months was disproportionately long.
The same High Court decision, however, did not invalidate the idea of detaining migrants for a shorter period of time. It hinted that it might have ruled 12 months’ detention to be legitimate.
Following that decision, the Tel Aviv District Court, sitting as an administrative court and hearing an appeal from a ruling by the special Tel Aviv court for hearing migrant matters – which had also refused to freeze the orders – said that the migrants’ solution was “as arbitrary,” as the state’s current solution that they complained about.
The migrants’ complaint said that in the past only migrants fitting a specific set of criteria were summoned to Holot for detention, especially newer illegal migrants.
The petitioners said that the state has recently begun summoning migrants to detention without any criteria, including those settled in the country for an extended period.
They argued that this violated the fundamental principle of ensuring that the law is not enforced in an arbitrary manner because well-settled migrants with jobs and possibly an established family should not be detained as aggressively as migrants who just recently crossed the border and have no real connection to the state.
The court stated that the state “has a legitimate interest” in preventing “the settling of illegal infiltrators in the centers of its cities” and seemed to make light of the distinction between “newer” and longer-time migrants.
It ruled that the petitioners were not presenting specific reasons why they or other specific migrants should not be detained, only arguing against the policy in general.
This, said the court, was insufficient to prevent detention, let alone freeze an order before full proceedings on the case took place. The court also found that there was “no irreversible damage” to migrants caused by spending time in the Holot open detention center.
Similar petitioners have appealed such decisions to the High Court before. In the past, the court has been reluctant to intervene to block summons before they are carried out, intervening only with migrants who have already been detained for long periods and not addressing their refugee status.
There is an ongoing dispute concerning whether the majority of the country’s close to 50,000 illegal African migrants are legally entitled to stay in Israel, since they cannot be returned to their countries of origin, Eritrea and Sudan, or whether they can be returned, detained or deported to a third country.
The legal argument hinges on whether the migrants came to Israel to flee persecution or merely to find higher paying jobs.